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*Life’s a Snitch: Austin activist admits he infiltrated RNC protest group*
by Renee Feltz Reposted from Texas Observer Blog /Thursday, Jan. 01,
2009 at 10:19 AM/
A Repost from the Texas Observer Blog
Life’s a Snitch: Austin activist admits he infiltrated RNC protest group
December 31st, 2008 at 11:02 pm
Brandon Darby(Editor’s note: This post was reported and written by Renee
A well-known Austin activist fingered as an FBI informant has
acknowledged that he provided information leading to the arrest and
felony indictment of two Austin men who participated in protests last
September at the Republican National Convention in St. Paul, MN.
“The simple truth is that I have chosen to work with the Federal Bureau
of investigation [sic],” Brandon Darby said in an open letter
<http://www.indymedia.org/en/2008/12/918526.shtml> he sent this week to
friends he has worked with since 2002.
Darby’s activist network stretches from Austin to New Orleans,
<http://www.vimeo.com/282691> where he co-founded Common Ground Relief
<http://www.commongroundrelief.org/>, a grassroots reconstruction effort
that drew thousands of volunteers from around the country. In 2004, he
helped organize and was arrested
anti-Halliburton protests in Houston. His letter suggests that he
disagreed with tactics some members of the Austin Area Affinity Group
planned to use to disrupt the Republican Convention. Darby was a member
of the group.
“When people act out of anger and hatred, and then claim that their
actions were part of a movement or somehow tied into the struggle for
social justice only after being caught, it’s damaging to the efforts of
those who do give of themselves to better this world,” reads Darby’s letter.
Darby’s fellow activists say they identified him as “CHS 1” –
confidential human source 1 – after reviewing an affidavit (PDF)
by FBI agent Christopher Langert that was released in discovery in the
case against David Guy McKay, 22, and Bradley Neal Crowder, 23. They say
information described in the affidavit came from conversations between
McKay and Darby.
The informant told Langert that McKay and Crowder fashioned protest
shields made from cutting traffic barrels in half. After describing how
police seized these items from a trailer the two helped drive from
Austin to St. Paul, Langert refers to conversations gathered when the
informant wore a wire to record McKay talking about how he and Crowder
had made Molotov cocktails, using tampons soaked in lighter fluid for wicks.
The Molotov cocktails were among the items seized in a raid that led to
felony indictments of McCay and Crowder, now known as the “Texas Two.”
They were charged with possession of unregistered firearms (the
cocktails). Information gathered by Darby may have contributed to
broader charges against eight others <http://rnc8.org/> from around the
country for conspiracy to riot and conspiracy to damage property in the
furtherance of terrorism.
Several of Darby’s friends initially defended him against accusations
that he was an informant, but after they acquired additional court
documents from sources close to the case against McCay and Crowder, they
confronted him days before he went public.
“I don’t feel like I lost my credibility,” says longtime Austin-based
activist Scott Crow. “But I staked my credibility defending him, and
people backed me up.” Now that Darby has gone public, Crow is ready to
go on the offensive.
“While it is not yet clear how long or to what extent Darby has been
acting as an informant, the emerging truth about Darby’s malicious
involvement in our communities is heart-breaking and utterly
ground-shattering to some of us who were closest to him,” says Crow, who
in 2005 co-founded Common Ground Relief with Darby.
Activists in St. Paul with the RNC Welcoming Committee posted a video
<http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j6PLwOt0Bls> in October 2007 that showed
a tongue-in-cheek use of a Molotov cocktail to light a barbeque.
Langert’s affidavit states that Darby had been working with the FBI
since November 2007.
Crow and another member of the group claim the additional court
documents – which the group has so far declined to make public - show
Darby actively encouraged, enabled and provoked McKay and Croder to take
illegal action. Crow asserts that Darby “hadn’t even met these guys yet”
when he began reporting to the FBI. “How can you know they’re going to
plan something,” he asks, “if you hadn’t met them yet?”
McCay’s father has previously argued that his son was naïve and gullible
McCay and Crowder have been denied bail and remain in federal detention
in St. Paul. Their trial date has been postponed indefinitely. They each
face seven to 10 years in prison.
/–Renee Feltz is a fellow at the Toni Stabile Center for Investigative
Journalism and an intern with the investigative unit at The New York Times./
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