Has the FBI Launched a War of Entrapment Against the Occupy Movement?
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Stephen Anthony, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI's Cleveland office, claimed during the May 1 press conference “that at no time during the course of the investigation was the public ever in danger.” So if the public was never in danger, was there ever a threat?
To get to the bottom of the story I traveled to Cleveland shortly after the arrests and interviewed about 20 friends and family members of the "Cleveland 5," as supporters are calling them. They describe a group of naïve, vulnerable and even desperate individuals that the FBI preyed on. A government informant provided the five with jobs, money, a place to live, a friendly ear, beer, pot, the prescription stimulant Adderall, and most significant, the ideas and means to carry out a plot conceived by the Bureau itself.
The Lost Boys
Friends describe the five – everyone calls them boys or kids – as “quasi-hobos” and on the losing end of society. Lea Tolls, a 46-year-old mother and self-described “Occu-mom,” says, “Except for Connor [Stevens] they were destitute. They are angry, some have mental illnesses, and there is alcoholism and abuse in their families.”
Kaiser, a Cleveland occupier, told me that Doug Wright, the alleged ringleader, was “like a big brother to me. He ran away from his parents when he was 12.” Everyone invariably mentioned Wright was a train hopper, an explanation that accounts for his mangled nose, missing teeth and abrasive manner. Ben Shapiro, 26, an environmental organizer who was active with Occupy Cleveland last fall, said, “Doug was poor. He was angry, had a hard time dealing with people and was short-tempered.” Nonetheless, numerous youth said Wright was protective of and cared about them and was a hard worker. Zachy, a lanky 21-year-old who hung out with the five, says, “Doug actually did shit. He was running logistics at the Occupy camp. He was the one that knew how to tie knots and put tarps on the tents.”
The story is the same for the others: lost souls wanting to help others. Most Cleveland Occupiers were wary of Anthony Hayne, the oldest of the accused, labeling him a “con man,” “swindler” and “schemer.” Lea Tolls defended him, stating, “Tony was an addict, and we treated him accordingly.” Others added that Hayne's mother died a week before Occupy Cleveland began. Jonnie Peskar, 22, a member of Occupy Cleveland, says one night another defendant, Brandon Baxter, told him his life story, “He grew up in violence. He and his dad would fist fight. Brandon talked about how he was traumatized growing up.”
Gloria, a friend of Brandon Baxter's, called him “an absolute joy to be around. He wants to help everyone he comes in contact with.” But he also suffered from “horrible depression” and tried to kill himself in February by jumping off a bridge before being talked down by cops, she claimed. “He spent weeks in the hospital from the suicide attempt.” As for Joshua Stafford, who is known as Skelly, his mother anonymously told the media of a troubled life, saying he had been “in and out of hospitals, prisons, jails. He's just been a troubled soul since he's been born.”
Joshua Stafford and Brandon Baxter are also described as highly impressionable. Tolls says Stafford, “would have done anything anyone told him to, just to have friends.” Peskar says Brandon Baxter admitted to him, “‘I’m easily brainwashed because I was pulled into being a Neo-Nazi.’ Brandon was in a very confused state. He always contradicted himself. He didn’t know what he wanted.”