May 30th, 2012
Not so long ago, it seemed that the FBI focused on pursuing accomplished anarchists: Marie Mason and Daniel McGowan were both arrested after lengthy careers involving everything from supporting survivors of domestic violence to ecologically-minded arson. It isn’t surprising that the security apparatus of the state targeted these activists: they were courageously threatening the inequalities and injustices the state is founded upon.
However, starting with the entrapment case of Eric McDavid—framed for a single conspiracy charge by an infiltrator who used his attraction to her to manipulate him into discussing illegal actions—the FBI seem to have switched strategies, focusing on younger targets who haven’t actually carried out any actions.
They stepped up this new strategy during the 2008 Republican National Convention, at which FBI informants Brandon Darby and Andrew Darst set up David McKay, Bradley Crowder, and Matthew DePalma on charges of possessing Molotov cocktails in two separate incidents. It’s important to note that the only Molotov cocktails that figured in the RNC protests at any point were the ones used to entrap these young men: the FBI were not responding to a threat, but inventing one.
Over the past month, the FBI have shifted into high gear with this approach. Immediately before May Day, five young men were set up on terrorism charges in Cleveland after an FBI infiltrator apparently guided them into planning to bomb a bridge, in what would have been the only such bombing carried out by anarchists in living memory. During the protests against the NATO summit in Chicago, three young men were arrested and charged with terrorist conspiracy once again involving the only Molotov cocktails within hundreds of miles, set up by at least two FBI informants.
None of the targets of these entrapment cases seem to be longtime anarchist organizers. None of the crimes they’re being charged with are representative of the tactics that anarchists have actually used over the past decade. All of the cases rest on the efforts of FBI informants to manufacture conspiracies. All of the arrests have taken place immediately before mass mobilizations, enabling the authorities to frame a narrative justifying their crackdowns on protest as thwarting terrorism. And in all of these cases, the defendants have been described as anarchists in the legal paperwork filed against them, setting precedents for criminalizing anarchism.
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