Filed under: Analysis, Anarchist Movement, Repression, The State, US
Currently, over 200 people that were mass arrested on January 20th in Washington DC in a massive police kettle face up to 75 years in prison. The group as a whole, which was kettled for hours by the police, attacked with chemical weapons, and denied access to food, water, and bathrooms, is being charged with both conspiracy as well as collectively breaking all the same bank and corporate windows. Police are also now being sued for sexually assaulting several arrestees while in jail and lawyers are attempting to have the case dismissed for lack of evidence.
The repression of J20 defendants which until now has been kept out of the media, is also part of an ever growing push by the Trump administration and local governments to clamp down on social movements and demonstrations, with variety of states passing bills which further penalize protest and increase fines and charges. Meanwhile, as both the Alt-Right and conservative media perpetuates an image of themselves as victims in the face of ‘left-wing violence,’ actual far-Right violence is mounting in an almost daily stream of murders, arson attacks, and acts of intimidation and terror.
One case that really puts this all in perspective is Monday’s Air Force office bombing that took place in Bixby, Oklahoma. The chief suspect is Benjamin Roden, 29, of Tulsa, an ex-military man who comes from a military family and was last registered as a Republican. According to news reports and posts on Roden’s own Facebook, he became upset at the military after he was not allowed into the Marines and was not able to secure employment as an electrician.
Angry, Benjamin carried out various acts of vandalism against the Air Force office that culminated with him throwing several pipe bombs at its storefront and then riding away on a motorcycle. When FBI raided his home, they found a large amount of bomb making items and supplies.
According to news reports, Benjamin now faces:
[B]etween 5 to 20 years on each of the explosives charges and up to 10 years in prison on each of the destruction of federal property charges.
While this is no small potatoes, at the same time, it’s amazing that Benjamin still faces less time for literally blowing up a government military office, than those who are accused of being in a group of people that smashed the storefronts of corporate chain stores and banks.
Moreover, the tone of the FBI in addressing this case is very telling, as it downplayed the bombing and was quick to state that they potentially do not consider it terrorism:
Authorities said early Tuesday they were investigating the case as possible “domestic terrorism” because the target was a military office. But later in the day, the FBI hesitated on defining it as terrorism, saying until a suspect and motive were found, “we’re treating it as strictly a criminal investigation with an explosive device.”
“It’s a little bit comforting that they didn’t want to kill anybody,” FBI Special Agent Jessi Rice said at a press conference. “Obviously they would have done it in broad daylight if that were the case. So, from that standpoint, it’s a positive.”
Rice said he probably did it at night to hide, “didn’t want to be out in public with this incident.”
What this says about the kind of system of power and control we live under is clear: if you’re part of a revolutionary group that wants to overthrow the State, even walking down the streets with a mask on might get you locked up. If you’re some disgruntled white guy who gets mad and decides to throw a couple bombs around because you’re angry at your former employers – eh.
Moreover, what is clear is that the acts themselves are not important, what is important is who is doing something and the context of why.
It’s also important to point out that the FBI was founded and designed to crush revolutionary movements and organizations. When it was first organized in the early 1900s, it set its sights on the anarchist movement and the anti-capitalist labor union the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW). In the 1960s and 70s, under COINTELPRO (Counter Intelligence Program), it carried out a campaign of assassinations, misinformation, and sabotage of a variety of radical movements. In the 1990s, it attacked groups such as Earth First!, and even helped to plant a bomb under the car of Earth First! organizers Judi Bari and Daryle Cherney. After 9/11, the FBI worked to streamline repression and surveillance and the coming together of federal authorities along with local police departments through the Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF), which has become notorious for monitoring social movements and protest groups.
Then, just like today, the purpose of the FBI isn’t to keep people safe, but to safeguard the interests of those in power against the majority of the population.
But while the FBI has been heavily monitoring both the anarchist movement and people within the Muslim community in the US, often pushing young and impressionable people to become entrapped in manufactured FBI bomb and terror plots, far-Right and white nationalist terrorism has been on the rise. Since Donald Trump has been in office, various watchdog groups have reported an explosion of racist, sexist, and anti-immigrant violence and attacks across the US. Despite this, the Trump administration has cut funding to initiatives aimed at combating far-Right terrorism.
Moreover, ironically in the recent past various members of the so-called ‘intelligence community’ have even attempted to sound the alarm against far-Right terrorism, only to be literally laughed out of their jobs.
The most famous is analyst Daryl Johnson, a former member of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Johnson was tasked with determining if there would arise credible threats to Barrack Obama should he become President after the 2008 election. Johnson reported that a mix of an African-American president, far-Right anger over immigration, and the recent economic recession would all help fuel an insurgent far-Right movement that would become violent. Turns out Johnson was right.
When Johnson’s findings became public however, people within the right-wing media such as Fox News took it as a threat that DHS would soon send FBI agents to Tea Party rallies and begin monitoring ‘ordinary Americans.’ Right-wing pundits went on to claim that there were ‘no Timothy McVeigh’s out there’ and that Johnson was manufacturing threats in order to justify repression. Keep in mind, this was only several years after the FBI had done just that through the JTTF as it spied on and surveilled the anti-war movement in the lead up to and in the aftermath of, the Iraq War in 2003.
What is most ironic about this ring-wing hysteria, is that this is the same fear that ‘news’ such as Fox now peddle against the anarchist and antifascist movement, and openly calls for more and more repression, harsher laws, and outright violence against anyone that stands up to the Trump administration.
In the ensuing backlash of his report, Johnson claims he was pushed out of the DHS, and soon left of his own accord. In the years since Johnson quit the DHS, his predictions have sadly come to pass as far-Right terror has skyrocketed.