As the cell door slams shut on the last of the 5 Occupy Cleveland activists to be sentenced for involvement in an FBI-led plot to blow up a bridge, you can hear the diabolical laughter of J. Edgar Hoover. He couldn’t have done it better himself. The Occupy movement burst out of winter hibernation on May Day 2012 with dozens of protests in cities across the country — but not in Cleveland. The Cleveland May Day rally was cancelled after five “self-proclaimed anarchists” were arrested and charged with trying to blow up a bridge.
The FBI staged a high profile press conference to announce the arrests, taking care to make clear the connection to Occupy. The story behind the plot has become clear since the men were arrested: an FBI informant befriended five troubled young men and facilitated every step of the plot. This may be one of the most successful of the FBI’s attempts to disrupt and discredit a movement since COINTELPRO. Not only was the FBI able to smear anarchists and stop the Cleveland May Day rally from happening, but two days after the arrests, the Occupy camp was shut down completely. The five young men swept up in the plot will spend from six to 11 1/2 years in jail. Joshua Stafford, now 25, was the last to be sentenced.
Although he struggles with mental illness, he was deemed fit to stand trial, and chose to represent himself. He was found guilty in June and was sentenced yesterday to 10 years in jail with lifetime supervised release. From the very beginning of this tale, it was clear that the defendants didn’t have the resources, skills, or even the motivation to pull off a serious crime. But the FBI’s agent provocateur followed the FBI entrapment script and was able to create a terror plot out of almost nothing.