May 19, 2012
The Associated Press has the best report I’ve seen about the alleged firebombing conspiracy in Bridgeport, noting that defense lawyers say there were police infiltrators who stayed in the targeted apartments, and that they were the ones who brought the firebombs there.
(The Sun Times reports that undercover officers were present when the alleged firebombs were made, presenting that fact as evidence for the veracity of the charges.)
“Longtime observers of police tactics said the operation seemed similar to those conducted by authorities in other cities before similarly high-profile events,” according to the AP.
AP cites the RNC 8 – eight young people involved in planning protests at the Republican National Convention in 2008 who were charged with conspiracy to commit terrorism under Minnesota’s PATRIOT Act. When it was finally resolved, five accepted plea deals for misdemeanor conspiracy to damage property – one got 91 days, the others no jail time – and charges were dropped against the other three.
Kind of not such a big deal as the initial headlines would have indicated.
Chicago police have a long history of infiltrating peaceful protest groups and fomenting violence – it’s one reason the Red Squad was banned by a federal court order (later lifted at the request of Mayor Daley) – and infiltration of protest groups seems to be standard operating procedure for “national security events.”
And nationally since 9/11, an embarrassing proportion of “anti-terrorism” cases have involved plots proposed, planned, and enabled by police agents. That seems to have been the case – in just the past month — with the Wrigley bomber as well as the alleged bombing plot of a group of Cleveland anarchists who supposedly “discussed” disrupting the NATO summit. Sometimes you wonder whether such efforts are directed at keeping us safe or “putting points on the board” – or, when big protests are planned, generating scare headlines.
“This is just propaganda to create a climate of fear and to create this public perception that protests are violent,” said Michael Deutsch of the National Lawyers Guild.
Given our history, it’s as plausible a theory as any. Certainly some skepticism is in order. And hopefully no one will be scared out of exercising their First Amendment rights on Sunday.
The AP also notes that two of the suspects were involved in an incident last week in which they were taunted by police during a traffic stop that was captured on video (Huffington Post has the video). Like many, I thought of Chris Drew when I saw that story.
In that encounter, the cops bragged about Chicago in 1968 – when “the police rioted,” according to the Walker Commission. In contrast, police have been disciplined and professional, sometimes in the face of verbal provocation, in all the protests I’ve seen this week, and the goal is clearly to avoid a major blowup.
But it’s also worth remembering what Don Rose said on the 40th anniversary of Chicago 68, when asked if there were anything the protestors should have done differently:
“The only thing in retrospect is, it would have been better to have teased out some of the police spies in our own organization. As it turned out…much of the violence [by demonstrators] was perpetrated by police moles. I suppose if we’d been more vigilant about who might be the moles and traitors among us, it might have been different.”