Five men, at least three of them anarchists, plotted to blow up a bridge near Cleveland, but there was no danger to the public because the explosives were inoperable and were controlled by an undercover FBI employee, the agency said Tuesday in announcing the men’s arrests.
The target of the plot was a bridge that carries a four-lane state highway over part of the Cuyahoga Valley National Park in the Brecksville area, about 15 miles south of downtown Cleveland, the FBI said.
Authorities said three of the men were arrested Monday and are self-described anarchists, not tied to international terrorism.
Occupy Cleveland media coordinator Jacob Wagner said at least some of the suspects had attended the group’s events but that they weren’t affiliated with or representing the group.
All of the suspects, ranging in age from 20 to 35, were expected to appear in federal court Tuesday afternoon. It wasn’t immediately clear if they had attorneys.
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.
The other two men were being charged Tuesday.
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.”
Some Occupy Cleveland members know the suspects, but the protest group had no knowledge of the alleged plan and would denounce any such violence, Wagner said.
“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 announcement of the arrests came as Occupy demonstrators joined Tuesday protests marking International Workers Day, or May Day.