Activists Raise Concerns About FBI Informant

Two Austinites, David Guy McKay, 22, and Bradley Neal Crowder, 23, are currently being held in Minnesota without bail for their alleged involvement in a plot to use Molotov cocktails during the Republican National Convention. The two will remain incarcerated as they await trial, currently set, after several postponements, for Jan. 26.

According to the affidavit prepared by Special Agent Christopher Langert, McKay and Crowder were identified by "a confidential human source ('CHS 1')" to be part of "a group of individuals involved in planning to disrupt" the RNC. The affidavit goes on to detail information given to the FBI by the informant, including information that led to St. Paul police illegally searching a trailer belonging to the group and seizing homemade riot shields as evidence.

In an open letter written Dec. 29, Brandon Michael Darby, local activist and former director of the prominent post-Katrina recovery effort Common Ground Relief, revealed that it was in fact he who had supplied the information currently keeping Crowder and McKay behind bars. "The simple truth is that I have chosen to work with the Federal Bureau of [I]nvestigation," Darby wrote. "Like many of you, I do my best to act in good conscience and to do what I believe to be most helpful to the world. Though my views on how to give of myself have changed substantially over the years, ultimately the motivations behind my choices remain the same. I strongly stand behind my choices in this matter." Darby goes on to explain that his reasoning for becoming an informant, a role that he claims began in November 2007, was due to his belief that his comrades were going to participate in violent, illegal actions.

Darby's admission came months after rumors surfaced that he was "CHS 1." At the time, local activists came to Darby's defense. Now that Darby has come forward, however, the mood has shifted, and a local group calling itself the Austin Informant Working Group has coalesced. In its written statement, the group calls into question Darby's stated length of involvement with the FBI, citing information that suggests his involvement goes back as far as 2006. The group is also concerned by Darby's stated reason for working with the FBI – to stop McKay and Crowder from performing violent acts – as they claim Darby hadn't yet met the defendants as of November 2007.

There are also questions being raised as to whether or not Darby's role in the acts leading up to the arrests could be counted as entrapment. Another recent press release from the Austin Informant Working Group quotes Gabby Hicks, who was with Darby during the convention: "As an older seasoned activist, Darby had a lot of sway over Crowder and McKay, making them susceptible to his often militant rhetoric," said Hicks. "He was always the one to suggest violence, when the rest of us clearly disagreed with those strategies."

The sense of betrayal among the Austin Informant Working Group activists is clear. "Over the years Brandon Darby has established strong ties with individuals in many different radical communities across the United States," the letter reads. "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 those of us who were closest to him."

The group's written statement closes with a reminder of those who were most affected by Darby's choices: McKay and Crowder. "In light of these revelations and what we know about Brandon Darby, we believe they were set up and that the charges should be dropped."

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