[Ppnews] RNC activist pleads guilty - Informants and Undercover Agents

Political Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Tue Mar 17 18:00:35 EDT 2009

Two articles follow

Man in RNC Molotov cocktail case pleads guilty

© 2009 The Associated Press

March 17, 2009, 2:26PM

MINNEAPOLIS ­ One of the men accused of making 
Molotov cocktails during the Republican National 
Convention reversed himself in court Tuesday and 
pleaded guilty to federal charges.

David Guy McKay, 23, of Austin, Texas, pleaded 
guilty to three counts, including one count of 
possession of an unregistered firearm, one count 
of illegal manufacture of a firearm and one count 
of possession of a firearm with no serial number.

Previously he had fought the charges, claiming he 
was entrapped by a government informant, but on 
Tuesday he told a federal judge that he and 
Bradley Neal Crowder would have made the bombs with or without the informant.

"I think we would've done it anyways," he said.

McKay's trial ended with a hung jury in January. 
A retrial was scheduled to start this week, but he avoided that with his plea.

Chief U.S. District Judge Michael Davis ordered 
McKay into custody. McKay had been free on bond following his mistrial.

McKay had tried to plead guilty on Monday. He 
said that while he wanted to take responsibility 
for what he did, the government informant, Brandon Darby, also had a role.

Davis refused to accept that plea agreement and 
adjourned the hearing until Tuesday. By then, 
McKay decided to tell the judge that Darby played 
no role in the decision to make the Molotov cocktails.

He claimed he, Crowder and Darby had discussed 
making firebombs, but that he couldn't remember 
who came up with the idea first. McKay said he 
and Crowder intended to do violence.

"We didn't need Brandon there to make them," he said of the bombs.

The men were part of a Texas group that came to 
St. Paul to protest at the convention, which was 
held Sept. 1-4 at the Xcel Energy Center. McKay 
was arrested Sept. 3 during a raid on an 
apartment in St. Paul during which eight Molotov 
cocktails ­ gasoline-filled bottles with improvised wicks ­ were seized.

Prosecutors claim that McKay told an informant 
that he intended to throw the firebombs at police 
vehicles parked near the apartment.

Darby was a well-known Texas activist who has 
said he became disenchanted with some of the 
radical elements of the activist community. He 
acted as an FBI informant and infiltrated the group.

Crowder pleaded guilty in January and is awaiting 
sentencing. He didn't testify in McKay's first 
trial, but was scheduled to do so in the retrial.


The Political Persecution of the RNC 8: Part 2 Informants and Undercover Agents
by Revolution ( 
<mailto:revolution.sfbureau at gmail.com>revolution.sfbureau [at] gmail.com )
Wednesday Mar 11th, 2009 2:48 PM

A very important case is unfolding in 
Minnesota­eight people are being singled out by 
the government for their role in the political 
protests at the 2008 Republican National Convention (RNC).

At the September ’08 RNC in St. Paul, war 
criminal John McCain and right-wing religious 
fundamentalist Sarah Palin were being selected as 
the Republican ticket for the presidential race. 
The national media spent endless hours on things 
like Palin’s unmarried pregnant daughter. 
Meanwhile, the streets of St. Paul were turned 
into a militarized zone with massive police 
mobilization. Over the course of four days, 
thousands defied the armed clampdown to make 
known their opposition to U.S. 
wars-torture-spying and the imperialist 
globalization that has brought suffering to a 
huge section of humanity and caused catastrophic 
environmental damage. Over 800 people were 
arrested and scores were brutalized by the police.

Even before the protests started, law enforcement 
authorities carried out preemptive raids and 
arrests of activists and independent journalists 
throughout Minneapolis/St. Paul (the Twin 
Cities). Among those arrested were eight who are 
now being targeted for persecution, facing over 
12 years in prison. They are known as the RNC 8.

For the first time, a state version of the 
fascistic USA Patriot Act is being applied to 
political demonstrations. The RNC 8 are charged 
with felony conspiracy to riot in furtherance of 
terrorism and felony conspiracy to commit 
criminal damage to property in furtherance of 
terrorism, along with two other felonies. They 
were sitting in jail for the duration of the 
Republican convention­but they are being held 
legally responsible for anything that any protestor did during that time.

The prosecution of the RNC 8 would set a very bad 
precedent that criminalizes political protest. 
But too few people even know about this case. 
Everyone who understands the importance of 
dissent and the ability to resist the crimes 
being committed by the government and ruling 
institutions needs to speak out. A big demand to 
drop the charges on the RNC 8 needs to be raised 
from a broad cross section of society. This 
railroad must be stopped cold in its tracks.

Read Part 1: The Case of the RNC 8 at 

Part 2: Informants and Undercover Agents: The 
Government’s Strategy To Disrupt, Set Up and 
Attack Opposition To The Republican National Convention

A striking feature of the government’s repressive 
strategy which has come to light in relationship 
to the Republican National Convention (RNC) in 
St. Paul, Minnesota in fall of 2008 was the use 
of informants and undercover agents against the 
radical and progressive forces who were 
organizing and participating in the protests 
outside the RNC. For a number of years there has 
been an intensification of this more openly 
repressive expression of bourgeois dictatorship.

As it has in the past, especially when it felt 
threatened and challenged, the government sent 
people into movements of resistance around the 
RNC to disrupt, discredit and to spread ideas in 
the context of it, which the authorities then 
turn around and seized on to attack the movement.

For any movement which is serious about trying to 
challenge the hideous objectives of the most 
powerful imperialist empire that has ever 
existed, there is a difficult contradiction to 
handle well. On the one hand, how not to easily 
get set up or entrapped and do this without 
falling over into creating an atmosphere of 
suspicion and paranoia. The former is aimed at 
destroying the movement from the outside and the 
latter would essentially destroy it, but from the 
inside. The role of the informants and undercover 
agents in Minneapolis and in the months leading 
up to the RNC is important to examine.

Who Were the Targets of the Government?

First, the use of informants/undercover agents 
has a lot of bearing on the magnitude of the 
injustice of the raids, arrests and prosecutions 
of demonstrators, including the case of the RNC 8 
who are charged with felony riot and property 
damage in furtherance of terrorism and face 12+ 
years in jail as well, and undoubtedly will 
continue to be an important element of legal 
defense strategies. (See Part 1: The Case of the 
RNC 8) Second, there are important general 
lessons to learn for all who are struggling to 
bring into being a better world. Learning those 
lessons now is one way of raising standards so as 
to not get derailed by the government’s 
strategies arrayed against progressive, radical and revolutionary movements.

Who were the so-called terrorists that the 
government was busy enlisting informants to 
ferret out? Apparently the kind that hung out in 
vegan potlucks. An article from the alternative 
paper, the Minneapolis/St. Paul City Pages, 
reported that a University of Minnesota student 
was approached by the FBI on behalf of the Joint 
Terrorist Task Force (JTTF), in May 2008, months 
before the convention. The student had been 
busted for a tagging incident on campus and the 
campus security police summoned him to a meeting 
with the FBI agent. She tried to recruit him. 
“She told me I had the perfect ‘look’ and that I 
had the perfect personality­they kept saying I 
was friendly and personable­for what they were 
looking for,” the student told City Pages. He 
said they wanted an informant “to show up at 
vegan potlucks throughout the Twin Cities and rub 
shoulders with RNC protestors, schmoozing his way 
into their inner circles, then reporting back to 
the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force.” According 
to the article, and this is very important, the 
student would be “compensated for his efforts, 
but only if his involvement yielded an arrest.” 
And equally as important, this student went 
public immediately and exposed the JTTF effort to recruit him.

The Emergence of an FBI Informant-Provocateur

In December 2008, Brandon Darby emerged as a key 
FBI informant-provocateur in relationship to the 
RNC protest scene. There is much that remains to 
be learned about Darby. Some of his closest 
former associates have started a working group 
and a web site to piece together the picture of 
his role and “personna” by gathering information 
and analysis from people who knew him over a 
number of years. These activists are trying to 
determine at what point Darby began informing for 
the government and what his behavior looked like 
so others can learn from their experience. Those 
who knew him feel deeply betrayed by his actions. 
While almost everyone was shocked, some were less 
so than others, as there had been controversy and 
disagreement for some time among those who worked 
closely with him about his role. This was well 
before it became known he was an informant.

There is a lot of uncertainty about when or why 
Darby became an informant or if he was in fact an 
undercover agent (an actual employee, not a 
volunteer as he claims), especially in the wake 
of Hurricane Katrina. It is not known what other 
investigations he might have been a part of 
besides in relation to the RNC protests. It is 
important that the movement and those who knew 
him scientifically figure this out as he has been 
a known social activist for 10 years in the Austin and New Orleans areas.

While being careful to not jump to an unwarranted 
conclusion, it is worth considering what Darby 
himself says about his “ideological” change of 
heart, (particularly in the context of the “we 
are one” patriotism promoted by Obama that there 
is not a “red America and a blue America” but the 
United States of America). What is noteworthy 
here is that Darby justifies his actions not on 
the basis of Bush-style reactionary Republican 
politics, but on more traditional values of 
American bourgeois democracy: that as long as 
people are allowed to participate in politics 
within the (highly confining limits of) the 
political system, it’s appropriate for the 
government to spy on and attempt to imprison 
those who do not confine their political opposition to those constraints.

In an interesting piece titled, “The Informant, 
Revolutionary to Rat: The uneasy journey of 
Brandon Darby,” by Diana Welch, Austin Chronicle, 
January 23, 2009, the author interviews Darby and 
reports that while Darby says “he is ‘the 
furthest thing from a Republican,’ it was 
protecting the rights of Republicans, ...that 
finally persuaded him to work with the feds. ‘One 
morning, I woke up and realized that I disagree 
with the group I was associating with as much as 
I disagree with the Republican Party,’ he 
recalls. Later the article goes on to quote Darby 
saying he opposed the RNC Welcoming Committee 
because when “they organize around the country, 
not to protest but to specifically prevent 
another group of American citizens to exercise 
their right to assemble, the U.S. government is 
going to get involved,” he says. “And they should 
get involved, and I support it wholeheartedly.”

After interviewing Darby and others who have 
worked with him including some who suspected him 
long ago of being an agent, in Common Ground and 
in Austin, the author Welch writes, “None of this 
fully explains why Darby chose to go undercover 
as an FBI informant and surreptitiously spy on 
his friends when he could have instead simply 
left the movement and tried to get involved in 
public policy in some other productive way. ‘I’ve 
watched countless activists begin to work in the 
Legislature and begin to do things that 
participate in the system; we have a system that 
is wide open for our involvement,’ he [Darby] 
said. ‘You can get involved and have a say so; if 
you disagree with the way our city is run, you 
can get involved. If you have an ideological bent 
that’s on social justice, you can become a law 
enforcement officer, you can get involved with the FBI, or a lawyer.’”

One reason Darby’s working as an informant was 
such a big deal was because Darby was a major 
figure in Common Ground (a group formed in the 
wake of Katrina to enlist volunteers in clean-up 
and rebuilding efforts in New Orleans) and he 
used those credentials to do the government’s 
dirty work of spying on people who were trying to 
oppose the government’s crimes. Again, it is not 
known yet if Darby was an informant at any point 
when he worked with Common Ground in New Orleans. 
Darby has only publicly admitted he was paid by 
the government for his role as an informant since 2007.

Darby’s identity as a key informant became known 
during a case involving two men from Austin, 
Texas who were arrested during the course of the 
RNC protests. These two defendants do not have 
anything to do with the case of the RNC 8. When 
Darby’s role as an informant emerged, a 
co-founder of Common Ground and a long time 
friend of Darby initially publicly defended him 
against what seemed like possible snitch 
jacketing of Darby (i.e., falsely labeling Darby 
an agent). Discovery materials released during 
the case pointed strongly to Darby as the 
informant. Apparently, after being confronted by 
his former friends, Darby issued a public 
statement, arrogantly and unapologetically 
defending his role as an informant for the FBI as 
being in the best interests of the movement in 
order to protect it from “violent” elements.

The story of Darby the FBI informant sheds light 
on the government’s handiwork not only in the 
case of two Texas defendants arrested in 
conjunction with the RNC in Minnesota, but also 
on the underpinnings for the lurid and scary 
tales that authorities used to shape their 
rationales and pretexts and then fed to the 
public to justify their repression and the arrests.

According to a December 8, 2008 New York Times 
article: “Darby provided descriptions of meetings 
with the defendants [ed: two from Texas later 
arrested at the RNC] and dozens of other people 
in Austin, Minneapolis and St. Paul. He wore 
recording devices at times, including a 
transmitter embedded in his belt during the 
convention. He also went to Minnesota ... four 
months before the Republican gathering and gave 
detailed narratives to law enforcement 
authorities of several meetings they had with 
activists from New York, San Francisco, Montana and other places.”

Darby, age 32, had a lot of “street cred” lore 
surrounding him for his supposed role in the 
immediate aftermath of Katrina and for his work 
with Common Ground. In the spring of 2008, he 
worked with an affinity group in Austin, Texas 
which included two friends in their early 20s 
(McKay and Crowder) who wanted to protest at the 
RNC. Both were charged in Minnesota with the 
making of firebombs. They were not charged with 
ever using one. While Crowder pled guilty, McKay 
decided to fight his entrapment by Darby. McKay’s 
lawyer, Jeff DeGree, told the courtroom 
(according to an article in the Minneapolis Star Tribune on January 26, 2009):

“This is a case of a government informant who 
took it upon himself to make things happen,” he 
told jurors in his opening statement. He said 
that Darby showed McKay and Crowder jujitsu moves 
and lambasted protesters for looking like “a 
bunch of tofu-eaters,” saying, “You better start 
eating meat to bulk up and prepare for this,” 
DeGree said. And it was Darby who planted the 
seeds of violence after their [homemade] shields 
were seized, the attorney said. “Brandon Darby 
went crazy when that happened, [saying,] ‘We’re 
not going to take this lying down. You’ve got to 
do something about it,’” DeGree said.

McKay took the witness stand on his own behalf to 
argue he was entrapped by Darby into doing 
something he never would have done otherwise. FBI 
agent Sellers testified that Darby wore a 
transmitter on the night of September 2, 2008, 
when McKay allegedly told of plans to use the 
firebombs. Sellers said five federal agents were 
listening to the conversation, but they made no 
recording! And Sellers was the only one who took 
notes. How convenient that no less than five FBI 
agents forgot a tape recorder!

On February 2, 2009, in a highly unusual 
development the judge declared a hung jury 
because the jury could not reach a verdict of 
guilt or acquittal in McKay’s trial! The judge 
released McKay on bond pending a new trial. He 
had been sitting in jail since September 2008.

Additional Informants

While Darby is one of the main informants for the 
FBI to surface in conjunction with the extensive 
repression surrounding the RNC, he is not the 
only one to have been publicly identified. There 
are at least three others who have covered in a 
December 1, 2008 Minneapolis Star Tribune article.

The father of one of the defendants pointed out 
that the Minneapolis Star Tribune newspaper has 
not had one good, substantial piece on the case 
of the RNC 8, yet they did manage to review 1,000 
pages of notes from undercover operatives for the 
local sheriff’s department. Similarly, the New 
York Times did a story on Darby’s emergence as an 
informant after years as an activist in New 
Orleans and Austin but not on the scope of the 
repression and the legal cases unfolding in 
Minneapolis in relation to the RNC. These 
undercover agent stories prey on most people’s 
ignorance about the historical role of informants 
in political cases and movements as agents for 
the fabrication of evidence, for lying about what 
activists were planning and/or entrapment­all for 
the purpose of proving legal charges against 
those the authorities target. They also provide 
justification for the heavy hammer of repression 
that was brought down against all the protestors. 
These stories of informants can convey that 
somehow the ensuing legal cases are based on 
first-hand eyewitness accounts, so the general 
public should not be too alarmed that young 
people and protestors are being railroaded to 
prison. And at the same time it can breed 
distrust among activists, creating a paranoid 
atmosphere so it can be a “win-win” for the 
authorities to cover these cases through the eyes 
of the informants. This is one of the things that 
support for the protestors and exposure of the 
government’s repressive strategies can counter.

The Minneapolis Star Tribune ran an article on 
December 1, 2008, “‘Anarchist’ looked like 
someone’s mom. A deputy sheriff and two others 
infiltrated the RNC Welcoming Committee before 
GOP convention.” (Except where noted, all of the 
descriptions and quotes which follow are drawn from the Star Tribune article.)

The local sheriff’s department (which was working 
in close connection with the JTTF and other 
federal law enforcement agencies) in August 2007 
sent Marilyn Hedstrom, a woman in her 50s into a 
storefront used by activists in Minneapolis and 
introduced herself as Norma Jean. According to 
her reports, she told activists she had issues 
with President Bush and the Iraq war.

Hedstrom, a narcotics officer, was partnered with 
a guard in the county jail in her 20s, who posed 
as Amanda, Hedstrom’s niece. “Amanda,” now a 
deputy, halted her undercover work after a few 
months. The sheriff, Fletcher, told the Star 
Tribune reporter that Amanda “didn’t have the 
level of acceptance that Marilyn had.” Hedstrom 
told activists that Amanda dropped out after 
finding a new boyfriend. Activists point out that 
Amanda had a fake Facebook page.

According to the article, most of the anarchists 
were decades younger than Hedstrom, but Fletcher 
said that posed no problem. “We’re not always 
looking for a person that seems to fit 
perfectly,” he said. “Someone that is not an 
obvious fit ... is least likely to be suspected.” 
Also, he said, pairing Hedstrom with “Amanda” increased their safety.

Hedstrom went “dumpster diving” at the group’s 
instructions to find food for the anarchists to 
eat. She cooked meals for some meetings, ran 
errands, coordinated committee discussions and 
represented the organization at some gatherings 
of the protest movement. She became friends of 
some of the activists. And she, ironically, even 
helped on security for the anarchists, who 
worried that the cops were infiltrating them.

The Star Tribune goes on to describe a third 
informant (paid and rewarded later with a job as 
a jail guard with an avenue to become a deputy). 
Chris Dugger “gave off different vibes and was 
often under a cloud of suspicion. In his late 
20s, he was ‘kind of muscular,’ had tattoos and 
looked like a biker.” An activist account says 
that Dugger “portrayed himself as participating 
in a radical project for the first time and 
avoided helping except for the most basic tasks.” 
According to the undercover agents’ reports, at a 
meeting where Hedstrom was the facilitator, 
someone expressed concern that Dugger was a cop 
and he “became emotional and told them how bad he 
felt, he wiped his eyes and blew his nose.” He 
denied he was an informer. The memo said two 
activists told him they “don’t think he is a cop. 
They said a cop would have just walked away and 
never returned and wouldn’t cry.” In another 
chilling part, the article says that by August 
2008, Dugger was urging an anarchist to suspect 
another anarchist of being an informer.

There is a fourth informant who worked for the 
FBI like Darby. His identity has been confirmed 
by news coverage of the January 2009 arrest of 
Andrew Darst for an incident where he allegedly 
broke into a house by ripping the door off the 
hinges and confronting his wife and striking two 
men present at the gathering. In an embarrassing 
development for the state, Darst is now charged 
with two felony counts of first- and 
second-degree burglary as well as fifth-degree 
assault, a misdemeanor. Darst is a key 
prosecution witness in the case of the RNC 8. His 
arrest for a violent rampage will likely become 
an issue as it reveals his instability and propensity for violence.

When he was an FBI informant, Darst was known as 
Andy “Panda,” about 30 years old. According to 
those familiar with the movement scene in 
Minneapolis, “Panda” began attending RNC 
Welcoming Committee meetings, introduced to the 
group as an avid urban explorer, and was (and 
still may be) active in the regional urban 
exploring scene. According to an account posted 
on Indymedia in the Twin Cities (Minneapolis/St. 
Paul), Darst was “first seen within the anarchist 
circle at the Crimethinc convergence three years 
ago, and has attended the convergence annually 
ever since. Like the other infiltrators, he was 
active in committee meetings and attended 
functions with other, non-anarchist 
organizations. Importantly, however, ‘Panda’ was 
also involved in anti-RNC activity independent of 
and unrelated to the RNC Welcoming Committee.” 
According to this same account, in addition to 
recording meetings he attended, his apartment in 
Minneapolis was wired for audio and video recording.

* * *

The on-going exposure of these agents and 
scientific (rigorous, and unsparingly objective) 
analysis about how they were able to insinuate 
their way into movements are important both for 
the legal cases and in combating repression in 
general because they will continue to be sent in 
to derail, disrupt and set up organizations and 
people who the government considers a threat, 
including those who are fighting for a better world.

Freedom Archives
522 Valencia Street
San Francisco, CA 94110

415 863-9977

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