By now you probably know that just before the New Year, the FBI released internal documents revealing coast-to-coast surveillance of the Occupy Wall Street movement. But did you know that the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security, and local police coordinated their crackdown on occupations in over 600 communities across the country, with the banks themselves?
Hardly anyone has connected the dots between the various sordid plots against Occupy protestors after the occupations were evicted. Well, the Occupy Wall Street press team has been keeping track. One charge of terrorism was entirely fabricated, something members of the press team helped bring to light. So we've been sure to encourage the press to question the official story, especially since, in all the cases in which Occupy demonstrators have been charged with terror-related felonies, informants and police agents pushed youth to engage in terrorism and even supplied the necessary explosives.
We also know of at least 2 murders initially pinned on Occupy Wall Street, that were later shown to have zero connection whatsoever; in one of these cases, the evidence was inexcusably dubious. Right now, over a dozen youth are just starting long sentences, for crimes for which they were definitively framed. Who knows how many others are struggling to combat trumped-up charges which were politically motivated.
What is the sum impact of these tactics of surveillance, entrapment and inflated charges? Sometimes the effects are felt immediately by millions of people, as in the coordinated crackdown on hundreds of public assemblies and occupations. In other cases, the casualties become personal tragedies, as in the case of one hacktivist who was made an example of, by the Department of Justice.
- So yes, let's start with Aaron Swartz. This February, the Department of Justice admitted that the prosecution of the young hacktivist was motivated by his political views on copyright. For this he faced a maximum penalty of up to 35 years in prison and a $1 million fine plus forfeiture, restitution, and supervised release. Facing these exaggerated charges for two years, clearly and without any doubt drove this young man of 26 to suicide.
- Aaron's death came less than two weeks after the New Year's Eve fabrication of a link between Occupy Wall Street and a bomb-scare in the West village. On December 31st, Rupert Murdoch’s The New York Post reported that weapons and high explosive powder were found in the home of a Greenwich Village couple, and claimed the accused was an "Occupy Wall Street activist" sans a single source (not even an anonymous one) for the OWS connection. Within a day, the NYPD acknowledged to The New York Times that there was no evidence the accused was active in any political movements whatsoever.
- Months earlier, the Gulf Port 7 of Austin, TX – charged with "manufacturing a criminal weapon" in the lead-up to the Oakland Port shutdown – saw their charges reduced from felonies to misdemeanors, when it became clear that they had been ensnared by at least seven undercover officers. Culturemap reports that three undercover agents allegedly worked together to facilitate the use of the lockboxes during Occupy Austin meetings; one agent went so far as to make the devices himself and deliver them to the protest group. Pro bono attorney Greg Gladden told CultureMap: "The police knew these kids would get a charge of felony for using the devices, instead of just a misdemeanor. They set them up." Furthermore, the Austin Police Department (APD) worked closely with the Texas Fusion Center, a branch of the Texas Department of Public Safety that coordinates state law enforcement with federal agencies like the FBI, the DEA and the Department of Homeland Security. When it emerged that the police collaborated with several Fusion centers to track the activities of Occupiers in different cities, the court subpoenaed all APD email, texts and communications related to the case, for inspection. After 14 months, the felony charges were dropped and all 7 pled to Class B Misdemeanors. To read close to 300 pages of materials obtained from the APD via NLG subpoenas: http://bit.ly/XHa8Mr
- In March, 2012, a subway fight turned fatal. Instantly The New York Post pinned involuntary manslaughter on a supposed Occupy Wall Street participant. But by the time cops clarified that the arrest was unrelated to Occupy Wall Street, The New York Post had widely circulated the smear.
- In July, 2012, just after the Occupy National Gathering, the press claimed that an Occupy Wall Street action was linked with a cold case from 2004. The New York Post reported that a DNA sample taken from the CD player owned by a murdered Julliard student, was linked with samples lifted from a chain used to prop open subway gates and usher passengers onto free train rides. But the DNA belonged to an NYPD lab technician, not to a suspected killer. "It was a high-profile embarrassment...How was the apparent error missed, and the Occupy-murder angle pushed to the press," asked The Daily Beast, "when the ME’s office contends that it has records of all its workers’ DNA to avoid just this sort of false match?"
- On the eve of the No-NATO demonstrations in Chicago, police raided a home in Bridgeport and arrested 9 Occupy activists. Of the nine, three were charged with possession of explosives or incendiary devices, material support for terrorism, and conspiracy, and were imposed $1.5 million D-Bonds. Four were shackled to a bench for 18 hours and released without charges. The remaining two, who were immediately released, promptly disappeared, and were thereafter neither seen or heard from, are believed to be undercover police or informants. UPDATE, February 2014: Sarah Gelsomino, defense attorney for Brian Church argued: “This is not a case of terrorism at all. It does not even come close.” And on that front, the court found in Church's favor, as well as his peers Jared Chase and Brent Betterly. The jury has acquitted the NATO 3 of all the terrorism charges: conspiracy to commit terrorism, material support for terrorism, possession of an incendiary device with the intent to commit terrorism, possession of an incendiary device with the knowledge that someone else intended to commit terrorism. They also acquitted them of the solicitation to commit arson charge. However, the three were found guilty of possession of an incendiary device with the intent to commit arson and possession of an incendiary device with the knowledge that another intended to commit arson. And as of March 2014, they still faced 30 years for "mob action".
- On the eve of the May Day march of 2012, news emerged of the framing of The Cleveland 5. An FBI informant met several youths at Occupy Cleveland, pushed the idea of blowing up an Ohio bridge, and then proceeded to furnish them with jobs, drugs, and ultimately, explosives. As a result of a Freedom of Information Act request, just before the New Year the FBI released internal documents revealing a coast-to-coast surveillance of the Occupy Wall Street movement. The memos barely mention Occupy Cleveland and omit the informant's role in the Cleveland plot.
Most of these charges were leaked to the press in close proximity to Occupy Wall Street mobilizations during which OWS garnered higher visibility and greater scrutiny in turn. Uncanny timing. These frame-ups – whether purely fabricated and handed to publications like The New York Post, or designed through the deployment of government plants – appear to be timed to raise doubts about the safety of associating with Occupy Wall Street activists, and to thereby discourage mass participation. We will be monitoring these entrapment trends as we continue to organize non-violent mobilizations or direct actions in New York City and beyond.