Anarchists throwing acid-filled eggs and Molotov cocktails bolstered by social media and smartphones may be a problem for the cities hosting the Republican and Democratic Conventions over the next two weeks, according to a joint DHS-FBI intelligence bulletin.
Anarchists throwing acid-filled eggs and Molotov cocktails bolstered by social media and smartphones may be a problem for the cities hosting the Republican and Democratic Conventions over the next two weeks, according to a joint intelligence bulletin from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).
Next week Tampa Bay, Florida, will host the Republican National Convention followed by the Democratic National Convention the following week in Charlotte, North Carolina. DHS and the FBI believe anarchist groups outside the state will likely travel there to disrupt the conventions.
“Given the historical precedence and recent arrests, we assess anarchist extremists will likely continue to exploit lawful protests to facilitate violent criminal activity at events like the upcoming political conventions,” the unclassified, law enforcement-sensitive bulletin, entitled “Potential for Violence or Criminal Activity by Anarchist Extremists During the 2012 National Political Conventions ,” predicts.
The bulletin, however, believes that security protocols around the respective conventions will stop “anarchist extremists” from crashing the parties. According to the New York Daily News, Congress gave Tampa and Charlotte $50 million each to secure the conventions . This target hardening, concludes the bulletin, could increase the risk of violence and property destruction to nearby infrastructure, businesses, and police officers.
The 8-page bulletin summarizes recent anarchist extremist incidents, targets, tactics, and weapons of choice to educate law enforcement on what to anticipate. The bulletin worries most about anarchists who are violently inclined and comfortable using either improvised incendiary devices or improvised explosive devices (IEDs).
The Department of Justice recently indicted five anarchists on terrorism charges--one of whom has since pled guilty and turned state’s witness --in a plot to destroy a bridge with improvised explosive devices near Cleveland, Ohio, on May 1. Questions, however, have been raised as to whether the plot was more the work of an FBI informant with a long criminal record, who steered the five men toward plotting larger and more destructive acts. (FBI Criminal Complaint: U.S. vs Wright)
Outside of possible bomb use, the bulletin discusses acts of civil disobedience often used by anarchist protest groups, including roadblocks, mass mobilizations, and vandalism, as well as training courses on “using items such as enhanced shields, batons, liquid sprayers, and fireworks to confront police; employing scouts to provide information on law enforcement positions; understanding military/SWAT hand signals; and using protective gear such as swim goggles, bike helmets, and gas masks.”
Mike German, senior policy counsel at the American Civil Liberties Union’s Washington Legislative Office and a former FBI undercover agent, believes these types of intelligence bulletins do more harm than good by driving up fears among local and state law enforcement without distinguishing what threats are truly violent and what activities constitute nonviolent civil disobedience.
“Treating blockades as an extremist threat is problematic,” he says.
The joint intelligence product also states that criminal or violent anarchist protestors have become sophisticated in their use of technology.
“[A]narchist extremists will likely use secure communication methods and social networking sites, Internet chat rooms, message boards , and mobile devices such as smart phones to coordinate and facilitate violence or criminal activity threatening public safety and to exchange operational information such as law enforcement positions and rally points,” the bulletin reports.
German says broad descriptions like these have led police at other demonstrations to aggressively go after journalists and their communications equipment because they do not distinguish truly violent protestors from professionals doing their jobs.
Citing previous protests, the bulletin does distinguish between large groups of peaceful protestors and the small minority of protestors who break off from the larger gatherings and engage in “black bloc” tactics.
“Individuals egaging [sic] in ‘black bloc’ tactics typically dress completely in black and cover their faces with masks or bandannas to conceal their identity as they commit illegal acts such as vandalism, property destruction, and occasionally acts of violence which have included throwing Molotov cocktails, flaming torches, or acid-filled eggs at law enforcement,” the bulletin states.
German worries that by broadly labeling anarchists as extremists without proper context, the FBI and DHS are suggesting all anarchist protestors are potentially violent threats, likely leading to police overreach.
The bulletin concludes by predicting how law enforcement handle anarchist protests in Tampa Bay will likely influence the protests in Charlotte.
“The perceived success or failure of anarchist extremist actions at events leading up to the conventions, as well as at the earlier RNC in Tampa, will likely impact the strategies of anarchist extremists preparing to disrupt the DNC, occurring the following week just 600 miles north.”
♦ Photo by Alexis Gravel/Flickr