(photo: Leslie Feinberg / flickr)

State-sponsored propaganda fills corporate and establishment news reports ahead of the Republican National Convention (RNC) in Tampa, Florida. The word is that “improvised explosive devices” (IEDs) could be used by “domestic terrorists” at the RNC. There also will likely be individuals who engage in “black bloc” tactics, cover their face with a mask or bandanna to “conceal their identity” and throw “Molotov cocktails, flaming torches or acid-filled eggs at law enforcement,” according to a joint bulletin from the Department of Homeland Security and Federal Bureau of Investigation. And the “anarchists” could come by sea, the Coast Guard reports.

Federal agents are only “medium confident” of the warnings or potential threats described in the assessment. “Based upon credibly sourced and plausible information that can be interpreted in various ways,” these conclusions are drawn. Or, because the “information is not of sufficient quality to warrant higher confidence,” only allegations of a potential threat can be made. The former statement suggests an informant or infiltrator has only been able to elicit some information that would confirm federal agencies’ views that anarchists are committed to carrying out acts of violence while the latter suggests an infiltrator or informant has not done his or her job quickly enough, as the FBI would have liked to have launched a preemptive raid or two by now.

The bulletin contains two details from the FBI that seem to indicate there are individuals in and around Tampa, who the FBI have been tracking since Occupy Wall Street protests began in New York. The FBI alleges, “As of mid-March 2012, individuals associated with anarchist extremism from New York “planned to travel to Tampa and attempt to close” (no further information) all the Tampa Bay-area bridges during the RNC.” ["Close" here is clearly taken out of context to support being vigilant against a "threat."] Also alleged is that, “As of March 2012, individuals associated with anarchist extremism proposed an “asymmetric approach” to engaging in potentially destructive criminal activities against critical infrastructure outside the security perimeter throughout the Tampa Bay region because they expected access to the main RNC venue to be tightly controlled.”

The potential threats and other contents in the report are supported by previous actions by the FBI, where movement groups were infiltrated, entrapped or even framed-up. The NATO 3, who were indicted on state terrorism charges in Illinois in June after the NATO summit in Chicago, are highlighted as an example of “anarchist extremists,” who allegedly plotted to use “destructive devices” against critical infrastructure outside of the security perimeter. Yet, to date, there is no proof that these three individuals ever possessed any “destructive devices,” and, in fact, lawyers for the three have alleged infiltrators working for the FBI likely planted evidence ahead of a preemptive raid against activists, including the three, which was carried out days before the NATO summit commenced. Allegations that the three planned to use Molotov cocktails have been made but no proof of these “cocktails” has ever been presented by authorities.

The bulletin additionally cites the fact that “self- described anarchists” were arrested for “allegedly plotting to blow up the Cuyahoga Valley Bridge in Cleveland” on May Day to support the idea that the “potential threat” of “anarchist violence” could be very real. As with the NATO 3, the Cleveland 5 (now Cleveland 4) are alleged by the suspects’ lawyers of being put up to plotting an attack by an infiltrator. The FBI is believed to have engaged in an operation where an infiltrator helped the agency find individuals, who could be demonized as “anarchists.” Subsequently, the FBI could invent terrorists so that high-profile arrests could be made.

In further support of threats in the bulletin, there is a box on the right-hand side of one of the pages that notes, “In 2008, federal authorities arrested three anarchist extremists illegally possessing and intending to use manufactured Molotov cocktails to disrupt the RNC in St. Paul, Minnesota. All three pleaded guilty and were sentenced to prison terms in 2009.” What is being referred to appears to be the cases of David McKay and Bradley Crowder. In theircase, the FBI used infiltrator and provocateur, Brandon Darby, to aggressively push the two activists into making Molotov cocktails. Again, extremists or domestic terrorists were invented.

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Prior to the convention, there is likely to be another raid and arrest of so-called “anarchists” (or the politically correct term for demonizing them, “anarchist extremists”). On February 13, at a meeting of the Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council, an association of local governments and gubernatorial representatives, Special Agent in Charge (SAC), Rick Ramirez of the Tampa Bay Regional Operations Center, spoke to the council about the upcoming Republican National Convention and the history of the Regional Domestic Security Task Force (RDSTF).

Multiple council members had questions about “anarchists.” One member asked:

I heard a representative from Sheriff Gee’s office talk a little about this and he showed a video from the St. Paul convention. Apparently there was an entire day where the officers lost control and there was anarchy in the streets. Obviously, as a person who works in downtown Tampa, I am somewhat concerned as to how that will be controlled. I understand there are anarchists underground planning their digs and where they will set up. [emphasis added]

Ramirez responded:

Anyone can go to You Tube and Search for RNC St. Paul and see a 2-3 minute video. And you are correct, the City of St. Paul and their county had a conflict on when the rules of engagement were going to be set. Unfortunately, the city said ‘they were going to be an anarchist friendly environment and we are not going to impose problems for those who wish to protest. After day one they made over 800 arrests, but by that time it was too late. There was over $5 million of destruction Within the first three hours. I can assure you of one thing, the City of Tampa and Hillsborough County will not allow that to happen. Those programs have been put in place and since 2009 our counter-intelligence folks have been designated and committed panelists working social media and we are receiving their communications about anarchists, etc. We feel we will have better control of that program. [emphasis added]

It definitely seems like a specific set of “suspects” have been spied upon months ahead of the upcoming convention. And, as Ramirez makes clear, St. Paul was “anarchist friendly” and never should have been. Tampa will not make the same mistake and, so, that must mean there will be extreme violations of civil liberties because how else do you make your city non-anarchist friendly? A city would have to profile and target individuals based on their appearance and subject them to unreasonable searches and seizures (as was done by Chicago police and other security forces during the NATO summit in May).

Another council member asked the following question, “How do you distinguish between protesters and anarchists? In Oakland the anarchists did all the damage and the protesters got all the blame.” Ramirez answered:

Unfortunately, the anarchists were smart enough to blend in with the protesters. In order to make every attempt to prevent that from happening is our intelligence. We have been working on identifying those groups and have some good intelligence on different groups. We will have technology such as facial recognition and we will have a small undercover team who will be working within these protests and marches, etc. to be able to identify and call with their findings. There is a distinction between protesters and anarchists. The anarchists’ plan is not to protest peacefully and calmly. Their intent is totally different. They want the media and attention and the only way they can get that is by providing chaos. Chaos is setting trash cans on fire, throwing bricks and rocks through windows, etc. [emphasis added]

“Anarchists” are not “protesters,” even though they might protest. They are people, who are of an ideology which inevitably will lead to violence so they must be targeted. In fact, they are so dangerous that they justify infiltration by informants or federal agents of groups in social movements so that agencies involved in security can decide who should have the right to engage in First Amendment activities and who is likely to engage in a violent act and should be arrested and removed from the equation.

Also, it is quite clairvoyant of Ramirez to mention “bricks” because two days ago Tampa Bay police found bricks, pipes and other “suspicious items” on a rooftop a mile from where the RNC is to be held. Tampa Bay police chief Jane Castor told the press she believed these were put there by protesters for use during demonstrations because RNC-related graffiti was found near the items. Apparently, people intent on committing surprise violent acts now mark the location nearby where they are going to launch such attacks so any police or federal agent could stumble upon the scene and find it. Or, maybe, a federal agent left the graffiti—a Guy Fawkes stencil with “99″ next to it—so police would know they had the right building with the right bricks and pipes and did not get it confused with some other building that might have had similar construction materials.

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What Ramirez described in February is all standard operating procedure when it comes to policing free speech. As a state-by-state report from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) that was published in 2011 shows, the spying on those intent on exercising their First Amendment rights happens routinely.

“An FBI informant and a Ramsey County Minnesota Sheriff’s Deputy went undercover to infiltrate Iowa City peace groups in advance of the Republican National Convention and attended an Iowa City campus anti-war demonstration,” in 2008, according to the ACLU report. A dossier on “dozens” of Iowa political activists was put together. Homes of activists were staked out by FBI agents, who secretly photographed, videotaped, dug through garbage and studied cell phone and motor vehicle records. They documented the “protesters’ comings and goings at the Iowa City Public Library, the New Pioneer Co-op natural foods store, the Red Avocado restaurant, the Deadwood Tavern, and the Wesley Center campus ministry
of the United Methodist Church.”

Wanted at one point by the FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force was an “informant,” who could “go undercover at ‘vegan potlucks’ in order to spy on groups organizing protests.” The FBI tried to coerce a University of Minnesota student “arrested for vandalism” into going undercover to do this job. Preemptive raids were conducted against the video journalist group, I-Witness. Authorities knew this collective had documented police misconduct during the 2004 RNC and the footage had been “instrumental in overturning criminal charges against protesters.” Naturally, the federal authorities had to try to round up these people so suppression of free speech activities during the 2008 RNC would not be complicated.

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The joint bulletin from DHS and the FBI plainly states, “Law enforcement arrests prior to the conventions deterring further actions by anarchist extremists,” is one legitimate way to mitigate the “threat” of anarchism. It also says, “The perceived success or failure of anarchist extremist actions at events leading up to the conventions, as well as at the earlier RNC in Tampa, will likely impact the strategies of anarchist extremists preparing to disrupt the DNC, occurring the following week just 600 miles north.” There is no need for any other justification for preemptively raiding and arresting “anarchists” ahead of the convention to be put forward. The reason is clear: stop them or they will have one attack under their belt against the state that will give them confidence to continue such activity in Charlotte during the Democratic National Convention.

Of course, if the national security state would decide to not round up individuals, increasing the chill against dissent ahead of the RNC, it could just carry out mass arrests. During the 2008 RNC, “pre-emptive mass arrests of more than 200 protesters and innocent pedestrians” in a park occurred on the opening day of the convention. The final day of the convention saw police arrest over three hundred people gathered on two bridges, who were trying to protest foreign wars but had their permit yanked by the city. They were all eventually released without charge.

Agents could also target individuals after organizers successfully mount peaceful protests. For example, in September 2010, antiwar, labor and international solidarity activists had their homes raided by FBI agents. Those targeted included the director of an Arab-American civil rights organization. They were all said to be suspected of providing “material support for terrorism” and were issued subpoenas to appear before a grand jury. It was found out months later that “Karen Sullivan,” an informant, had sat in on antiwar meetings as the activists planned a march on the RNC in St. Paul.

Less than a month ago, the FBI and Joint Terrorism Task Force carried out raids on three homes in Portland, Oregon. A federal grand jury was empaneled and subpoenas were issued to “anarchists” in Portland and Olympia and Seattle, Washington, into the use of incendiary devices and the carrying out of property damage on May Day. This militant protest activity is mentioned in the joint bulletin as part of why the RNC faces potential threats and who knows whether individuals in the northwest United States will be tracked in their travels to Tampa and then fitted up with criminal offenses while in Tampa to protest.

Tactics that in the days of COINTELPRO in the 1970s led numerous Americans, including elected officials, to be repulsed at how power would be abused and citizens’ rights would be violated have become normal and no longer seem extreme to a population that accepts this as what has to be done to prevent a few from succeeding in violent attacks or massive property destruction. It is never off-limits to demonize “anarchists” in any way, including smearing them by suggesting they will fling poop and toss urine at law enforcement. No law enforcement officer or police union head will ever have to apologize for this wild and ridiculous suggestion, even as an event comes and goes and no officer gets a bag of shit in the face.

Americans think those whom the federal authorities are interested in going after are “anarchists,” not peaceful members of community organizations or unions. Yet, the threats of “anarchist violence”—which any agent who writes reports can conjure up if he or she has any working imagination—reinforces and justifies the complete militarization of an entire area around a political meeting where Americans should be able to be present to confront elected officials and a presidential candidate running for the nation’s highest office. It gives political officials insulation from the angry masses. And when the National Lawyers Guild criticizes a Tampa ordinance put in place to control dissent because it imposes “unconstitutional restrictions on fundamental rights,” the reaction to such a statement is similar to the reaction a person might have to a fly buzzing several feet away.

Finally, what the national security state is permitted to use on citizens it reigns over at one so-called national special security event will be reused again. This means the Occupy movement and others in Tampa can expect stops and searches of people, unreasonable seizures of personal property, obstruction of members of the press intent on covering and reporting on protests, the targeting and temporary detention of live streamers at gunpoint, the swarming of homes and churches where activists are known to be staying or gathering by riot patrol squads, preemptive arrests and the use of infiltrators or agents to separate out those who the state deems can be trusted to exercise their First Amendment right from those who cannot.