FBI Arrests ‘Anarchists’ in Plot to Blow up Cleveland Bridge

Five self-proclaimed anarchists are in federal custody in Cleveland for taking steps to blow up a highway bridge after discussing bombing other targets, including a Ku Klux Klan gathering spot and a Federal Reserve bank.

The arrests came Monday evening after three members of the group “planted what they thought were two C-4 based explosive devices” at the base of the Route 82 bridge crossing from Brecksville to Sagamore Hills over the Cuyahoga Valley National Park, south of downtown Cleveland, the FBI said in a statement.

Court documents say the planned act of terrorism was intended to coincide with May 1 antigovernment, anti-establishment protests planned today in Cleveland and other U.S. cities. But there does not appear to be any connection with any international terrorist groups or the anniversary of the killing of Osama bin Laden, the Cleveland Plain Dealer reported.

The suspects not only talked about the plot but “took specific and defined actions to further a terrorist plot,” U.S. Attorney Steven M. Dettlebach said in a news release issued by his office in Cleveland.

One of the alleged leaders of the group discussed “plans involving violence and destruction to physical property in a variety of ways in order to send a message to corporations and the United States Government,” a court document says.

The group’s intention to commit acts of violence came in the belief that leaders of the so-called Occupy or 1 percent movements “were working with corporate America and law enforcement” and that they should look for new anarchist recruits in homeless shelters and poor neighborhoods, the document says.

On Sunday, the suspects purchased two inert explosive devices, riot gear and smoke grenades from a man who turned out to be an undercover FBI agent, according to a 21-page affidavit accompanying a criminal complaint.

“The public was never in danger from the explosive devices,” the FBI said in its statement.

The group studied the Anarchist Cookbook in discussing various violent acts and talked about using a cell phone to detonate a bomb, court documents allege.

Those arrested were identified as Brandon L. Baxter, 20, Douglas L. Wright, 26, Anthony Hayne, 35, Connor C. Stevens, 20, and Joshua S. Stafford, 23, all of whom had been living in the Cleveland area.

The suspects discussed several potential targets over several days and some of those conversations were secretly recorded by an informant working for the FBI, according to the court documents.

In one conversation, Hayne discussed using a car bomb to destroy the Justice Center in Cleveland or a Homeland Security complex called the Northeast Ohio Regional Fusion Center. Targeting ships, bank signs on tall buildings, mines and oil wells also were discussed.

At one point, the affidavit alleges, Wright even discussed becoming a suicide bomber. “Wright joked that he would wear a suicide vest and walk in and blow himself up, but advised he would have to be very drunk. Baxter advised at one time he (also) wanted to do a suicide attack, but agreed it would be better to live through the attack and fight another day.”

The affidavit alleges Baxter told about a Klan rally disrupted by rock-throwing anarchists, then “suggested looking to find out if there is a neo-Nazi or Klan headquarters in Ohio and see if they could blow that up,” the affidavit says.

That plan apparently was discarded when the anarchists learned the most visible Klan headquarters was in Southern Ohio, near Lodi.