Last month, the FBI and other law enforcement agencies targeted several people associated with the Occupy phenomenon with terrorism charges.
In advance of the nationwide May Day General Strike actions, the FBI announced that it arrested five people connected to Occupy Cleveland whom it claims were dangerous “anarchists” intent on blowing up a bridge in the Cleveland suburbs. As more information came out about the case, it was learned that a government informant egged on the group. While a support network has been launched for the Cleveland 5, Occupy Cleveland distanced themselves from those targeted by the FBI—affirming their commitment to nonviolence and dissociating themselves from the 5.
The FBI followed a similar plan again before the anti-NATO protests in Chicago later in the month when it arrested three more individuals on “terrorism” charges. In that case, the FBI claimed that it had stopped a plot in which “self-proclaimed anarchists” were planning to use molotov cocktails to attack Barack Obama’s re-election headquarters and Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s home. In the midst of a weekend full of anti-NATO street protests, the government later announced that two more individuals were arrested on unrelated explosives charges. As in the case of the Cleveland 5, it was quickly learned that the federal informants played a key role in the case and helped to manufacture the alleged plots. There doesn’t seem to be an organized support network for the NATO 3, but some information is available on Occupy Chicago’s website (updates from their court hearing can be found online).
A Shift in Government Tactics?
In the wake of these arrests, many have been quick to point out the similarities with other “domestic terrorism” indictments brought in recent years. The FBI has amassed a network of informants targeting the Muslim community and has crafted several high-profile cases in which it claims to have stopped terrorist acts just before they happened. In that sense, it seems logical that they would move on to targeting anarchists. After all, the FBI has recently made it quite clear that they consider anarchists to be a key “domestic terrorist” threat.
CrimethInc has published a useful analysis of the recent entrapment charges, arguing that they represent a shift in government repression. Whereas in the past the government targeted experienced anarchists, they seem now to be focusing on people on the periphery of the anarchist community. They further show that this is an extension of entrapment tactics that began with Eric McDavid, continued through the 2008 protests against the Republican National Convention (RNC), and on into this past May and the future (police in Tampa Bay have said they plan to use the same tactics when the RNC comes to town). Moreover, the entrapment strategy has worked in Occupy due in part to the ongoing debate over tactics and violence, in which the Left has tried to isolate the most confrontational elements (reaching it’s most absurd level in Chris Hedges’ call to eradicate the “cancer” of “black bloc anarchists”).
In summary of the FBI’s strategy, Crimethinc states that it seeks to:
- divide and conquer the movement by isolating the most combative participants
- stage-manage entrapments of vulnerable targets at the periphery
- use these arrests to delegitimize all but the most docile, and to justify ever-increasing police violence.
In response, it’s critical that people expose the FBI’s entrapment tactics. As Crimethinc says, “this will not be easy, but there is no better alternative.” We can start by circulating information about their actions within our communities and by increasing our power to fight back:
“Don’t stop speaking out, organizing, and fighting—that won’t stop them from repressing us or entrapping people. Retreating will only embolden them: we can only protect ourselves by increasing our power to fight back, not by withdrawing, not by hiding, not by behaving.
The best defense is a good offense. So long as capitalism is unstable—that is to say, until it collapses—there will be repression. Let’s meet it head on.”
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