Has the FBI Launched a War of Entrapment Against the Occupy Movement?
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Of the five, only Brandon Baxter and Connor Stevens appear to be in contact with their families. Curious as to how Stevens was caught up in the trap, I sat down with his family in their modest ranch house in the suburbs of Cleveland to hear of a thoughtful and passionate young man trying to surmount life’s obstacles on the path to adulthood. Stevens' mother Gail describes her son as “extremely intelligent" although "school didn’t engage him.” Connor Stevens dropped out his junior year. In his sophomore year, Stevens and some friends founded a social justice group called “Fighters for Freedom” that was quickly shut down by the school administration. He was also elected class president, but was not allowed to serve because of a low grade point average. When he was 16 he told his family he was gay, which his siblings said neither surprised nor fazed them.
Gail also spoke of family troubles that affected Connor and her other children deeply – her mother and sister passing away in quick succession, followed less than a year later by her husband James running afoul of the law in 2001, which resulted in more than two years in prison for him and the dissolution of their marriage. Gail went from a stay-at-home mom to the sole breadwinner and had to handle the stress of moving her family into her father’s house.
Occupy gave Connor Stevens a sense of belonging. Gail says, “I was excited for him. There was something he could actually be part of in Cleveland.” In early 2012 he began to say “he wanted to be a pastor. He felt he was being called.” She read a letter Stevens sent her from the Corrections Corporation of America facility near Youngstown, Ohio, where he is being held. He wrote:
“I am in good spirits and feel at the top of my game physically, mentally, spiritually. … I have great faith and do not underestimate the power of prayers. The bible I’m reading, the New American, in which I’ve been focusing on the Old Testament, speaks constantly of the Lord’s uplifting the oppressed, siding with the poor, the downtrodden, the widows and the orphans. I believe God is on our side. The scripture you quoted from Jeremiah is very fitting. And just before I came down to our last visitation … I read Psalms 27:1. This is my rock, this passage. It conveys everything.”
The Plot Begins
Cleveland 5 supporters claim that Connor Stevens and possibly others were threatened to participate in the plot. Others interpret as a threat a comment in the FBI affidavit in which the informant tells the group they are “on the hook” for the explosives. Interviews with more than a dozen Cleveland activists also provide evidence that a possible FBI asset by the name of Ryan is still floating around Cleveland and is cryptically mentioned just once as “Ryan LNU” (Last Name Unknown) in the criminal complaint against the five.
The FBI plot begins on October 21. On that day the city of Cleveland announced it was shutting down the two-week-old occupation in the downtown Public Square. Organizers say Occupy Cleveland held a rally on Oct. 21 more than 500 strong, including nonviolent civil disobedience, while choosing to roll up dozens of tents in the camp so as to save its equipment from imminent confiscation by the police.
Also on Oct. 21, the FBI’s “Confidential Human Source” (CHS), subsequently identified as Shaquille Azir, made contact with Douglas Wright. The affidavit states: “Based on an initial report of potential criminal activity and threats involving anarchists who would be attending an event held by a protest group, the Cleveland FBI directed the CHS to attend that event.” That night, the FBI report continues, while most occupiers were engaged in protest, a group of seven men “was constantly moving throughout the crowd expressing displeasure at the crowd's unwillingness to act violently.”