CLEVELAND (CBS Cleveland/AP) — A member of Occupy Cleveland says that at least some of the five men arrested in an alleged bridge-bombing plot attended the group’s events but that their actions don’t represent the group.
Occupy Cleveland media coordinator Jacob Wagner says the protest group had no knowledge of the alleged plan to blow up a bridge and would denounce such actions. He says some group members knew the suspects
“Occupy Cleveland has, from the very start, espoused peaceful, nonviolent, direct action,” Wagner said. “These alleged actions taken by these people were completely autonomous.” He said the group was gathering more information and isn’t commenting further.
The FBI says three of the suspects are self-described anarchists, not tied to international terrorism. They were arrested Monday.
Authorities say there was no danger to the public because the explosives were inoperable and were controlled by an undercover FBI employee.
The announcement of the arrests came as Occupy demonstrators in other states joined Tuesday protests marking International Workers Day, or May Day.
The target of the plot was a bridge that carries a four-lane highway over part of the Cuyahoga Valley National Park in the Brecksville area, about 15 miles south of downtown Cleveland, the FBI said.
Federal authorities say the suspects also discussed other potential targets, including a law enforcement center, oil wells, a cargo ship or a new downtown casino.
An affidavit indicates that federal authorities worked with a confidential source who began making contact with the suspects in October and recorded conversations with them over the past three months.
The affidavit alleges one suspect also talked about being part of group planning to cause trouble during an upcoming NATO summit in Chicago.
It wasn’t immediately clear whether the men had attorneys. All of the suspects, ranging in age from 20 to 35, were expected to appear in federal court Tuesday afternoon.
The FBI said three were arrested on charges of conspiracy and trying to use explosives to damage property affecting interstate commerce. They were identified as Brandon L. Baxter, 20; Douglas L. Wright, 26; and Anthony Hayne, 35. Their hometowns were not provided.
Charges were pending against the other two men — Connor C. Stevens, 20, and Joshua S. Stafford, 23.
“The complaint in this case alleges that the defendants took specific and defined actions to further a terrorist plot,” said U.S. Attorney Steven M. Dettelbach said in the press release. “The defendants stand charged based not upon any words or beliefs they might espouse, but based upon their own plans and actions.”
Baxter, Wright and Hayne considered different plots over several months, including distracting law enforcement with smoke grenades while trying to bring down financial institution signs in downtown Cleveland, federal authorities alleged. The defendants’ finally settled on blowing up the bridge, authorities said.
“The individuals charged in this plot were intent on using violence to express their ideological views,” Special Agent Stephen D. Anthony, who oversees the FBI’s Cleveland division, said in a statement. “The Joint Terrorism Task Force will continue to be vigilant in its efforts to detect and disrupt any terrorism threat, domestic or international.”
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