More details have come to light about the alleged anarchist conspiracy in Cleveland:
Perhaps even more troubling than the manipulation of vulnerable individuals — whether they be political activists or members of mosques — is the way in which law enforcement meanwhile manipulates public discourse about terrorism, Islam or, in this case, a growing social movement.
According to Schulte, the operation in Cleveland appears to have been part of a pre-planned narrative meant to paint Occupiers as a group with terrorist thugs in their midst, discouraging others from joining the movement. The FBI had a media statement prepared for immediate release on May Day after the arrests, and it hosted an unusually high-profile press conference the following day. There have been more than 300 pleas involving FBI informants in six years and such kind of overt media blitz from the feds is rare. Rolling Stone reporter Rick Perlstein observes, comparing two different anti-terrorism operations at the end of April, “that the State is singling out ideological enemies.”
And just how did the government go about singling out its ideological enemies?
Baxter’s lawyer, a public defender named John Pyle, recently identified the informant working with the group as Shaquille Azir, a 39-year old ex-con.
“[Azir] became something of a role model, stepping in as a father figure, offering guidance on emotional and social stuff,” said Schulte. “Connor and Brandon thought he was a rad dude but getting more and more pushy.”
Collectively, according to accounts from friends and associates, statements from lawyers, and the FBI affidavit, members of the Cleveland Five have backgrounds that include mental illness, substance abuse, homelessness and social marginalization.
Brandon and Connor had been part of the full-time occupation over the winter in Cleveland’s Public Square. After having grown frustrated with what they perceived as the Occupiers’ timidity — Schulte called it “passive gradualism” — the Five were encouraged by Azir to break off from Occupy Cleveland and form their own, much smaller group, “The People’s Liberation Army.” At first it was mostly just a graffiti crew — tagging the phrase “rise up” around the city and putting up stickers, said Schulte.
Azir would give them a case of beer in the morning, according to Schulte, have them work outside on houses all day, and then give them a case of beer at night. He gave them marijuana and would wear them down by keeping them up late into the night with drinking and conversation — all the while urging them to break away from other groups, keep their arrangement secret and not to trust other activists.
Looking back, Schulte said Azir and the FBI used “security culture against activists” and “developed patterns of trust to seem legit.” The Cleveland Five, he explains, “were coached by the federal government.”
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