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September 24, 2012

Anti-Israel Teach-in Held During Occupy Wall Street “Free University Week”

A working group affiliated with the Occupy Wall Street (OWS) movement held a teach-in over the weekend on advocating for and supporting Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaigns against Israel. The group, known as the “Global Justice Working Group,” used the session to demonize Israel and to demonstrate how the pro-BDS agenda goes hand-in-hand with the goals of OWS.

A sign at the Occupy BDS teach-in New York

The event was held on Saturday, September 22, as part of an OWS-organized weeklong program in New York called “Free University Week.”

Speakers during the event condemned Israel as a “European settler movement” and Israeli policy as extremely oppressive. Riham Barghouti, a founding member of the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) and activist with Adalah-NY, a local pro-boycott group, described the situation for Palestinians as a “struggle of indigenous people against colonizing settler tactics.” Another speaker accused Israel of having “violated every article in the 4th Geneva Convention.” The speakers represented a variety of domestic anti-Israel groups, including Adalah-NY, Punks against Apartheid, New Yorkers against the Cornell-Technion Partnership and CODEPINK’s “Stolen Beauty” campaign, which calls for a boycott of AHAVA products.

The activists also repeatedly sought to demonstrate that  the goals of OWS and the BDS movement are interconnected. One OWS speaker, for example, warned the participants that Israel trains American law enforcement and equips police with weaponry and riot control tools. A representative of the Occupy Oakland movement then deliberately “connected the dots,” alleging that the “same type of tear gas being used against them [Occupy Oakland] is being used against the Palestinians.”

Saturday’s event represents the latest effort by anti-Israel activists to inject their cause into the now year-old OWS social protest movement. Up until now, these efforts – which included waving anti-Israel signs and chanting anti-Israel slogans at OWS demonstrations – were not officially sanctioned by OWS or any of its affiliated groups. In what could be a possible shift, the teach-in was sponsored by a group formally tied to OWS and was promoted on the official New York General Assembly website, which hosts content from “dozens of groups working together to organize and set the vision for the #occupywallstreet movement.

While one might imagine that a group called “Global Justice Working Group” would focus on a variety of issues of global injustice, the group seems to maintain a singular focus on criticizing Israel. Indeed, its Facebook page and website are regularly updated with anti-Israel content, including claims that Israeli checkpoints are a “tool of suppression” and calls for the Red Hot Chili Peppers to refuse to perform in Israel. [The concert was held as planned on September 10.]

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May 23, 2012

Anarchist Arrests Mark NATO Summit

Five individuals have been arrested by Chicago police in three separate bomb-related cases during the lead-up to the recent NATO Summit.

Three men were arrested in a raid last Wednesday in connection to an alleged plot to attack President Obama’s campaign headquarters and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s home, as well as police and financial institutions. The men were in possession of Molotov cocktails and instructions for making pipe bombs, according to court documents.

The suspects, who have been identified as Brian Church, 22 from Florida, Jared Chase, 27 from New Hampshire, and Brent Betterly, 24 from Massachusetts, are all self-described anarchists. The three traveled to Chicago together from Florida, where they were reportedly involved with the Occupy Movement.

Last month, five self-described anarchists with ties to the Occupy Movement were arrested in Ohio after allegedly attempting to blow up a Cleveland-area bridge “to send a message to corporations and the United States government.”

Sebastian Senakiewicz, a 24-year-old self-described anarchist, was also arrested in Chicago for making a false terroristic threat. Prosecutors said Senakiewicz was unsatisfied with the relative-calm leading up to the NATO Summit and allegedly bragged he could blow up a downtown bridge. He reportedly claimed he had access to a vehicle packed with explosives and weapons.

In fifth man, Mark Neiweem, 28, was charged with attempted possession of explosives. While charging documents do not mention targets or his motives, the charges assert that he asked other protesters for materials to construct a pipe bomb.

Neiweem is reportedly a member of the Anarchist Black Cross (ABC) and frequented their online chat rooms. ABC is a national collective that aims to support and defend political prisoners and has indicated support for class war (abolishing capitalism). Some ABC “collectives” merged into a federation advocating armed self-defense through its Tactical Defense Caucus, which it hoped would organize, recruit and train anarchists in the tactical use of firearms. In his testimony before the Senate Committee on Intelligence in February of 2005, Robert Mueller, Director of the FBI, identified the federation as a potential threat to national security.

Other anarchists clashed with police at the end of an otherwise peaceful anti-war protest Sunday, leading to dozens more arrests.

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May 1, 2012

Five Apparent Anarchists Arrested In Plot To Bomb Cleveland Bridge

Update – June 13, 2013: Joshua Stafford was convicted of conspiring to use a weapon of mass destruction on June 13. He faces up to life-in-prison. The other four suspects have all pleaded guilty and were sentenced to between six and ten years in prison. 

Five Ohio men were arrested Monday night after allegedly attempting to blow up a Cleveland-area bridge “to send a message to corporations and the United States government.”

The five men, Douglas Wright, Brandon Baxter, Anthony Hayne, Connor Stevens, and Joshua Stafford, had been considering acts of violence for months, according to federal agents. Two of the men placed what they believed to be explosive devices at the bridge and tried to remotely detonate it. The devices, however, were inert and provided by the FBI as part of a sting operation.

Wright, Baxter, and Hayne have been charged with conspiracy and attempted use of explosives; charges against Stevens and Stafford are pending.

All five men were apparently involved in Occupy Cleveland protests and have been characterized by law enforcement or self-identify as anarchists. Hayne, Stafford, and Baxter list the movement as their “employer” on their Facebook pages.

In recorded conversation with the FBI, Baxter discussed the impact of blowing up a bridge. “Taking out a bridge in the business district would cost the…corporate big wigs a lot of money,” he said. Wright believed that the Occupy Movement had been coopted by “corporate American and law enforcement” and that therefore they needed new recruits from outside the movement.

The media coordinator for Occupy Cleveland denied any knowledge of the planned attack, but acknowledged that some members of the movement are acquainted with the suspects.

Baxter’s anti-capitalist views were voiced in interview last month during a protest in Cleveland against home foreclosures. “…I feel the powers that be, whoever they might be – on all levels of government and those who hold corporate power – are not listening because not enough people are actually taking a stance…”

The five men allegedly considered other targets for attack, including the local Federal Reserve Bank and law enforcement Fusion Center, before settling on the bridge. Baxter inquired into targeting the Klan or other neo-Nazi groups in Ohio, but was dissuaded when he was told they were not in Cleveland. He claimed to have previously participated in a protest against the Klan in Oakland, California.

The planned attack was allegedly timed to coincide with May Day, a celebration of International Workers Day that has been seized upon by anarchist and anti-capitalist groups around the world. May Day events around the world have often featured property destruction and arrests.

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