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Courts and Crime

Self-proclaimed anarchists charged with trying to blow up a bridge over Cuyahoga Valley National Park
Feds say would-be terrorists cite anger at corporate America and the government, buy fake explosives

Kevin Niedermier
FBI agents say five anarchists planted what they thought were explosives at the base of the Route 82 bridge over the Cuyahoga Valley National Park and tried to blow it up last night.
Courtesy of Jasen Sokol
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In The Region:

A group of self-proclaimed anarchists is charged with trying to blow-up a Northeast Ohio bridge. The FBI says the five men plotted to bring down the State Route 82 bridge over the Cuyahoga Valley National Park to express their anger at corporate America and the government.   WKSU’s Kevin Niedermier reports that the arrests came Monday night after a seven-month undercover investigation.

Niedermier - Bridge bomb plot

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Last October, the defendants ages 20-to-35, allegedly began considering a series of terrorists attacks in the Cleveland area months ago. The head of Cleveland’s FBI office, Steven Anthony, says the defendants considered several scenarios, including knocking over corporate signs on downtown Cleveland skyscrapers, and a car bombing of Cleveland’s Federal Reserve Bank.

When an informant passed on information about the plans, Anthony says the F.B.I., along with state and local law enforcement agencies, started a sting operation.

A moving target
“The target sort of evolved during this time period. They researched different buildings, places and entities, and came to the conclusion, after much discussion, that they could have, in their minds, the most impact by targeting a bridge and …impacting commerce or worse. And that’s what they decided to do in April, and that’s what they followed through and attempted to do.”

Anthony says the defendants considered making their own explosives, but settled on trying to buy explosives.

 “They ultimately negotiated with undercover F.B.I. agents and purchased two inert improvised explosive devices, which were presented as C-4 based, remote-activated IEDs.”

Putting the plan into action
Anthony says the plot came to an end sometime between 9 and 10 Monday night, when the would-be terrorists planted the fake bombs at the base of the bridge along the Ohio and Erie Canal Towpath between Brecksville and Sagamore Hills.

They moved to what they considered a safe distance away, and pushed the phony detonator.

That’s when the F.B.I. swooped in and made the arrests. Steven Dettelbach, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio, says the defendants acted alone, though their plot was discussed with others. Dettelbach would not say who these other people are, or what, if any group they belong to, because, he says, it would be unfair to associate them with the defendants.

“To the extent the complaint talks about others, it talks about the anger and frustration that these five individuals felt, that other individuals would not support their violent aims. Other people were aimed at nonviolent means of expression and protest.”

Representatives of Occupy Cleveland acknowledge the defendants were associated with their group, but that they did not represent or act on behalf of Occupy Cleveland, which stresses nonviolent actions.

An F.B.I. affidavit says the defendants were disgusted with the pacifism of the Occupy Cleveland movement when they attended one of its events last fall.

Dettelbach insists that the federal government does not investigate people or groups because of their beliefs, but it does take action when individuals threaten to harm others or damage property.

Why here?
John Keller lives in Sagamore Hills near the targeted bridge. He says the five defendants made an odd choice when they allegedly decided to destroy a structure running through a national park.

“It seems a ridiculous target to somehow associate this with corporate America.”

U.S. Attorney Dettelbach says the domestic nature of this case illustrates how diverse the terrorism threat is in this country.


Statement from Occupy Cleveland:
Here is the statement from the Occupy Cleveland movement following the arrest of five men accused of trying to blow up a bridge in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park last night. The five apparently attended Occupy Cleveland events but disagreed with the group's pacifist message.

"While the group arrested Monday evening by the FBI were associated with Occupy Cleveland they were in no way representing or acting on behalf of Occupy Cleveland or the event that was planned for later today at the GE Lighting building. 
"The May Day Event that was sponsored by Occupy Cleveland, the North Shore AFL-CIO, Cleveland Jobs with Justice, Fight for a Fair Economy and SEIU Local 1 has been cancelled because of the alleged actions of the autonomous group arrested last night.  Occupy Cleveland has had affirmed principles of non-violence since its inception on October 6, 2011."

Related Links & Resources
Read the FBI affidavit here

Related WKSU Stories

Anarchist bombers target a peaceful spot in Ohio national park
Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Affidavit: Cleveland fed, casino considered for anarchist targets
Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Occupy Cleveland's next generation technology
Thursday, October 13, 2011

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