Police Spies Out of Lives Support group for women’s legal action against undercover policing
April 8, 2015
We are supporting the legal action by eight women deceived into long term intimate relationships with undercover police officers who were infiltrating environmental and social justice campaign groups.
In December 2011 eight women launched legal action against the Metropolitan Police and ACPO for the harm caused by undercover officers deceiving them into long term intimate relationships.
The women assert that the actions of the Metropolitan police officers breached their human rights, subjecting them to inhumane and degrading treatment, and disrespecting their private and family life and their right to form relationships without unjustified interference by the state.
The women are also bringing claims for deceit, assault, misfeasance in public office and negligence. They seek to highlight and prevent the continuation of psychological, emotional and sexual abuse of campaigners and others by undercover police officers.
Read more: The Case / Where We Stand
Police Spies Out Of Lives is a support group for the women involved with this case. It is not a legal entity, but a loose affiliation of concerned individuals, friends, and family members of the eight women who are bringing the case.
As part of our support, we are exposing the immoral and unjustified practice of undercover relationships, and the institutional prejudices which have led to the abuse. We are calling for an unequivocal end to the practice, a full inquiry into the past, and changes to prevent it ever happening again.
Find this story at December 2011
Why Misogynists Make Great Informants: How Gender Violence on the Left Enables State Violence in Radical Movements
April 8, 2015
Some people may have seen this article already, which has been making its rounds on Facebook and the blogosphere, but INCITE! blog editors loved it so much that we wanted to share it here. The piece was originally published in make/shift magazine’s Spring/Summer 2010 issue and written by Courtney Desiree Morris.
In January 2009, activists in Austin, Texas, learned that one of their own, a white activist named Brandon Darby, had infiltrated groups protesting the Republican National Convention (RNC) as an FBI informant. Darby later admitted to wearing recording devices at planning meetings and during the convention. He testified on behalf of the government in the February 2009 trial of two Texas activists who were arrested at the RNC on charges of making and possessing Molotov cocktails, after Darby encouraged them to do so. The two young men, David McKay and Bradley Crowder, each faced up to fifteen years in prison. Crowder accepted a plea bargain to serve three years in a federal prison; under pressure from federal prosecutors, McKay also pled guilty to being in possession of “unregistered Molotov cocktails” and was sentenced to four years in prison. Information gathered by Darby may also have contributed to the case against the RNC 8, activists from around the country charged with “conspiracy to riot and conspiracy to damage property in the furtherance of terrorism.” Austin activists were particularly stunned by the revelation that Darby had served as an informant because he had been a part of various leftist projects and was a leader at Common Ground Relief, a New Orleans–based organization committed to meeting the short-term needs of community members displaced by natural disasters in the Gulf Coast region and dedicated to rebuilding the region and ensuring Katrina evacuees’ right to return.
I was surprised but not shocked by this news. I had learned as an undergrad at the University of Texas that the campus police department routinely placed plainclothes police officers in the meetings of radical student groups—you know, just to keep an eye on them. That was in fall 2001. We saw the creation of the Department of Homeland Security, watched a cowboy president wage war on terror, and, in the middle of it all, tried to figure out what we could do to challenge the fascist state transformations taking place before our eyes. At the time, however, it seemed silly that there were cops in our meetings—we weren’t the Panthers or the Brown Berets or even some of the rowdier direct-action anti-globalization activists on campus (although we admired them all); we were just young people who didn’t believe war was the best response to the 9/11 attacks. But it wasn’t silly; the FBI does not dismiss political work. Any organization, be it large or small, can provoke the scrutiny of the state. Perhaps your organization poses a large threat, or maybe you’re small now but one day you’ll grow up and be too big to rein in. The state usually opts to kill the movement before it grows.
And informants and provocateurs are the state’s hired gunmen. Government agencies pick people that no one will notice. Often it’s impossible to prove that they’re informants because they appear to be completely dedicated to social justice. They establish intimate relationships with activists, becoming friends and lovers, often serving in leadership roles in organizations. A cursory reading of the literature on social movements and organizations in the 1960s and 1970s reveals this fact. The leadership of the American Indian Movement was rife with informants; it is suspected that informants were also largely responsible for the downfall of the Black Panther Party, and the same can be surmised about the antiwar movement of the 1960s and 1970s. Not surprisingly, these movements that were toppled by informants and provocateurs were also sites where women and queer activists often experienced intense gender violence, as the autobiographies of activists such as Assata Shakur, Elaine Brown, and Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz demonstrate.
Maybe it isn’t that informants are difficult to spot but rather that we have collectively ignored the signs that give them away. To save our movements, we need to come to terms with the connections between gender violence, male privilege, and the strategies that informants (and people who just act like them) use to destabilize radical movements. Time and again heterosexual men in radical movements have been allowed to assert their privilege and subordinate others. Despite all that we say to the contrary, the fact is that radical social movements and organizations in the United States have refused to seriously address gender violence  as a threat to the survival of our struggles. We’ve treated misogyny, homophobia, and heterosexism as lesser evils—secondary issues—that will eventually take care of themselves or fade into the background once the “real” issues—racism, the police, class inequality, U.S. wars of aggression—are resolved. There are serious consequences for choosing ignorance. Misogyny and homophobia are central to the reproduction of violence in radical activist communities. Scratch a misogynist and you’ll find a homophobe. Scratch a little deeper and you might find the makings of a future informant (or someone who just destabilizes movements like informants do).
The Makings of an Informant: Brandon Darby and Common Ground
On Democracy Now! Malik Rahim, former Black Panther and cofounder of Common Ground in New Orleans, spoke about how devastated he was by Darby’s revelation that he was an FBI informant. Several times he stated that his heart had been broken. He especially lamented all of the “young ladies” who left Common Ground as a result of Darby’s domineering, aggressive style of organizing. And when those “young ladies” complained? Well, their concerns likely fell on sympathetic but ultimately unresponsive ears—everything may have been true, and after the fact everyone admits how disruptive Darby was, quick to suggest violent, ill-conceived direct-action schemes that endangered everyone he worked with. There were even claims of Darby sexually assaulting female organizers at Common Ground and in general being dismissive of women working in the organization.  Darby created conflict in all of the organizations he worked with, yet people were hesitant to hold him accountable because of his history and reputation as an organizer and his “dedication” to “the work.” People continued to defend him until he outed himself as an FBI informant. Even Rahim, for all of his guilt and angst, chose to leave Darby in charge of Common Ground although every time there was conflict in the organization it seemed to involve Darby.
Maybe if organizers made collective accountability around gender violence a central part of our practices we could neutralize people who are working on behalf of the state to undermine our struggles. I’m not talking about witch hunts; I’m talking about organizing in such a way that we nip a potential Brandon Darby in the bud before he can hurt more people. Informants are hard to spot, but my guess is that where there is smoke there is fire, and someone who creates chaos wherever he goes is either an informant or an irresponsible, unaccountable time bomb who can be unintentionally as effective at undermining social-justice organizing as an informant. Ultimately they both do the work of the state and need to be held accountable.
A Brief Historical Reflection on Gender Violence in Radical Movements
Reflecting on the radical organizations and social movements of the 1960s and 1970s provides an important historical context for this discussion. Memoirs by women who were actively involved in these struggles reveal the pervasiveness of tolerance (and in some cases advocacy) of gender violence. Angela Davis, Assata Shakur, and Elaine Brown, each at different points in their experiences organizing with the Black Panther Party (BPP), cited sexism and the exploitation of women (and their organizing labor) in the BPP as one of their primary reasons for either leaving the group (in the cases of Brown and Shakur) or refusing to ever formally join (in Davis’s case). Although women were often expected to make significant personal sacrifices to support the movement, when women found themselves victimized by male comrades there was no support for them or channels to seek redress. Whether it was BPP organizers ignoring the fact that Eldridge Cleaver beat his wife, noted activist Kathleen Cleaver, men coercing women into sex, or just men treating women organizers as subordinated sexual playthings, the BPP and similar organizations tended not to take seriously the corrosive effects of gender violence on liberation struggle. In many ways, Elaine Brown’s autobiography, A Taste of Power: A Black Woman’s Story, has gone the furthest in laying bare the ugly realities of misogyny in the movement and the various ways in which both men and women reproduced and reinforced male privilege and gender violence in these organizations. Her experience as the only woman to ever lead the BPP did not exempt her from the brutal misogyny of the organization. She recounts being assaulted by various male comrades (including Huey Newton) as well as being beaten and terrorized by Eldridge Cleaver, who threatened to “bury her in Algeria” during a delegation to China. Her biography demonstrates more explicitly than either Davis’s or Shakur’s how the masculinist posturing of the BPP (and by extension many radical organizations at the time) created a culture of violence and misogyny that ultimately proved to be the organization’s undoing.
These narratives demystify the legacy of gender violence of the very organizations that many of us look up to. They demonstrate how misogyny was normalized in these spaces, dismissed as “personal” or not as important as the more serious struggles against racism or class inequality. Gender violence has historically been deeply entrenched in the political practices of the Left and constituted one of the greatest (if largely unacknowledged) threats to the survival of these organizations. However, if we pay attention to the work of Davis, Shakur, Brown, and others, we can avoid the mistakes of the past and create different kinds of political community.
The Racial Politics of Gender Violence
Race further complicates the ways in which gender violence unfolds in our communities. In “Looking for Common Ground: Relief Work in Post-Katrina New Orleans as an American Parable of Race and Gender Violence,” Rachel Luft explores the disturbing pattern of sexual assault against white female volunteers by white male volunteers doing rebuilding work in the Upper Ninth Ward in 2006. She points out how Common Ground failed to address white men’s assaults on their co-organizers and instead shifted the blame to the surrounding Black community, warning white women activists that they needed to be careful because New Orleans was a dangerous place. Ultimately it proved easier to criminalize Black men from the neighborhood than to acknowledge that white women and transgender organizers were most likely to be assaulted by white men they worked with. In one case, a white male volunteer was turned over to the police only after he sexually assaulted at least three women in one week. The privilege that white men enjoyed in Common Ground, an organization ostensibly committed to racial justice, meant that they could be violent toward women and queer activists, enact destructive behaviors that undermined the organization’s work, and know that the movement would not hold them accountable in the same way that it did Black men in the community where they worked.
Of course, male privilege is not uniform—white men and men of color are unequal participants in and beneficiaries of patriarchy although they both can and do reproduce gender violence. This disparity in the distribution of patriarchy’s benefits is not lost on women and queer organizers when we attempt to confront men of color who enact gender violence in our communities. We often worry about reproducing particular kinds of racist violence that disproportionately target men of color. We are understandably loath to call the police, involve the state in any way, or place men of color at the mercy of a historically racist criminal (in)justice system; yet our communities (political and otherwise) often do not step up to demand justice on our behalf. We don’t feel comfortable talking to therapists who just reaffirm stereotypes about how fucked-up and exceptionally violent our home communities are. The Left often offers even less support. Our victimization is unfortunate, problematic, but ultimately less important to “the work” than the men of all races who reproduce gender violence in our communities.
Encountering Misogyny on the Left: A Personal Reflection
In the first community group I was actively involved in, I encountered a level of misogyny that I would never have imagined existed in what was supposed to be a radical-people-of-color organization. I was sexually/romantically involved with an older Chicano activist in the group. I was nineteen, an inexperienced young Black activist; he was thirty. He asked me to keep our relationship a secret, and I reluctantly agreed. Later, after he ended the relationship and I was reeling from depression, I discovered that he had been sleeping with at least two other women while we were together. One of them was a friend of mine, another young woman we organized with. Unaware of the nature of our relationship, which he had failed to disclose to her, she slept with him until he disappeared, refusing to answer her calls or explain the abrupt end of their relationship. She and I, after sharing our experiences, began to trade stories with other women who knew and had organized with this man.
We heard of the women who had left a Chicana/o student group and never came back after his lies and secrets blew up while the group was participating in a Zapatista action in Mexico City. The queer, radical, white organizer who left Austin to get away from his abuse. Another white woman, a social worker who thought they might get married only to come to his apartment one evening and find me there. And then there were the ones that came after me. I always wondered if they knew who he really was. The women he dated were amazing, beautiful, kick-ass, radical women that he used as shields to get himself into places he knew would never be open to such a misogynist. I mean, if that cool woman who worked in Chiapas, spoke Spanish, and worked with undocumented immigrants was dating him, he must be down, right? Wrong.
But his misogyny didn’t end there; it was also reflected in his style of organizing. In meetings he always spoke the loudest and longest, using academic jargon that made any discussion excruciatingly more complex than necessary. The academic-speak intimidated people less educated than him because he seemed to know more about radical politics than anyone else. He would talk down to other men in the group, especially those he perceived to be less intelligent than him, which was basically everybody. Then he’d switch gears, apologize for dominating the space, and acknowledge his need to check his male privilege. Ironically, when people did attempt to call him out on his shit, he would feign ignorance—what could they mean, saying that his behavior was masculinist and sexist? He’d complain of being infantilized, refusing to see how he infantilized people all the time. The fact that he was a man of color who could talk a good game about racism and racial-justice struggles masked his abusive behaviors in both radical organizations and his personal relationships. As one of his former partners shared with me, “His radical race analysis allowed people (mostly men but occasionally women as well) to forgive him for being dominating and abusive in his relationships. Womyn had to check their critique of his behavior at the door, lest we lose a man of color in the movement.” One of the reasons it is so difficult to hold men of color accountable for reproducing gender violence is that women of color and white activists continue to be invested in the idea that men of color have it harder than anyone else. How do you hold someone accountable when you believe he is target number one for the state?
Unfortunately he wasn’t the only man like this I encountered in radical spaces—just one of the smarter ones. Reviewing old e-mails, I am shocked at the number of e-mails from men I organized with that were abusive in tone and content, how easily they would talk down to others for minor mistakes. I am more surprised at my meek, diplomatic responses—like an abuse survivor—as I attempted to placate compañeros who saw nothing wrong with yelling at their partners, friends, and other organizers. There were men like this in various organizations I worked with. The one who called his girlfriend a bitch in front of a group of youth of color during a summer encuentro we were hosting. The one who sexually harassed a queer Chicana couple during a trip to México, trying to pressure them into a threesome. The guys who said they would complete a task, didn’t do it, brushed off their compañeras’ demands for accountability, let those women take over the task, and when it was finished took all the credit for someone else’s hard work. The graduate student who hit his partner—and everyone knew he’d done it, but whenever anyone asked, people would just look ashamed and embarrassed and mumble, “It’s complicated.” The ones who constantly demeaned queer folks, even people they organized with. Especially the one who thought it would be a revolutionary act to “kill all these faggots, these niggas on the down low, who are fucking up our children, fucking up our homes, fucking up our world, and fucking up our lives!” The one who would shout you down in a meeting or tell you that you couldn’t be a feminist because you were too pretty. Or the one who thought homosexuality was a disease from Europe.
Yeah, that guy.
Most of those guys probably weren’t informants. Which is a pity because it means they are not getting paid a dime for all the destructive work they do. We might think of these misogynists as inadvertent agents of the state. Regardless of whether they are actually informants or not, the work that they do supports the state’s ongoing campaign of terror against social movements and the people who create them. When queer organizers are humiliated and their political struggles sidelined, that is part of an ongoing state project of violence against radicals. When women are knowingly given STIs, physically abused, dismissed in meetings, pushed aside, and forced out of radical organizing spaces while our allies defend known misogynists, organizers collude in the state’s efforts to destroy us.
The state has already understood a fact that the Left has struggled to accept: misogynists make great informants. Before or regardless of whether they are ever recruited by the state to disrupt a movement or destabilize an organization, they’ve likely become well versed in practices of disruptive behavior. They require almost no training and can start the work immediately. What’s more paralyzing to our work than when women and/or queer folks leave our movements because they have been repeatedly lied to, humiliated, physically/verbally/emotionally/sexually abused? Or when you have to postpone conversations about the work so that you can devote group meetings to addressing an individual member’s most recent offense? Or when that person spreads misinformation, creating confusion and friction among radical groups? Nothing slows down movement building like a misogynist.
What the FBI gets is that when there are people in activist spaces who are committed to taking power and who understand power as domination, our movements will never realize their potential to remake this world. If our energies are absorbed recuperating from the messes that informants (and people who just act like them) create, we will never be able to focus on the real work of getting free and building the kinds of life-affirming, people-centered communities that we want to live in. To paraphrase bell hooks, where there is a will to dominate there can be no justice, because we will inevitably continue reproducing the same kinds of injustice we claim to be struggling against. It is time for our movements to undergo a radical change from the inside out.
Looking Forward: Creating Gender Justice in our Movements
Radical movements cannot afford the destruction that gender violence creates. If we underestimate the political implications of patriarchal behaviors in our communities, the work will not survive.
Lately I’ve been turning to the work of queers/feminists of color to think through how to challenge these behaviors in our movements. I’ve been reading the autobiographies of women who lived through the chaos of social movements debilitated by machismo. I’m revisiting the work of bell hooks, Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, Toni Cade Bambara, Alice Walker, Audre Lorde, Gioconda Belli, Margaret Randall, Elaine Brown, Pearl Cleage, Ntozake Shange, and Gloria Anzaldúa to see how other women negotiated gender violence in these spaces and to problematize neat or easy answers about how violence is reproduced in our communities. Newer work by radical feminists of color has also been incredibly helpful, especially the zine Revolution Starts at Home: Confronting Partner Abuse in Activist Communities, edited by Ching-In Chen, Dulani, and Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha.
But there are many resources for confronting this dilemma beyond books. The simple act of speaking and sharing our truths is one of the most powerful tools we have. I’ve been speaking to my elders, older women of color in struggle who have experienced the things I’m struggling against, and swapping survival stories with other women. In summer 2008 I began doing workshops on ending misogyny and building collective forms of accountability with Cristina Tzintzún, an Austin-based labor organizer and author of the essay “Killing Misogyny: A Personal Story of Love, Violence, and Strategies for Survival.” We have also begun the even more liberating practice of naming our experiences publicly and calling on our communities to address what we and so many others have experienced.
Dismantling misogyny cannot be work that only women do. We all must do the work because the survival of our movements depends on it. Until we make radical feminist and queer political ethics that directly challenge heteropatriarchal forms of organizing central to our political practice, radical movements will continue to be devastated by the antics of Brandon Darbys (and folks who aren’t informants but just act like them). A queer, radical, feminist ethic of accountability would challenge us to recognize how gender violence is reproduced in our communities, relationships, and organizing practices. Although there are many ways to do this, I want to suggest that there are three key steps that we can take to begin. First, we must support women and queer people in our movements who have experienced interpersonal violence and engage in a collective process of healing. Second, we must initiate a collective dialogue about how we want our communities to look and how to make them safe for everyone. Third, we must develop a model for collective accountability that truly treats the personal as political and helps us to begin practicing justice in our communities. When we allow women/queer organizers to leave activist spaces and protect people whose violence provoked their departure, we are saying we value these de facto state agents who disrupt the work more than we value people whose labor builds and sustains movements.
As angry as gender violence on the Left makes me, I am hopeful. I believe we have the capacity to change and create more justice in our movements. We don’t have to start witch hunts to reveal misogynists and informants. They out themselves every time they refuse to apologize, take ownership of their actions, start conflicts and refuse to work them out through consensus, mistreat their compañer@s. We don’t have to look for them, but when we are presented with their destructive behaviors we have to hold them accountable. Our strategies don’t have to be punitive; people are entitled to their mistakes. But we should expect that people will own those actions and not allow them to become a pattern.
We have a right to be angry when the communities we build that are supposed to be the model for a better, more just world harbor the same kinds of antiqueer, antiwoman, racist violence that pervades society. As radical organizers we must hold each other accountable and not enable misogynists to assert so much power in these spaces. Not allow them to be the faces, voices, and leaders of these movements. Not allow them to rape a compañera and then be on the fucking five o’ clock news. In Brandon Darby’s case, even if no one suspected he was an informant, his domineering and macho behavior should have been all that was needed to call his leadership into question. By not allowing misogyny to take root in our communities and movements, we not only protect ourselves from the efforts of the state to destroy our work but also create stronger movements that cannot be destroyed from within.
 I use the term gender violence to refer to the ways in which homophobia and misogyny are rooted in heteronormative understandings of gender identity and gender roles. Heterosexism not only polices non-normative sexualities but also reproduces normative gender roles and identities that reinforce the logic of patriarchy and male privilege.
 I learned this from informal conversations with women who had organized with Darby in Austin and New Orleans while participating in the Austin Informants Working Group, which was formed by people who had worked with Darby and were stunned by his revelation that he was an FBI informant.
Article published courtesy of make/shift magazine and Courtney Desiree Morris. For more of the author’s work visit: http://creolemaroon.blogspot.com/.
Find this story at 15 July 2010
Copyright make/shift magazine
WHAT INFORMS AN INFORMANT: THE UNTOLD STORY OF BRANDON DARBY
April 8, 2015
Riad Hamad’s body was found in Lady Bird Lake on April 15, 2008. His hands and feet were bound by duct tape, while another strip covered his eyes. Hamad was a school teacher in Austin, Texas, and a peace activist who supported the Palestine Children’s Welfare Fund — a charity he raised money for by selling handmade Palestinian crafts. His home was raided by the FBI and the IRS just two months earlier. At first the cause of death was a mystery, but later an autopsy revealed that Hamad had committed suicide.
Several months later, David McKay and Bradley Crowder were arrested for allegedly making Molotov cocktails and plotting to use them to bomb parked police cars. The two young men had driven from Austin to Minneapolis a few days earlier with a cohort of young radicals to protest the 2008 Republican National Convention. They were joined by an estimated 10,000 other demonstrators from around the country, who descended on the city. They anticipated repression, bringing homemade shields to protect themselves from police. What they did not expect, though, was that one of their comrades, a celebrated activist, would twist their minds with macho dreams and pressure them to take dangerous actions — only later to betray them to the FBI.
The new documentary Informant investigates the life of the man behind both of these tragedies: Brandon Darby. It chronicles his rise to prominence as a founder of Common Ground, a collective that spearheaded disaster relief in New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina, and charts his descent into infamy with the revelation that he had been working as an FBI informant.
Although the story is a few years old, two recent cases of FBI entrapment, those of the Cleveland 4 and the NATO 3, have made it imperative for radical communities to understand the ways in which the U.S. government is using informants to wage war on dissent. The film opened in New York City on Friday, Sept. 13, at which time it was also made available to watch online via iTunes.
Informant reconstructs Darby’s history of engagement with social justice groups and builds a kind of pathology of power in an effort to account for his transformation from leftist activist to Tea Party educator. The film juxtaposes the perspectives of journalists and former comrades with Darby’s own narrative, a story that it presents in full for the first time. Early on, the film portrays Darby as an ambitious and talented organizer, recounting how he came to New Orleans after Katrina and persuaded FEMA to rescue his friend, Robert “King” Wilkerson, a former Black Panther.
Many of the film’s commentators, including Scott Crow and Malik Rahim, recall this era fondly. One former friend even calls it “Brandon’s glory days.” But the idea that things were ever peachy keen is undermined by the testimony of Caroline Heldman, a Common Ground alum, whose initial impression was that Darby was as an ego-maniac. Heldman is notably the first woman to appear on screen almost 15 minutes into the film and, unlike the other male characters, she unequivocally denounces his behavior.
To fully appreciate the significance of this fact, we must be clear: This is a story about men, their relationships and their struggles for power. Although Brandon Darby is the film’s antagonist for many audiences and former friends, none of the men involved can ultimately go without blame.
The film depicts a series of complicated and highly problematic relationships between Darby and Scott Crow, Darby and his FBI handler, and Darby and David McKay. These are presented against the backdrop of Darby’s troubled youth and his time spent as a runaway, which creates the psychological vantage point that he was searching for a place to belong. In this scheme, Crow is a major influence on Darby, acting both as a personal and political mentor. But after a period of turmoil in which his political beliefs are sharply called into question, Darby distances himself from Crow and turns to the FBI, where he forms a bond with his fatherly handler.
Darby recounts this process in the film when he describes how he turned Hamad over and reacts to learning of the teacher’s suicide, saying, “It was really upsetting, and the thing that was really, really difficult was that I couldn’t talk about it. The only one I could talk to was the guy from the FBI. And I did every day, because I cried. I was upset.”
A short time later, Darby was assigned by the FBI to monitor a group of activists in Austin who were planning to attend the RNC demonstrations. As an older, more experienced activist, he quickly became an important figure for Bradley Crowder and David McKay, similarly disaffected young men.
“I think Brandon and David are fascinating foils for one another,” Jamie Meltzer, the film’s director, told me. “In a way, when Brandon turned in David, he was turning in his earlier self. If things had gone another way, I think that easily could have been Brandon in his early 20s, if he had been involved with an FBI Informant.”
All of this begs the question: Why didn’t anyone intervene when Darby was showing destructive behavior? The film traces a history of his abuses of power. This perspective doesn’t originate with the filmmaker — it comes from Darby’s former friends. At the same time, the film traces a parallel arc: the systematic failure of these communities to react to obvious signs and hold one of their male leaders accountable. Lisa Fithian, a long-time activist close to the story, appeared in the film and spoke to me at length about the role that patriarchy played in allowing Darby’s behavior to go unchecked.
“Throughout this work, there were women who had a different analysis of Darby’s behavior and urged for different options,” she said. “But we were never really taken seriously.”
The macho culture created by activists in different spheres made it impossible to hold Darby accountable for his actions. It may have even given him impunity.
“Brandon could not have continued to do what he did if he was not backed by Malik and [Common Ground],” said Fithian. “And Brandon could not have continued to do what he did around the RNC if he wasn’t backed by Scott. So you have to see there is a repeating pattern where the dominant systems and the people within them are in many ways unconsciously continuing to promote this.”
Female voices are scattered throughout the film, sprinkled occasionally in the spaces between long-winded male storytellers. It is disturbing that women are given so little space. In one instance of thoughtless editing, Fithian briefly appears on screen to tell us, “Then it got much more complicated when they were on the ground down there,” describing a trip that Darby took to Venezuela. Relegating women to the work of creating transitions in a male-dominated film is counter-productive. Nevertheless, that is the way this story has been approached by all who have tried to tell it. The film’s structure in this sense is dubious, but startlingly accurate in the way it mimicks the flaws of the movement.
“The dominant paradigm was male driven,” said Fithian, adding, “and it’s continuing to be the dominant force in the telling of the story.”
Informant is a film that will undoubtedly leave many in the activist community scratching their heads. What is the utility of a movie about an informant that doesn’t provide answers and, if anything, only creates more questions?
Meltzer suggests this is the wrong way to approach the problem.
“In this type of film, the audience wants to know how the filmmaker feels about the subject so they can know how to feel as the viewer,” he said. “That’s not the kind of experience I want to give to my audience.”
The experience that seems to emerge is found in the gaps that the film creates, either by design or by replicating the world that it is representing. In that sense, Informant offers an instructive lesson. Audiences should question the motives of all parties involved, but especially the masculine perspectives that duel with Brandon Darby.
Let’s take this opportunity to leave the informant himself behind. Instead, we need to focus on the real untold story of the film: the patriarchal silencing of women’s voices that leaves communities vulnerable to infiltration. That wasn’t the story the film intended to tell, but that is the story we need to see.
WED, 9/18/2013 – BY THOMAS HINTZE
Find this story at 18 September 2013
How a Radical Leftist Became the FBI’s BFF
April 8, 2015
To many on the left, Brandon Darby was a hero. To federal agents consumed with busting anarchist terror cells, he was the perfect snitch.
FOR A FEW DAYS IN SEPTEMBER 2008, as the Republican Party kicked off its national convention in St. Paul, Minnesota, the Twin Cities were a microcosm of a deeply divided nation. The atmosphere around town was tense, with local and federal police facing off against activists who had descended upon the city. Convinced that anarchists were plotting violent acts, they sought to bust the protesters’ hangouts, sometimes bursting into apartments and houses brandishing assault rifles. Inside the cavernous Xcel Energy convention center, meanwhile, an out-of-nowhere vice presidential nominee named Sarah Palin assured tens of thousands of ecstatic Republicans that her running mate, John McCain, was “a leader who’s not looking for a fight, but sure isn’t afraid of one either.”
The same thing might have been said of David McKay and Bradley Crowder, a pair of greenhorn activists from George W. Bush’s Texas hometown who had driven up for the protests. Wide-eyed guys in their early 20s, they’d come of age hanging out in sleepy downtown Midland, commiserating about the Iraq War and the administration’s assault on civil liberties.
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St. Paul was their first large-scale protest, and when they arrived they were taken aback: Rubber bullets, flash-bang grenades, tumbling tear-gas canisters—to McKay and Crowder, it seemed like an all-out war on democracy. They wanted to fight back, even going so far as to mix up a batch of Molotov cocktails. Just before dawn on the day of Palin’s big coming out, a SWAT team working with federal agents raided their crash pad, seized the Molotovs, and arrested McKay, alleging that he intended to torch a parking lot full of police cars.
Since only a few people knew about the firebombs, fellow activists speculated that someone close to McKay and Crowder must have tipped off the feds. Back in Texas, flyers soon began appearing at coffeehouses urging leftists to beware of Brandon Darby, an “FBI informant rat loose in Austin.”
The allegation came as a shocker; Darby was a known and trusted member of the left-wing protest crowd. “If Brandon was conning me, and many others, it would be the biggest lie of my life since I found out the truth about Santa Claus,” wrote Scott Crow, one of many activists who rushed to defend him at first. Two months later, Darby came clean. “The simple truth,” he wrote on Indymedia.org, “is that I have chosen to work with the Federal Bureau of Investigation.”
Darby’s entanglement with the feds is part of a quiet resurgence of FBI interest in left-wingers. From the Red Scare days of the 1950s into the ’70s, the FBI’s Counter Intelligence Program, a.k.a. COINTELPRO, monitored and sabotaged communist and civil rights organizations. Nowadays, in what critics have dubbed the Green Scare, the bureau is targeting the global-justice movement and radical environmentalists. In 2005, John Lewis, then the FBI official in charge of domestic terrorism, ranked groups like the Earth Liberation Front ahead of jihadists as America’s top domestic terror threat.
FBI stings involving informants have been key to convicting 14 ELF members since 2006 for a string of high-profile arsons, and to sentencing a man to 20 years in prison for conspiring to destroy several targets, including cell phone towers. During the St. Paul protests, at least two additional informants infiltrated and helped indict a group of activists known as the RNC Eight for conspiring to riot and damage property.
Brandon Darby.: Couresy Loteria Films
Brandon Darby. Courtesy Loteria Films
But it’s Darby’s snitching that has provided the most intriguing tale. It’s the focus of a radio magazine piece, two documentary films, and a book in the making. By far the most damning portrayal is Better This World, an award-winning doc that garnered rave reviews on the festival circuit and is slated to air on PBS on September 6. The product of two years of work by San Francisco Bay Area filmmakers Katie Galloway and Kelly Duane de la Vega, it dredges up a wealth of FBI documents and court transcripts related to Darby’s interactions with his fellow activists to suggest that Darby acted as an agitator as much as an informant. (Watch the trailer and read our interview with the filmmakers here.)
The film makes a compelling case that Darby, with the FBI’s blessing, used his charisma and street credibility to goad Crowder and McKay into pursuing the sort of actions that would later land them in prison. Darby flatly denies it, and he recently sued the New York Times over a story with similar implications. (The Times corrected the disputed detail.) “I feel very morally justified to do the things that I’ve done,” he told me. “I don’t know if I could have handled it much differently.”
Darby “gets in people’s minds and can pull you in,” one activist warned me. “He’s a master. And you are going to feel all kinds of sympathy for him.”
BRANDON MICHAEL DARBY is a muscular, golden-skinned 34-year-old with Hollywood looks and puppy-dog eyes. Once notorious for sleeping around the activist scene, he now often sleeps with a gun by his bed in response to death threats. His former associates call him unhinged, a megalomaniac, a manipulator. “He gets in people’s minds and can pull you in,” Lisa Fithian, a veteran labor, environmental, and anti-war organizer, warned me before I set out to interview him. “He’s a master. And you are going to feel all kinds of sympathy for him.”
The son of a refinery welder, Darby grew up in Pasadena, a dingy Texas oil town. His parents divorced when he was 12, and soon after he ran away to Houston, where he lived in and out of group homes. By 2002, Darby had found his way to Austin’s slacker scene, where one day he helped his friend, medical-marijuana activist Tracey Hayes, scale Zilker Park’s 165-foot moonlight tower (of Dazed and Confused fame) and unfurl a giant banner painted with pot leaves that read “Medicine.” They later “hooked up,” Hayes says, and eventually moved in together. She introduced him to her activist friends, and he started reading Howard Zinn and histories of the Black Panthers.
Some local activists wouldn’t work with Darby (he liked to taunt the cops during protests, getting them all riled up). But that changed after Hurricane Katrina, when he learned that Robert King Wilkerson, one of the Angola Three—former Black Panthers who endured decades of solitary confinement at Louisiana’s Angola Prison—was trapped in New Orleans. Darby and Crow drove 10 hours from Austin towing a jon boat. When they couldn’t get it into the city, Darby somehow harangued some Coast Guard personnel into rescuing Wilkerson. The story became part of the foundation myth for an in-your-face New Orleans relief organization called the Common Ground Collective.
It would eventually grow into a national group with a million-dollar budget. But at first Common Ground was just a bunch of pissed-off anarchists working out of the house of Malik Rahim, another former Panther. Rahim asked Darby to set up an outpost in the devastated Ninth Ward, where not even the Red Cross was allowed at first. Darby brought in a group of volunteers who fed people and cleared debris from houses while being harassed by police, right along with the locals who had refused to evacuate. “If I’d had an appropriate weapon, I would have attacked my government for what they were doing to people,” he declared in a clip featured in Better This World. He said he’d since bought an AK-47 and was willing to use it: “There are residents here who have said that you will not take my home from me over my dead body, and we have made a commitment to be in solidarity with those residents.”
But Common Ground’s approach soon began to grate on Darby. He bristled at its consensus-based decision making, its interminable debates over things like whether serving meat to locals was serving oppression. He idolized rugged, iconoclastic populists like Che Guevara—so, in early 2006, he jumped at a chance to go to Venezuela to solicit money for Katrina victims.
Darby was deeply impressed with what he saw, until a state oil exec asked him to go to Colombia and meet with FARC, the communist guerrilla group. “They said they wanted to help me start a guerrilla movement in the swamps of Louisiana,” he told “This American Life” reporter Michael May. “And I was like, ‘I don’t think so.'” It turned out armed revolution wasn’t really his thing.
Darby’s former friends dispute the Venezuela story as they dispute much that he says. They accuse him of grandstanding, being combative, and even spying on his rivals. In his short-lived tenure as Common Ground’s interim director, Darby drove out 30 volunteer coordinators and replaced them with a small band of loyalists. “He could only see what’s in it for him,” Crow told me. For example, Darby preempted a planned police-harassment hot line by making flyers asking victims to call his personal phone number.
The flyers led to a meeting between Darby and Major John Bryson, the New Orleans cop in charge of the Ninth Ward. In time, Bryson became a supporter of Common Ground, and Darby believed that they shared a common dream of rebuilding the city. But he was less and less sure about his peers. “I’m like, ‘Oh my God, I’ve replicated every system that I fought against,'” he recalls. “It was fucking bizarre.”
By mid-2007, Darby had left the group and become preoccupied with the conflict in Lebanon. Before long, Darby says, he was approached in Austin by a Lebanese-born schoolteacher, Riad Hamad, for help with a vague plan to launder money into the Palestinian territories. Hamad also spoke about smuggling bombs into Israel, he claims.
Darby says he discouraged Hamad at first, and then tipped off Bryson, who put him in touch with the FBI. “I talked,” he told me. “And it was the fucking weirdest thing.” He knew his friends would hate him for what he’d done. (The FBI raided Hamad’s home, and discovered nothing incriminating; he was found dead in Austin’s Lady Bird Lake two months later—an apparent suicide.)
MCKAY AND CROWDER FIRST encountered Darby in March 2008 at Austin’s Monkey Wrench Books during a recruitment drive for the St. Paul protests. Later, in a scene re-created in Better This World, they met at a café to talk strategy. “I stated that I wasn’t interested in being a part of a group if we were going to sit and talk too much,” Darby emailed his FBI handlers. “I stated that I was gonna shut that fucker down.”
“My biggest impression from that meeting was that Brandon really dominated it,” fellow activist James Clark told the filmmakers. Darby’s FBI email continued: “I stated that they all looked like they ate too much tofu and that they should eat beef so that they could put on muscle mass. I stated that they weren’t going to be able to fight anybody until they did so.” At one point Darby took everyone out to a parking lot and threw Clark to the ground. Clark interpreted it as Darby sending the message: “Look at me, I’m badass. You can be just like me.” (Darby insists that this never happened.)
“The reality is, when we woke up the next day, neither one of us wanted to use” the Molotovs, Crowder told me.
When the Austin activists arrived in St. Paul, police, acting on a Darby tip, broke open the group’s trailer and confiscated the sawed-off traffic barrels they’d planned to use as shields against riot police. They soon learned of similar raids all over town. “It started to feel like Darby hadn’t amped these things up, and it really was as crazy and intense as he had told us it was going to be,” Crowder says. Feeling that Darby’s tough talk should be “in some ways, a guide of behavior,” they went to Walmart to buy Molotov supplies.
“The reality is, when we woke up the next day, neither one of us wanted to use them,” Crowder told me. They stored the firebombs in a basement and left for the convention center, where Crowder was swept up in a mass arrest. Darby and McKay later talked about possibly lobbing the Molotovs on a police parking lot early the next morning, though by 2:30 a.m. McKay was having serious doubts. “I’m just not feeling the vibe on the street,” he texted Darby.
“You butt head,” Darby shot back. “Text me when you can.” He texted his friend repeatedly over the next hour, until well after McKay had turned in. At 5 a.m., police broke into McKay’s room and found him in bed. He was scheduled to fly home to Austin two hours later.
The feds ultimately convicted the pair for making the Molotov cocktails, but they didn’t have enough evidence of intent to use them. Crowder, who pleaded guilty rather than risk trial, and a heavier sentence, got two years. McKay, who was offered seven years if he pleaded guilty, opted for a trial, arguing on the stand that Darby told him to make the Molotovs, a claim he recanted after learning that Crowder had given a conflicting account. McKay is now serving out the last of his four years in federal prison.
AT SOUTH AUSTIN’S STRANGE BREW coffeehouse, Darby shows up to meet me on a chromed-out Yamaha with flames on the side. We sit out back, where he can chain-smoke his American Spirits. Darby is through being a leftist radical. Indeed, he’s now an enthusiastic small-government conservative. He loves Sarah Palin. He opposes welfare and national health care. “The majority of things could be handled by people and by communities,” he explains. Climate change is “a bandwagon” and the EPA should be “strongly limited.” Abortion shouldn’t be a federal issue.
He sounds a bit like his new friend, Andrew Breitbart, who made his name producing sting videos targeting NPR, ACORN, Planned Parenthood, and others. About a year after McKay and Crowder went to jail, Breitbart called Darby wanting to know why he wasn’t defending himself against the left’s misrepresentations. “They don’t print what I say,” Darby said. Breitbart offered him a regular forum on his website, BigGovernment.com. Darby now socializes with Breitbart at his Los Angeles home and is among his staunchest defenders. (Breitbart’s takedown of ACORN, he says, was “completely fucking fair.”)
“No matter what I say, most people on the left are going to believe what reinforces their own narrative,” Darby says. “And I’ve quit giving a shit.”
Entrapment? Darby scoffs at the suggestion. He pulls up his shirt, showing me his chest hair and tattoos, as though his macho physique had somehow seduced Crowder and McKay into mixing their firebombs. “No matter what I say, most people on the left are going to believe what reinforces their own narrative,” he says. “And I’ve quit giving a shit.”
The fact is, Darby says, McKay and Crowder considered him a has-been. His tofu comment, he adds, was a jocular response after one of them had ribbed him for being fat. “I constantly felt the need to show that I was still worthy of being in their presence,” he tells me. “They are complete fucking liars.” As for those late-night texts to McKay, Darby insists he was just trying to dissuade him from using the Molotovs.
He still meets with FBI agents, he says, to eat barbecue and discuss his ideas for new investigations. But then, it’s hard to know how much of what Darby says is true. For one, the FBI file of his former friend Scott Crow, which Crow obtained under a Freedom of Information Act request last year, suggests that Darby was talking with the FBI more than a year before he claims Bryson first put him in touch. Meanwhile, Crow and another activist, Karly Dixon, separately told me that Darby asked them, in the fall of 2006, to help him burn down an Austin bookstore affiliated with right-wing radio host Alex Jones. (Hayes, Darby’s ex, says he told her of the idea too.) “The guy was trying to put me in prison,” Crow says.
Such allegations, Darby claims, are simply part of a conspiracy to besmirch him and the FBI: “They get together, and they just figure out ways to attack.” Believe whomever you want to believe, he says. “Either way, they walk away with scars—and so do I.”
—By Josh Harkinson | September/October 2011 Issue
Find this story at September/October 2011
Copyright ©2015 Mother Jones and the Foundation for National Progress
April 8, 2015
How did two boyhood friends from Midland, Texas wind up arrested on terrorism charges at the 2008 Republican National Convention? Better This World follows the journey of David McKay (22) and Bradley Crowder (23) from political neophytes to accused domestic terrorists with a particular focus on the relationship they develop with a radical activist mentor in the six months leading up to their arrests. A dramatic story of idealism, loyalty, crime and betrayal, Better This World goes to the heart of the War on Terror and its impact on civil liberties and political dissent in post-9/11 America.
Find this story at September 2011
Occupyer benaderd door de RID
April 8, 2015
Tijdens een actiekamp van Occupy Ede in 2012 werd een jongeman aangehouden door de politie omdat hij boetes had openstaan. In de cel kreeg hij bezoek van een RID’er die hem vergeefs gepolst heeft om informant te worden.
De 25-jarige ‘Sjoerd’ sprak met Buro Jansen & Janssen over zijn ervaringen met de politie en een man van een inlichtingendienst die hem lastig vielen in de weken voorafgaande en op de dag van de kroning van Willem-Alexander. De uitwerking daarvan lees je in het artikel ‘Inlichtingendienst intimideert anti-monarchist’, zie elders in deze nieuwsbrief.
Tijdens onze gesprekken met Sjoerd vertelde hij terloops over een benadering door ene Greet. Dat zat zo. Sjoerd deed mee aan Occupy Ede, een kleine groep mensen die in de stad in de Gelderse vallei de wereld wilde verbeteren. Een stad die vooral in het nieuws komt als er iets met Marokkaanse Nederlanders aan de hand is, verders een doorsnee Gelderse gemeente. Occupy Ede haalde zelfs in 2012 de landelijke media.
Na het langdurig kamperen in Occupy-tenten werd Sjoerd in de laatste dagen van het protest aangehouden. Hij had nog twee boetes openstaan en de politie dacht dat Sjoerd zou zijn gevlogen als ze hem niet voor het einde van de actie zouden oppakken. Sjoerd was een bekende van de politie. Hij kraakt al vijf jaar en veel deelnemers aan Occupy waren bekend bij de sterke arm. Uit lopend onderzoek van J&J blijkt dat de politie Occupy scherp in de gaten hield en zicht probeerde te houden op de personen die aan de actie deelnamen.
Greet zonder achternaam
Nadat Sjoerd in de cel was beland, kreeg hij bezoek. Een dame die zich introduceerde als ‘Greet’ zonder achternaam wilde hem het een en ander vragen, het was beslist geen verhoor, zo benadrukte zij. Ze nam Sjoerd mee naar ‘achteren’ en zei dat ze al langer geïnteresseerd was in Occupy, ze wilde graag met hem daarover praten. Sjoerd had Greet nooit eerder gezien. Zij bood hem thee en koffie aan en hij kreeg er ook nog koekjes bij. Sjoerd wilde graag een sigaret roken, dat zou ze proberen te regelen.
Uiteindelijk draaide het gesprek van de RID’er Greet uit op een benadering. “Zij vroeg mij of ik de verklikker wilde uithangen voor de politie”, vertelt Sjoerd. Volgens Greet was Sjoerd bekend met demonstraties in de regio Gelderland vanwege zijn betrokkenheid bij Occupy Ede en kraakacties. Greet wilde heel graag dat Sjoerd zou toehappen. Ze zei dat zij in ruil voor informatie wel kaarten voor feesten voor hem kon regelen, ze had het over een beloning tussen de 50 en de 100 euro.
Greet had het gevoel dat Sjoerd misschien wel rijp was om naar de politie over te lopen. Hij leek zich namelijk af te zetten tegen Occupy die hij een ‘stel doelloze hippies’ noemde. Ook over krakers was hij niet bijster positief. ‘Die zouden zich eens een keer moeten douchen’, vertelde hij aan Greet. Sjoerd bracht het allemaal nogal serieus en niet op een lacherige manier, al bedoelde hij het vooral als practical jokes.
Greet dacht dat Sjoerd de juiste persoon was om politie-informant te worden. Ze kon hem dan wel geen strafvermindering verlenen en aan een sigaret helpen, maar indirect stelde zij hem geld in het vooruitzicht voor het verklikken, aldus Sjoerd. Hij kreeg na afloop van het onderhoud het mobiele nummer van Greet overhandigd en werd enkele dagen later vrijgelaten.
Bij thuiskomt vertelde hij zijn ervaringen aan zijn vriendin Rosa, die enthousiast werd. Ze antwoordde dat zij het wel cool zou vinden om samen met haar vriend af te spreken met een ‘echte spionne’. Sjoerd was minder enthousiast maar ging akkoord met het voorstel. Hij belde Greet en sprak met haar af bij een snackbar op station Ede-Wageningen. Toen Sjoerd met zijn vriendin drie weken na zijn celstraf op de afspraak met Greet verscheen, baalde de functionaris zichtbaar. Ze had erop gerekend om alleen met Sjoerd te kunnen praten.
Het gesprek ontwikkelde zich ronduit bizar omdat Rosa niet echt aan het gesprek kon deelnemen. Immers, zij had nooit zelf gekraakt en ook niet deelgenomen aan Occupy. Zij kon echter wel goed boeren en begon een wedstrijd met Sjoerd in wie dat het hardst en het langst kon doen. Greet vond het vervelend dat het stel van de gehele situatie een grap maakte, maar waagde nog wel een poging. Ze begon over het ‘Black Block’ (in het zwart geklede gemaskerde autonomen, red.), of Sjoerd wilde doorgeven bij welke demonstraties het ‘Black Block’ aanwezig zou zijn, dat zou al een heleboel schelen. Ze bleek ook geïnteresseerd in namen en rugnummers van ‘Black Blockers’. Greet wilde daar zeker voor betalen, eventueel in natura in de vorm van een leuke party voor een bedrag tussen de 50 en de 100 euro.
Gaandeweg het gesprek vond Sjoerd het wel welletjes. Vanwege de meligheid en het ongemakkelijke gevoel over het verklikken, zag Sjoerd het helemaal niet meer zitten om met Greet verder te praten. Hij had het gevoel dat hij deelnam aan een gesprek waar hij eigenlijk niet thuishoorde. Greet bleef aanhouden, ze zei dat hij erover kon nadenken en dat hij haar altijd kon bellen als hij van gedachten zou veranderen. Sjoerd wilde zo snel mogelijk weg en maakte haar duidelijk dat hij absoluut niet met de politie wilde samenwerken.
In de weken daarna stuurde Sjoerd haar zo nu en dan een bericht als hij ’s avonds laat thuiskwam. Hij sms’te Greet dan ‘hoi’ en dan antwoordde zij met de vraag ‘zeg het eens?’ Heel diep ontwikkelde de communicatie zich verder niet. Sjoerd sloot het altijd af met ‘doei’ en na verloop van tijd hield hij op met communiceren met de spionne. “Ik heb sindsdien geen last meer gehad van Greet, maar haar nummers zijn 0628630364 en 0651331895, voor wie eens met haar wil communiceren over de politie en de regio Gelderland”, aldus Sjoerd. Achteraf denkt Sjoerd dat hij benaderd werd omdat hij in de cel zat en omdat hij regelmatig was geïnterviewd in kranten en op de lokale tv.
Buro Jansen & Janssen
25 maart 2015
Find this story at 25 March 2015
Details Of Assassination Plot On Occupy Movement Leaders Withheld From Public At FBI’s Behest
April 8, 2015
A heavily-redacted FBI document first revealed a Houston plot “to gather intelligence against the leaders of the protest groups and obtain photographs, then kill the leadership via suppressed sniper rifles.”
FBI agents enter Trenton City Hall, Thursday, July 19, 2012, in Trenton, N.J. The agents raid comes a day after FBI agents searched the home of Mayor Tony Mack. The mayor on Wednesday denied wrongdoing after the FBI spent the overnight hours searching his home, and the homes of his brother, Ralphiel Mack, and businessman Joseph Giorgianni, a campaign donor who is a convicted sex offender. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
The FBI was right to withhold records about an alleged murder plot targeting the leaders of Occupy Houston, to protect its informants, a federal judge ruled.
Plaintiff Ryan Noah Shapiro is a doctoral student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. His research includes “the policing of dissent … especially in the name of national security” and “examining FBI and other intelligence agency efforts to preserve domestic surveillance capabilities while simultaneously subverting the Freedom of Information Act,” according to his MIT profile.
Shapiro sent the FBI three Freedom of Information Act requests in early 2013, asking for records about “a potential plan to gather intelligence against the leaders of [Occupy Wall Street-related protests in Houston] and obtain photographs, then formulate a plan to kill the leadership [of the protests] via suppressed sniper rifles.”
Shapiro told Courthouse News he learned of the alleged plot from FBI documents obtained by investigative reporter Jason Leopold.
The Houston group is an offshoot of a movement that started in New York City in 2011 and focused on the widening income gap between America’s richest people and everyone else.
Shapiro said he wanted the records for his doctorate work and he intended to release urgent info about Occupy Houston to the public.
The FBI had refused to give Shapiro any documents until he filed an April 2013 federal complaint in Washington, D.C., after which the agency gave him 17 pages.
U.S. District Judge Rosemary Collyer found last year that the FBI had properly withheld some records, but took issue with its use of Exemption 7 under the FOIA, which protects from disclosure “records or information compiled for law enforcement purposes.”
Collyer dismissed the lawsuit this week after reviewing the documents in her chambers.
Shapiro challenged the FBI’s withholding of the names of its murder plot sources, claiming there is no privacy expectation for people who could be called to testify as trial witnesses.
But Collyer found Monday that the FBI correctly invoked FOIA exemption 7(c), which shields law enforcement records from disclosure if they could constitute an invasion of personal privacy.
The judge also agreed with the FBI that exemption 7(d) applied to the case. It allows records to be withheld if they “could reasonably be expected to disclose the identity of a confidential source.”
Citing a declaration from FBI agent David Hardy that said the confidential sources are “individuals who are members of organized violent groups,” Collyer said the likelihood of retaliation justified keeping the sources’ identities under wraps.
Shapiro vowed to keep fighting for the records.
“I’m of course disappointed in, and disagree with, the judge’s ruling. I’m now conferring with my attorney to determine next steps,” Shapiro said in an email.
He said he is concerned that the FBI collected dossiers on Occupy protestors while publicly denying it.
“The FBI even flatly asserted in a separate FOIA lawsuit of mine that, ‘(T)he FBI determined that it had never opened an investigation on the Occupy movement,’” Shapiro wrote.
“Yet, in the course of my FOIA lawsuit against the FBI for records about the sniper plot against Occupy Houston, the FBI contradicted its own position.”
Shapiro said that with recently released FBI documents about Occupy Chicago, “We are coming ever closer to finally forcing the FBI to concede it actually possesses a large volume of documents about this FBI-coordinated nationwide investigation of political protesters as supposed terroristic threats to national security.”
By Courthouse News | February 11, 2015
Find this story at 11 February 2015
FBI Must Explain Why It Withheld Documents
April 8, 2015
(CN) – The FBI must explain why it withheld records from a graduate student about an alleged assassination plot against the leaders of Occupy Houston, a federal judge ruled.
Ryan Noah Shapiro is a doctoral candidate at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology whose research includes “the policing of dissent, especially in the name of national security” and “exploring FBI and other intelligence agency efforts to subvert the Freedom of Information Act,” according to his profile on MIT’s website.
Shapiro sent three FOIA requests to the FBI in early 2013, asking for records about Occupy Houston.
Specifically Shapiro asked for FBI records about “a potential plan to gather intelligence against the leaders of [Occupy Wall Street-related protests in Houston, Texas] and obtain photographs, then formulate a plan to kill the leadership [of the protests] via suppressed sniper rifles.”
The Houston group is an offshoot of the Occupy Wall Street movement that started in New York City in 2011 and focused on the widening income gap between America’s top earners, the so-called 1 percent, and the rest of the country.
Shapiro said he wanted the records for his doctorate work, and that he intended to release urgent info about Occupy Houston to the public.
The FBI found 17 pages of pertinent records, gave Shapiro five of them, with some information redacted, and withheld 12.
Shapiro filed suit in April 2013, alleging the FBI had violated the FOIA by failing to adequately search for, and produce, records responsive to his requests, and had improperly invoked FOIA exemptions.
The FBI filed a motion to dismiss, arguing that the case is moot because it conducted thorough searches and released all its non-exempt records to Shapiro.
The agency also alleged that Shapiro failed to state an FOIA claim because it released all records it can legally disclose.
To justify its actions the FBI cited several exemptions under the FOIA.
U.S. District Judge Rosemary Collyer found the FBI had properly withheld some records, but she was unconvinced by the agency’s explanation for its use of Exemption 7, which protects from disclosure “records or information compiled for law enforcement purposes.”
Collyer wrote: “(Shapiro) argues that FBI has not established that it actually conducted an investigation into criminal acts, specified the particular individual or incident that was the object of its investigation, adequately described the documents it is withholding under Exemption 7, or sufficiently connected the withheld documents to a specific statute that permits FBI to collect information and investigate crimes.
“Mr. Shapiro further alleges that FBI has failed to state a rational basis for its investigation or connection to the withheld documents, which he describes as overly-generalized and not particular. On the latter point, the Court agrees.”
Judge Collyer added: “FBI will be directed to explain its basis for withholding information pursuant to Exemption 7. To the extent that FBI believes it cannot be more specific without revealing the very information it wishes to protect, it may request an in camera review of the documents.”
Collyer gave Shapiro leave to reply to the FBI’s dismissal motion.
By CAMERON LANGFORD
Monday, March 17, 2014Last Update: 4:24 PM PT
Find this story at 17 March 2015
Why Did FBI Monitor Occupy Houston, and Then Hide Sniper Plot Against Protest Leaders?
April 8, 2015
Transparency activist Ryan Shapiro discusses a growing controversy over the FBI’s monitoring of Occupy Houston in 2011. The case centers on what the FBI knew about an alleged assassination plot against Occupy leaders and why it failed to share this information. The plot was first revealed in a heavily redacted document obtained by the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund through a FOIA request. The document mentioned an individual “planned to engage in sniper attacks against protesters in Houston, Texas.” When Shapiro asked for more details, the FBI said it found 17 pages of pertinent records and gave him five of them, with some information redacted. Shapiro sued, alleging the FBI had improperly invoked FOIA exemptions. Last week, Federal District Judge Rosemary Collyer agreed with Shapiro, ruling the FBI had to explain why it withheld the records.
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.
AMY GOODMAN: I want to talk about your work around animal rights activism and getting information, but I want to first turn to Occupy Houston. You have been working on getting information from the FBI around Occupy Houston. The particular issue focuses on what the FBI knew about an alleged assassination plot in 2011 against leaders of Occupy Houston and why it failed to share this information. The plot was first revealed in a heavily redacted document obtained by the Partnership for Civil Justice through a FOIA request. It read, quote, “An identified [REDACTED] as of October planned to engage in sniper attacks against protestors in Houston, Texas if deemed necessary,” unquote. When our guest, Ryan Shapiro, asked for more details, the FBI said it found 17 pages of pertinent records and gave him five of them with some information redacted. So, Ryan Shapiro, you sued, alleging the FBI had improperly invoked FOIA exemptions.
Last week, Federal District Judge Rosemary Collyer seemed to agree with you, when she ruled the FBI had to explain why it withheld records. She made reference in her ruling to David Hardy, the head of the FBI’s FOIA division, writing, quote, “At no point does Mr. Hardy supply specific facts as to the basis for FBI’s belief that the Occupy protesters might have been engaged in terroristic or other criminal activity. … Neither the word ‘terrorism’ nor the phrase ‘advocating the overthrow of the government’ are talismanic, especially where FBI purports to be investigating individuals who ostensibly are engaged in protected First Amendment activity.”
Ryan Shapiro, explain what the judge ruled and what “talismanic” means.
RYAN SHAPIRO: Absolutely. First I should say that this is a really weird and crazy story, and I’m still trying to make sense of it, and I’m working with my attorney, Jeffrey Light, and the journalist Jason Leopold to that end. But the judge’s ruling is terrific on this point.
So, basically, the FBI said, “We found 17 pages, but we’re only going to give you five of them, because national security.” And the FBI alleged, and David Hardy, the head of the FOIA division of the FBI, asserted in his declaration to the court that the records were exempt from FOIA because they were part of the FBI’s investigation, a national security-oriented terrorism investigation of Occupy Houston protesters for potential terrorist activity, including advocating the overthrow of government. And David Hardy provided no evidence to back up his claim. He just said the words, because so often—as is sadly the case, so often judges are tremendously deferential to the FBI and to other intelligence and security agencies in these sorts of FOIA questions, because the FBI tells the judges, “You’re not qualified to decide whether or not this constitutes a threat to national security to release, so we’re going to tell you that it does, and you should defer to us.”
In this case, Judge Collyer made a wonderful ruling and said, “No, you can’t just say the words. The words aren’t just talismans—terrorism, national security. You have to back them up. You can’t just wave them around like magic and expect us—expect the court to give you what you want.” And so now the judge has required the FBI to provide substantiation for their seemingly preposterous claims that Occupy Houston were terrorists advocating the overthrow of government. And the FBI has until April 9 to provide this support. They can do it openly or they can do an ex parte in camera declaration, so a secret submission to the judge where she can review the documents herself.
AMY GOODMAN: And what about this assassination attempt against Occupy activists?
RYAN SHAPIRO: Yes, absolutely. As I said, I’m still trying to figure out exactly what’s going on there, but what I want to know is, first of all—so my requests here are in part inspired because I want to know what the role of the FBI is in coordinating the response to the Occupy movement, why the FBI considered the Occupy movement a terrorist threat, and I also want to know why the FBI didn’t inform the protesters of this tremendous threat against them. As Kade Crockford at the ACLU recently said, if the targets of this plot had been Wall Street bankers, I think we can all safely assume that the FBI would have picked up the phone.
AMY GOODMAN: And called them.
RYAN SHAPIRO: And called them, yes, absolutely. So—and, finally, I want to know—and because this is how it appears in the documents—of course, they’re heavily redacted, so we’re not sure—but why was the FBI appearing to pay far more attention to peaceful protesters in their investigation than to the actual terrorists who were plotting to kill those protesters?
AMY GOODMAN: We’re talking to Ryan Shapiro. He has been called a “FOIA superhero” for his skill in obtaining government records using the Freedom of Information Act. Today we are revealing on Democracy Now! he is suing several federal agencies, a lawsuit that was just filed today, including the NSA, for their failure to comply with FOIA requests regarding former South African President Nelson Mandela. Ryan Shapiro is a Ph.D. candidate at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he’s received tens of thousands of FBI files on the animal rights movement, which is what we’re going to take up next. His dissertation, called “Bodies at War: Animals, Science, and National Security in the United States,” the FBI has called a threat to national security. We’ll ask Ryan Shapiro why. Stay with us.
TUESDAY, MARCH 25, 2014
Find this story at 25 March 2015
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The FBI Is Hiding Details About An Alleged Occupy Houston Assassination Plot
April 8, 2015
The Federal Bureau of Investigation has some explaining to do this week, after a federal judge ordered the agency to provide a more thorough explanation to justify why it withheld information from a graduate student’s Freedom of Information Act request for documents regarding an alleged 2011 assassination plot against leaders of Houston’s Occupy movement.
The requests — which were filed last year by Massachusetts Institute of Technology doctoral candidate Ryan Noah Shapiro, who is researching the plot — sought all records “relating or referring to Occupy Houston, any other Occupy Wall Street-related protests in Houston, Texas, and law enforcement responses.” Shapiro noticed a reference to the plot in FBI documents about the Occupy movement that were unsealed in 2012 after a civil-rights group filed a FOIA request.
An FBI document that Shapiro showed to VICE News describes the plot against Occupy Houston:
“An identified [redacted] as of October planned to engage in sniper attacks against protestors [sic] in Houston, Texas, if deemed necessary…. [Redacted] planned to gather intelligence against the leaders of the protest groups and obtain photographs, then formulate a plan to kill the leadership via suppressed sniper rifles.”
The FBI said it had identified 17 pages of records relevant to Shapiro’s FOIA request, but it only released five of them, all highly redacted. Shapiro then filed suit against the FBI.
FBI FOIA Chief David Hardy defended suppressing the information in a motion to dismiss Shapiro’s lawsuit. Hardy noted that the request concerned material that the FBI had given to local authorities who were investigating “potential criminal activity” by Occupy Houston protesters. The FBI was working with them to assess potential terrorist threats posed by Occupy Houston and determine whether it had advocated overthrowing the US government. Hardy .
The FBI and the Department of Justice invoked the Bureau’s “general investigative authority” and its “lead role in investigating terrorism and in the collection of terrorism threat information” as a basis for its exemption from FOIA, but this did not convince Judge Rosemary M. Collyer of the US District Court for the District of Columbia. She agreed with Shapiro that the FBI’s justification was “overly-generalized and not particular.”
“At no point does Mr. Hardy supply specific facts as to the basis for the FBI’s belief that the Occupy protestors [sic] might have been engaged in terroristic or other criminal activity,” Collyer wrote in an opinion that denied part of the FBI’s motion to dismiss. “Neither the word ‘terrorism’ nor the phrase ‘advocating the overthrow of the government’ are talismanic, especially where FBI purports to be investigating individuals who ostensibly are engaged in protected First Amendment activity.”
VICE News asked the Department of Justice for its reaction to Judge Collyer’s opinion, but it declined to comment.
Shapiro, who currently has more than 700 active FOIA requests and four other pending lawsuits with the FBI, told VICE News that he’s not surprised that the FBI is stonewalling.
“The FBI is again hiding behind vague unsupported allegations of ‘terrorism’ and threats to national security to withhold these documents,” he said. “Not only is this far-fetched, it highlights that we as a nation need to foster a broader understanding of ‘national security.’ ”
Shapiro is doubtful that the FBI has truthfully acknowledged the records relevant to his requests, and wonders whether the Bureau investigated the plot to assassinate US citizens on domestic soil for exercising their First Amendment rights.
“Here we have an FBI investigation of purported possible terrorism and attempts to overthrow the American government by a protest group, and the discovery during this investigation of an actual terrorist plot to assassinate the leaders of that protest group,” he said. “And yet, the FBI is claiming it amassed only 17 pages total on all of the above? Well, beyond implausible, the FBI’s claim is preposterous.”
Jeffrey Light, Shapiro’s attorney, told VICE News that the FBI’s standing as a law enforcement agency only goes so far.
“Just because you are a law enforcement agency, by definition, doesn’t mean that everything that you do is for law enforcement purposes,” he explained. “You could be, for example, monitoring political activists. That’s not a law enforcement purpose. The argument is that there’s not enough information.”
Collyer has given the FBI until April 9th to provide a more detailed explanation for its exemptions, which the Bureau can submit to the court under seal.
By Maxwell Barna
March 21, 2014 | 5:45 pm
Find this story at 21 March 2015
FBI Ordered to Justify Shielding of Records Sought About Alleged ‘Occupy’ Sniper Plot
April 8, 2015
A federal judge has ordered the Federal Bureau of Investigation to give her a better explanation for its refusal to turn over information to a student researching an alleged plot to assassinate “Occupy” protest leaders in Houston.
The ruling stems from a lawsuit brought by a Massachusetts Institute of Technology graduate student who is seeking records from the FBI related to a Houston spin-off of the 2011 Occupy Wall Street protests and an alleged sniper plot. The student claims that the heavily redacted responses he got back from the government violated the Freedom of Information Act.
Information about the alleged plot first surfaced in FBI documents — released through a prior FOIA request by a civil-rights legal organization in Washington – that referenced a “plan to kill the leadership via suppressed sniper rifles,” according to court documents. It’s not known who was behind the alleged plot or whether the FBI investigated it.
In a ruling last week, Judge Rosemary M. Collyer of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia ordered the FBI to explain with more detail why it claims that certain information requested by the student, Ryan Noah Shapiro, is exempted under FOIA.
The law governing the public’s access to records allows the FBI to shield “information compiled for law enforcement purposes” if disclosure would interfere with an investigation, endanger life or cause other types of harm.
That exemption was repeatedly cited by FBI FOIA chief David Hardy in a filing to the court in support of an FBI motion to dismiss Mr. Shapiro’s lawsuit. Some information was redacted, according to Mr. Hardy’s filing, because it involved information shared with local law enforcement agencies related to an investigation of “potential criminal activity by protestors involved with the ‘Occupy’ movement in Houston.” He stated that the potential crimes included “domestic terrorism” and “advocating overthrow of government.”
Judge Collyer said that justification wasn’t sufficient.
“At no point does Mr. Hardy supply specific facts as to the basis for FBI’s belief that the Occupy protestors might have been engaged in terroristic or other criminal activity,” she wrote. “Neither the word ‘terrorism’ nor the phrase ‘advocating the overthrow of the government’ are talismanic, especially where FBI purports to be investigating individuals who ostensibly are engaged in protected First Amendment activity.”
She asked the the FBI to get back to her with a more specific explanation by April 9. The judge is allowing the FBI to file its response under seal.
Jeffrey Louis Light, an attorney representing Mr. Shapiro, told Law Blog that he was puzzled why the FBI seemed to be focusing on investigating the protesters and not the alleged assassination plot.
A spokesman for the Department of Justice, which is representing the FBI in the case, didn’t respond to a request for comment.
March 18, 2014, 7:41 PM ET
Find this story at 18 March 2015
Copyright 2015 Dow Jones & Company
Todesschüsse in Kiew: Wer ist für das Blutbad vom Maidan verantwortlich
August 28, 2014
Todesschüsse in KiewPlay-IconTodesschüsse in Kiew: Wer ist für das Blutbad vom Maidan verantwortlich | 11:12 min | 10.04.2014 | Monitor (WDR) | Das Erste
Moderation Georg Restle: „Die Krise in der Ukraine ist noch lange nicht vorbei. Dies haben uns die Bilder aus dem Osten des Landes von dieser Woche gelehrt. Und auch die Propagandaschlacht geht weiter. Eine der zentralen Fragen ist dabei, wer ist verantwortlich für das Blutbad, dem im Februar Dutzende Demonstranten und Polizisten zum Opfer fielen, und das schließlich zum Sturz des Präsidenten Janukowitsch führte? Wer also waren die Todesschützen auf dem Kiewer Maidan? Die vom Westen unterstützte Übergangsregierung hat sich letzte Woche festgelegt: Präsident Janukowitsch und seine Sonderkommandos tragen demnach allein die Schuld für die Toten. Doch an dieser Version gibt es jetzt erhebliche Zweifel, wie die Recherchen von Philipp Jahn, Olga Sviridenko und Stephan Stuchlik zeigen.“
Was geschah am 20. Februar 2014 in Kiew? Aufgeheizte Stimmung, aus den ursprünglich friedlichen Demonstrationen ist ein Bürgerkrieg geworden. Teile der Demonstranten haben sich bewaffnet, rücken in Richtung Regierungsgebäude vor. In einzelnen Trupps versuchen die Demonstranten, auf die Instituts-Straße zu gelangen. Der blutige Donnerstag: Einzeln werden Demonstranten erschossen, viele von den Dächern umliegender Gebäude. Aber wer genau waren diese Scharfschützen, die auf die Demonstranten schossen?
Diese Frage beschäftigt die Kiewer bis heute, zu Hunderten kommen sie täglich an den Platz des Massakers.
Als wir ankommen, sechs Wochen danach, ist anscheinend noch nicht einmal die grundsätzliche Beweisaufnahme abgeschlossen. Sergeij, ein Waffenexperte, ist einer der vielen unabhängigen Ermittler, die eng mit der Staatsanwaltschaft zusammenarbeiten und die Ermittlungen in Gang halten. Vor unseren Augen sichert er noch Patronenhülsen. Danach alarmiert er die staatlichen Ermittler, die den Ort nach eigener Aussage schon gründlich untersucht haben. Erstaunlich, während sie noch arbeiten, hat sich ihre vorgesetzte Behörde in einer Pressekonferenz schon festgelegt, wer die Schuldigen sind.
Oleg Machnitzki, Generalstaatsanwalt Ukraine (Übersetzung MONITOR): „Mit dem heutigen Tag klagt die Staatsanwaltschaft 12 Mitglieder der Spezialeinheit Berkut des Mordes an friedlichen Demonstranten an. Der damalige Präsident Janukowitsch befehligte direkt diese Spezialeinheit Berkut.“
Die neue Regierung sagt also, die alte Regierung Janukowitsch wäre für das Blutbad verantwortlich.
Doch was geschah wirklich am 20 Februar? Fest steht, die Demonstranten rückten auf der Institutsstraße Richtung Regierungsgebäude vor. Von gegenüber gerieten sie unter Feuer, vom Dach des Ministerkabinetts, der Zentralbank und weiteren Regierungsgebäuden. Doch schon früh gab es Hinweise, dass sie auch im Rücken getroffen wurden, von ihrer eigenen Zentrale aus, vom Hotel Ukraina.
Aber welche Beweise gibt es dafür? Zum einen ist da dieses Video, das augenscheinlich beweist, dass der Oppositionelle mit dem Metallschild von hinten getroffen wird. Der Mann in Gelb auf dieser Aufnahme geht sogar noch weiter. Er gehörte zu den Demonstranten, war an diesem Tag stundenlang auf der Institutsstraße. Er heißt Mikola, wir treffen uns mit ihm am Ort des Geschehens. Er sagt uns, es wurde sogar mehrfach in den Rücken der Opposition geschossen.
Mikola (Übersetzung MONITOR): „Ja, am zwanzigsten wurden wir von hinten beschossen, vom Hotel Ukraina, vom 8. oder 9. Stock aus.“
Reporterin (Übersetzung MONITOR): „Von der achten oder neunten Etage?“
Mikola (Übersetzung MONITOR): „Ja, auf jeden Fall fast von ganz oben.“
Reporterin (Übersetzung MONITOR): „Von da oben?“
Mikola (Übersetzung MONITOR): „Ja, da standen Leute oben und haben geschossen und aus der anderen Richtung hier wurden wir auch beschossen.
Reporter (Übersetzung MONITOR): „Und wer hat von oben geschossen?“
Mikola (Übersetzung MONITOR): „Das weiß ich nicht.“
Reporterin (Übersetzung MONITOR): „Haben Sie eine Ahnung?“
Mikola (Übersetzung MONITOR): „Das waren Söldner, auf jeden Fall Profis.“
Das Ukraina-Hotel hier war das damalige Zentrum der Demonstranten. Hat sich der Augenzeuge geirrt? Wir sind nachts unterwegs mit Ermittler Sergej. Er zeigt uns mit einem Laser, dass es nicht nur Schusskanäle aus Richtung der Regierungsgebäude gibt. Einige Kanäle in den Bäumen deuten in die entgegengesetzte Richtung, wenn man durch Austrittsloch und Einschussloch leuchtet, oben ins Hotel Ukraina, damals die Zentrale der Opposition. Das aber passt schlecht zur Version des Generalstaatsanwalts, der uns nach Tagen Überzeugungsarbeit endlich empfängt. Er ist von der neuen Regierung eingesetzt, gehört dem rechtsnationalen Flügel der damaligen Opposition an, der umstrittenen Svobóda-Partei.
Oleg Machnitzki, Generalstaatsanwalt, Ukraine (Übersetzung MONITOR): „Wir können wirklich heute schon sagen, nach allen Beweismitteln und Expertisen, die wir in der Hand haben, wer prinzipiell Schuld an den Sniper-Attacken ist: der damalige Präsident Viktor Janukowitsch, der ehemalige Verwaltungschef und der ehemalige Innenminister Sacharchenko.“
Reporter (Übersetzung MONITOR): „Sie wissen auch, dass es Sniper vom Hotel Ukraina gab?“
Oleg Machnitzki, Generalstaatsanwalt, Ukraine (Übersetzung MONITOR): „Wir untersuchen das.“
Die Scharfschützen also alles Janukowitsch-Leute? Es gibt noch weitere Beweise, die diese These in Frage stellen. Wir treffen uns mit einem Radio-Amateur, der an diesem Tag aufgezeichnet hat, wie sich Janukowitsch-Scharfschützen untereinander unterhalten. Ihr Funkverkehr beweist: Da schießt jemand auf Unbewaffnete, jemand den sie nicht kennen.
1. Scharfschütze (Übersetzung MONITOR): „He, Leute, ihr da drüben, rechts vom Hotel Ukraina.“
2. Scharfschütze (Übersetzung MONITOR): „Wer hat da geschossen? Unsere Leute schießen nicht auf Unbewaffnete.“
1. Scharfschütze (Übersetzung MONITOR): „Jungs, da sitzt ein Spotter, der zielt auf mich. Auf wen zielt der von der Ecke. Guckt mal!“
2. Scharfschütze (Übersetzung MONITOR): „Auf dem Dach vom gelben Gebäude. Auf dem Kino, auf dem Kino.“
1. Scharfschütze (Übersetzung MONITOR): „Den hat jemand erschossen. Aber nicht wir.“
2. Scharfschütze (Übersetzung MONITOR): „Miron, Miron, gibt es da noch mehr Scharfschützen? Und wer sind die?“
Wir halten fest: Es gab neben den Regierungs-Scharfschützen also noch andere unbekannte Schützen, die auf unbewaffnete Demonstranten geschossen haben. Und, wer immer vom Hotel Ukraina schießt, hat – so legt dieses Video nahe – auch diese Milizionäre getroffen. Dass Janukowitsch auf die eigenen Leute hat schießen lassen, ist unwahrscheinlich.
Gab es also Scharfschützen der damaligen Opposition? Fest steht, es gab neben den vielen friedlichen Demonstranten durchaus eine Gruppe Radikaler mit professionellen Waffen, wie diese Aufnahmen zeigen.
Und, das Hotel am Morgen des 20. Februar war fest in der Hand der Opposition. Wir sprechen mit Augenzeugen aus dem Hotel Ukraina, Journalisten, Oppositionelle. Sie alle bestätigen uns, am 20. Februar war das Hotel von der Opposition schwer bewacht. Es hätte sich also schwerlich ein Scharfschütze der Regierung einschleichen können.
Haben also radikale Oppositionelle am Ende selbst geschossen, um Chaos zu erzeugen? Um Janukowitsch die Schuld anzuhängen? Die russischen Fernsehsender verbreiten Bilder, auf denen genau das zu sehen sein soll. Unsere Recherchen bestätigen, dass die Aufnahmen tatsächlich im Hotel Ukraina gemacht wurden. Aber wer da genau auf wen schießt, lässt sich nicht endgültig klären.
Fest steht nur, es wurde nicht nur auf Oppositionelle, sondern auch auf die Milizen der Regierung geschossen. Vielleicht sogar von denselben Leuten? Wir treffen einen der wenigen Ärzte, der die Verwundeten beider Seiten versorgt hat.
Oleksandr Lisowoi, Krankenhaus Nr. 6, Kiew (Übersetzung MONITOR): „Die Verwundeten, die wir behandelt haben, hatten denselben Typ Schussverletzungen, ich spreche jetzt von dem Typ Kugeln, die wir aus den Körpern herausoperiert haben, die waren identisch. Mehr kann ich nicht sagen.“
Reporterin (Übersetzung MONITOR): „Aber die haben Sie…“
Oleksandr Lisowoi, Krankenhaus Nr. 6, Kiew (Übersetzung MONITOR): „Bei der Miliz und bei der Opposition gefunden.“
Warum geht die Staatsanwaltschaft solchen Fragen nicht nach? Der deutsche Außenminister und die Europäische Union haben bereits im Februar per Abkommen festgestellt, dass die Schuldfrage in der Ukraine ein politisch zentrales Thema sei, die Aufarbeitung sollte „ergebnisoffen“ sein, um das Vertrauen in die neue ukrainische Regierung zu stärken. Doch mittlerweile mehren sich die Zweifel, ob wirklich sachgerecht ermittelt wird, auch bei den eigenen Mitarbeitern. Wir sprechen mit einem hochrangigen Mitglied der Ermittlungskommission. Er erzählt uns Unglaubliches.
Zitat: „Das, was mir an Ergebnissen meiner Untersuchung vorliegt, stimmt nicht mit dem überein, was die Staatsanwaltschaft erklärt.“
Wurden also Beweismittel unterdrückt oder sogar unterschlagen? Auch die Rechtsanwälte, die die Angehörigen der Toten vertreten, alle eigentlich auf Seiten der neuen Regierung, beklagen sich, dass sie überhaupt nicht darüber informiert werden, womit genau sich die Staatsanwaltschaft beschäftige.
Roman Titikalo, Anwalt der Nebenklage (Übersetzung MONITOR): „Wir haben nicht gesagt bekommen, welcher Typ Waffen, wir bekommen keinen Zugang zu den Gutachten, wir bekommen die Einsatzpläne nicht. Die anderen Ermittlungsdokumente haben wir auch nicht, die Staatsanwaltschaft zeigt uns einfach keine Papiere.“
Reporter (Übersetzung MONITOR): „Haben Sie ballistische Gutachten?“
Roman Titikalo, Anwalt der Nebenklage (Übersetzung MONITOR): „Nein.“
Reporter (Übersetzung MONITOR): „Rechtsmedizinische Gutachten?“
Roman Titikalo, Anwalt der Nebenklage (Übersetzung MONITOR): „Ich durfte in den Obduktionsbericht reingucken, aber nicht kopieren, ballistische Gutachten habe ich nicht bekommen.“
Ein Anwalt der Verletzten geht sogar noch weiter:
Oleksandr Baschuk, Anwalt der Geschädigten (Übersetzung MONITOR): „Wir kommen alle an keine Ermittlungsprotokolle ran und wenn Sie mich fragen, gibt es dafür einen einfachen Grund, es wird nicht richtig ermittelt. Ich als Anwalt der Verletzten sage Ihnen, die Staatsanwaltschaft ermittelt nicht richtig, die decken ihre Leute, die sind parteiisch, so wie früher. Die wollen wie in der Sowjetunion oder unter Janukowitsch alles unter der Decke halten, so ist das.“
Der blutige Donnerstag: Über 30 Menschen werden an diesem Tag in Kiew ermordet, ein Blutbad im Zentrum einer europäischen Großstadt. Unsere Recherchen zeigen, dass in Kiew schon Schuldige präsentiert werden, obwohl es auch zahlreiche Hinweise gibt, die in Richtung Opposition weisen. Spuren, die nicht verfolgt werden. Und möglicherweise gibt es auch noch andere Kräfte, die an den Schießereien beteiligt waren. Die Kiewer Generalstaatsanwaltschaft ist sich in ihrer Einschätzung sicher, wir sind es nicht.
Moderation Georg Restle: „Bei allen offenen Fragen, dass ein Vertreter der nationalistischen Svoboda-Partei als Generalstaatsanwalt die Aufklärung des Kiewer Blutbads ganz offensichtlich behindert, wirft ein schlechtes Bild auf die neue Übergangsregierung – und damit auch auf all jene westlichen Regierungen, die die neuen Machthaber in Kiew unterstützen.“
Monitor Nr. 660 vom 10.04.2014
Find this story at 10 April 2014
© WDR 2014
Cecily McMillan’s guilty verdict reveals our mass acceptance of police violence
May 14, 2014
The hyper-selective retelling of events mirrors the popular narrative of Occupy Wall Street – and how one woman may serve seven years while the NYPD goes free
The violence against Occupy protestors was widespread and well-photographed. So why is one non-violent protestor now convicted of police brutality? Photograph: Ramin Talaie / EPA
The verdict in the biggest Occupy related criminal case in New York City, that of Cecily McMillan, came down Monday afternoon. As disturbing as it is that she was found guilty of felony assault against Officer Grantley Bovell, the circumstances of her trial reflect an even more disturbing reality – that of normalized police violence, disproportionately punitive sentences (McMillan faces seven years in prison), and a criminal penal system based on anything but justice. While this is nothing new for the over-policed communities of New York City, what happened to McMillan reveals just how powerful and unrestrained a massive police force can be in fighting back against the very people with whom it is charged to protect.
McMillan was one of roughly 70 protesters arrested on March 17, 2012. She and hundreds of other activists, along with journalists like me, had gathered in Zuccotti Park to mark the six-month anniversary of the start of Occupy Wall Street. It was four months after the New York Police Department had evicted the Occupy encampment from the park in a mass of violent arrests.
When the police moved in to the park that night, in formation and with batons, to arrest a massive number of nonviolent protesters, the chaos was terrifying. Bovell claimed that McMillan elbowed him in the face as he attempted to arrest her, and McMillan and her defense team claim that Bovell grabbed her right breast from behind, causing her to instinctively react.
But the jury didn’t hear anything about the police violence that took place in Zuccotti Park that night. They didn’t hear about what happened there on November 15, 2011, when the park was first cleared. The violence experienced by Occupy protesters throughout its entirety was excluded from the courtroom. The narrative that the jury did hear was tightly controlled by what the judge allowed – and Judge Ronald Zweibel consistently ruled that any larger context of what was happening around McMillan at the time of the arrest (let alone Bovell’s own history of violence) was irrelevant to the scope of the trial.
MORE ON THE CECILY MCMILLAN VERDICT:
• Cecily McMillan and this homeless woman faced the same NYPD charge. Guess which one got a trial
• Juror speaks: ‘Most just wanted her to do probation, maybe some community service. But now what I’m hearing is seven years in jail? That’s ludicrous.
In the trial, physical evidence was considered suspect but the testimony of the police was cast as infallible. Despite photographs of her bruised body, including her right breast, the prosecution cast doubt upon McMillan’s allegations of being injured by the police – all while Officer Bovell repeatedly identified the wrong eye when testifying as to how McMillan injured him. And not only was Officer Bovell’s documented history of violent behavior deemed irrelevant by the judge, but so were the allegations of his violent behavior that very same night.
Maybe we should ask #CecilyMcMillan about her #myNYPD moment. http://t.co/zle2kOHvDf pic.twitter.com/lDVFsWhOZN
— Ⓐ #GrumpyCuntSec Ⓐ (@brazenqueer) April 22, 2014
To the jury, the hundreds of police batons, helmets, fists, and flex cuffs out on March 17 were invisible – rendering McMillan’s elbow the most powerful weapon on display in Zuccotti that night, at least insofar as the jury was concerned.
That hyper-selective retelling of events to the jury mirrored the broader popular narrative of OWS. The breathtaking violence displayed by the NYPD throughout Occupy Wall Street has not only been normalized, but entirely justified – so much so that it doesn’t even bear mentioning.
After the police cleared the park that night, many of the remaining protesters went on a spontaneous march, during which a group of officers slammed a street medic’s head into a glass door so hard the glass splintered. It is the only instance of which I know throughout New York City’s Occupy movement where a window was broken.
Still, it is the protesters who are remembered as destructive and chaotic. It is Cecily McMillan who went on trial for assault but not Bovell or any of his colleagues – despite the thousands of photographs and videos providing irrefutable evidence that protesters, journalists and legal observers alike were shoved, punched, kicked, tackled, and beaten over the head. That mindset was on display during the jury selection process at McMillan’s trial, when juror after juror had to be dismissed because of outright bias against the Occupy movement and any of its participants.
It’s impossible to understand the whole story by just looking at it one picture, even if it’s McMillan’s of her injuries. But that is exactly what the jury in McMillan’s case was asked to do. They were presented a close up of Cecily McMillan’s elbow, but not of Bovell, and asked to determine who was violent. The prosecutors and the judge prohibited them from zooming out.
This is, of course, how police brutality is presented to the public every day, if it is presented it at all: an angry cop here, a controversial protester here, a police commissioner who says the violence of the NYPD is “old news”. It’s why #myNYPD shocked enough people to make the papers – because it wasn’t one bruised or broken civilian body or one cop with a documented history of violence. Instead, it was one after another after another, a collage that presented a more comprehensive picture – one of exceptionally unexceptional violence that most of America has already accepted.
theguardian.com, Monday 5 May 2014 20.17 BST
Find this story at 5 May 2014
© 2014 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved.
Occupy Wall Street activist found guilty of assaulting police officer
May 14, 2014
• Cecily McMillan faces up to seven years in prison
• Occupy protesters shouting ‘shame’ led out of courtroom
An Occupy Wall Street activist is facing up to seven years in prison after being convicted by a jury in Manhattan of assaulting a New York police officer as he led her out of a protest.
Cecily McMillan was on Monday afternoon found guilty of deliberately elbowing Officer Grantley Bovell in the face in March 2012. After a trial lasting more than four weeks, the jury of eight women and four men reached their verdict in about three hours.
Judge Ronald Zweibel ordered that McMillan, 25, a graduate student at the New School, be detained. He rejected a request from her lawyers for bail.
“I see absolutely no reason why a remand would be appropriate here,” Martin Stolar, her lead attorney, told the judge. “She is not likely to be somebody to cut and run.” Zweibel replied: “Remanded pending sentencing.”
Supporters of McMillan in the courtroom reacted furiously, shouting “shame” and screaming at the more than 30 police officers lining room 1116 at Manhattan criminal court. After half a dozen refused to leave the court, two were carried out by police officers.
Wearing a white dress and a beige jacket, McMillan sat still and silent as the verdict was read on her charge of second-degree assault, a felony. McMillan was placed in handcuffs by police and led out of the courtroom as supporters went on shouting. “Corruption is the fuel, the court is the tool,” one chanted. Sentencing was scheduled for 19 May. Her lawyers said she was being taken to the women’s facility at the Riker’s Island jail.
Speaking outside, Stolar described the verdict as “a terrible mistake” and criticised Zweibel’s decision to detain McMillan, a first-time convict, before sentencing. “She never missed a court appearance, she has always been here, and is fully cognisant of what the consequences of a guilty verdict are,” he said.
Claiming that Zweibel had made “numerous errors” during the trial, Stolar said: “Those will be the subject of an appeal. We have optimistic thoughts about what an appeal might do, such as send it back for a new trial.”
McMillan was found guilty of intentionally assaulting Bovell in order to “prevent him from performing his lawful duty”. Her conviction is the most serious of the dozens against members of the protest movement, which sprang up in the autumn of 2011. Hers is believed to be the last of more than 2,600 prosecutions brought against members of the movement, most of which were dismissed or dropped.
Prosecutors accused McMillan of attacking Bovell, 35, as he walked her out of Zuccotti Park, in lower Manhattan, where activists had gathered on the night of 17 March 2012 to mark six months of the Occupy movement. Bovell had found her screaming at a female officer, who had asked her to leave the park so that it could be cleaned, prosecutors said.
Assistant district attorney Erin Choi told the court last month that Bovell was walking behind McMillan with his hand on her shoulder. McMillan asked people around her “Are you filming this?”, said Choi, and then “crouched down, then bent her knees, and then aimed her elbow at the officer and then jumped up to strike”.
“Officer Bovell was completely horrified,” said Choi. “This was the last thing he was expecting to happen that day.” Photographs showed that Bovell suffered a black eye. He said that he went on to experience headaches and sensitivity to light.
Prosecutors showed the jury grainy video clips of the incident, downloaded from YouTube, which they said proved McMillan deliberately struck Bovell before attempting to run away. Less than two hours into their deliberations, the jury asked if they could re-watch the video footage. They were given a laptop on which to view it in the jury room.
Stolar, who argued in court that the clips were not clear enough to prove anything, told the Guardian that he thought they were responsible for the conviction. “I think that is the only piece of evidence that a jury could hang its hat on,” he said. “On a quick glance without analysis, it looks like an assault. But it does not show what happened to Cecily.”
McMillan claimed that she swung her arm back instinctively only after having one of her breasts grabbed from behind while she was walking out of the park. Her lawyers showed photographs of bruising to her chest to support this. They said McMillan did not know that Bovell was a police officer, and did not intend to hurt him.
Stolar told the jury that on a “day off from protest”, McMillan became caught up in the chaotic scenes at Zuccotti Park, after she stopped by to collect a friend to continue St Patrick’s Day celebrations with a friend visiting from out of town, which saw her dressed in bright green.
Testifying, McMillan said that she had “no memory” of the moment her elbow struck Bovell. “I’m really sorry that officer got hurt,” she said. She has said that she suffered a seizure or anxiety attack after being arrested, a claim supported by activists who say they saw her convulsing on the pavement, and subsequently received treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder.
Choi, however, described McMillan’s account as “so utterly ridiculous and unbelievable that she might as well have said that aliens came down that night and assaulted her”. She said the bruising was not detected during two hospital checks on the night of the incident and suggested that McMillan caused it herself.
In his own testimony, Bovell, a Barbados-born US navy veteran who typically patrols the 40th precinct in the Bronx, said: “I remember the defendant crouching down and, all of a sudden, she lunged her elbow back and hit me in the face.”
McMillan rejected an earlier offer from prosecutors for her to plead guilty to a charge of second-degree assault of a police officer, which would have still resulted in her being classed as a felon, in exchange for a recommendation to the judge that she should not receive a prison sentence.
Her lawyers stressed throughout the trial that she was a moderate left-wing political activist who had urged her fellow Occupy members to pursue a path of non-violent engagement with the state. The prosecutors, however, were unmoved, accusing McMillan of using the movement as a shield.
“It is time for the defendant to answer for her own criminal actions,” Choi said in her closing arguments last week. “Our founding fathers did not create a right to free assembly so people could commit crimes and hide behind their right to protest. This is a sacred right that should be preserved and protected.”
A loyal group of McMillan supporters, which calls itself Justice4Cecily, said in a statement that it was “devastated by the jury’s verdict”. It criticised Zweibel for blocking McMillan’s lawyers from citing past allegations of violent conduct against Bovell, and for banning them from speaking to the media early on in the trial. “He is rightly known as ‘a prosecutor in robes’,” the group said.
Asked to elaborate on his complaints about Zweibel’s handling of the trial, Stolar said: “I have a lot of opinions about this judge, but I still have to appear before him, so … I am not going to be too glib.”
Jon Swaine in New York
theguardian.com, Monday 5 May 2014 20.17 BST
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Occupy Activist Assaulted by Cop, Faces Seven Years in Prison<< oudere artikelen nieuwere artikelen >>
May 14, 2014
I didn’t know Cecily McMillan two years ago, when I glimpsed her convulsing on the street, obscured from view by a cluster of NYPD officers and a confusion of Occupy protesters. Word spread swiftly through the downtown Manhattan intersection: The young woman had been assaulted by the cops; her body went into seizure, her brain unconscious, her ribs cracked.
That was March 17, 2012. Protesters were marking six months since Occupy Wall Street first inserted itself into an unremarkable concrete park in the financial district, breathing a gust of ephemeral insurrectionary momentum into Manhattan’s grid and beyond. The six-month anniversary was marked by raucous street marches and multiple arrests. It culminated in McMillan, a student at the New School, lying on the street by Zuccotti Park surrounded by police as onlookers shrieked for an ambulance to be called.
Two years later, the commercial flows of downtown Manhattan glide untouched by the enraged encampment and attendant marches that once had defiantly but fleetingly claimed that space. Many if not most occupiers returned to schools and jobs and semblances of normalcy under the vagaries of late capitalism. The system did not crumble. Occupy’s lasting imprint at times feels too faint to trace. But a return to normalcy was not available for McMillan.
I met McMillan numerous times during and since Occupy’s heyday. We agreed on very little. We disagreed on how a brief occupation of New School student center should play out, we disagreed on whether Occupy should crystallize into a formal political movement with elected representatives (McMillan even worked on the well-meaning congressional campaign of “Occupy Candidate” George Martinez, while I condemned  such mainstreaming); where she wanted organization and party-building, I wanted some more chaotic not-this. Our dissensus was representative of the multitudinous constellation that constituted Occupy; we didn’t all just get along.
Along with every sometime occupier I know, though, I believe that McMillan’s current predicament is a vile indictment (or a sad example) of the criminal justice system at work. While the NYPD’s predilection for mass arrests during Occupy’s height clogged up the district courts with hundreds of misdemeanor and infraction cases, McMillan’s assault heaped a far more terrifying and arduous fate on the 25-year-old. Monday marks the beginning of a trial in which she faces felony charges for second-degree assault on officer Grantley Bovell, who had grabbed the activist’s chest from behind and prompted her seizure. McMillan’s breast was visibly bruised, as photographs evidenced; she had instinctively swung backward having been grabbed from behind by the cop. Accidentally knocking Bovell’s temple as he dragged her backward, McMillan earned herself charges that carry up to a seven-year prison sentence.
For the first time in some time, I saw McMillan last month. The weight of a potential prison sentence and exhaustion from two years of trial delays weighed heavily on the 25-year-old. Her eyes were quick to well up; “It’s been hell,” she intimated. As writer and artist Molly Crabapple observed  listening to McMillan address supporters after a pretrial hearing, “Cecily tried to hide the tremor in her voice.”
It was during that same hearing that McMillan learned that officer Bovell’s fecund history of misconduct — particularly against protesters — would not be considered admissible in her case. Bovell had been subject to at least two inquiries by the police force’s internal affairs bureau. Bovell also currently faces assault charges  brought by another March 17 Occupy participant, Austin Guest, who alleges that following his arrest, Bovell dragged him down the aisle of a police bus while “intentionally banging his head on each seat.” Earlier accusations levied against Bovell include an incident in which a young boy on a bike was run down by an unmarked cop car, left with broken teeth and in need of stitches. Bovell had also been caught on a surveillance camera kicking a man on the floor while arresting him in a Bronx bodega in 2009. It is McMillan, however, who faces censure by the criminal justice system.
There are weeks of hearings ahead for McMillan. Even if she is found innocent — a basic but necessary deliverance of justice — she has already suffered too much. Speaking briefly in front of the state Supreme Court in downtown Manhattan Monday, McMillan, demurely clad in a pink shirt and beige blazer, briefly addressed supporters. “Thank you for being here today,” she said.
Her lawyer, the National Lawyers Guild’s Martin Stolar, reiterated to reporters and supporters present that McMillan had a “reputation [as] somebody who promotes non-violence as the preferred method of achieving political ends.” (Indeed, views on revolutionary violence are among McMillan and my political differences.) “An innocent woman is being accused of something that could send her to prison for seven years,” Stolar said. “She was leaving the park pursuant to the police department’s orders when she was brutally assaulted by a police officer and subsequently accused of assaulting that police officer.”
McMillan’s case is among the very last Occupy legal challenges on the New York courthouse docket. It’s a sad but appropriate final testament to a brief moment in New York history when the sprouts of a new and radical politics emerged and seemed to birth new possibilities. McMillan’s ongoing ordeal — synechdochal of a criminal justice system that stifles dissent while upholding and rewarding brutal impunity — is a reminder that the anger that drove thousands of us into the streets for Occupy should continue to drive us; bold and radical dissent is as necessary as ever.
Natasha Lennard is an assistant news editor at Salon, covering non-electoral politics, general news and rabble-rousing. Follow her on Twitter @natashalennard, email email@example.com .
April 8, 2014
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