Compassion comes from a limitless well and we don’t have to dole it out sparingly. As a matter of fact, compassion is most called for in circumstances that try patience.

I think specifically of the Cleveland Five, mostly overgrown kids, young men who were part of the Occupy Cleveland movement. The FBI people came up with a plot to blow up a bridge, resources to do the plot, approached these young men with the idea, and encouraged and coaxed them to do it.

The five were among the most irresponsible of the bunch of activists—immature, some troubled. At least one of them had been to prison before.

But they are lovable despite all this, to me, at any rate. I’ve been through troubled times, and I think many excellent people have had these times, and it’s just something one gets over with time. These kids had an adolescent, creative spirit. I think of one of them and how he dressed, River Phoenix good looks, purposefully torn jeans. These kids wanted to be part of something larger than themselves.

The fact that they were caught up in a good movement was great (Occupy Cleveland operates according to principles of nonviolence), but unfortunately in Cleveland they were victimized by someone working on trying to discredit the movement.

The Cleveland Five had ideals despite falling for the plot. They thought outside of their own needs much of the time. They actually participated immensely in the maintenance of the info tent downtown. It was physically and mentally hard because one would not really know if another person was going to come for relief. Also, cold during the winter. Heck, they were out there all winter for lengthy periods of time, a lot of them!

They helped feed the homeless and they also made Public Square safer. Crime went down in the square when the movement was there. And these young men were a part of the movement.

I felt that due to their immaturity, remnants of adolescent anger and bravado, they were more susceptible to the person who was working for the FBI. The FBI person came up with the plot and supplied the means. Without him doing that, the young men would’ve not done anything like what they are being punished for.

It was unfair. It was like creating a virtual reality environment in which no harm can be done (because the explosives were set up to not work) and luring susceptible people in, but then punishing them for real as though they’d masterminded the situation.

Another analogy: it’s like those FBI people were drug pushers going around a junior high school tempting students. In that case, the law might penalize the drug pushers rather than the junior high school students who fall for the drugs. The students might get counseling whereas the pusher might go to jail.

In my opinion the proper course of action is for the young men to go to psychiatric hospitals for a year or so and then be released. And for the FBI to be investigated by Congress and/or its own internal quality control mechanisms such that it stops entrapping people! Entrapment like what the FBI did = causing bad situations. Entrapment does not equal solving problems. Entrapment only equals causing problems.

You can help with legal costs of four of the five here…

~ Lady


3 Responses

  1. Dear Smith & Lady,

    While I agree with much of your position about the five young men there are a couple of points I would like to respond to.

    First, you compare the situation to a virtual reality where no harm can be done. I understand why you believe this. But I would also say that, at least from what has been reported in the FBI transcripts, the five did not appear to think they were participating in a virtual reality. If it is true that they fully expected their actions would result in the collapse of a very large bridge then it is real enough to them and that establishes an intention on their part.

    I understand that you say they were coaxed. If someone coaxes me to try to punch or hit them it doesn’t mean I must do it. I have a choice. Perhaps a better word would be ‘coerced’. I have heard that the five were given drugs and alcohol by the FBI informant person. If it can be proven that they were under the chemical influence of those substances at the time of the bridge actions and that they were intentionally given those substances in order to cloud their judgement then they would have a much better position of defense. Unfortunately I do not think the FBI or its informant would ever admit to that. In this case it was not a junior high school and these were not junior high school students. These young men, immature and full of bravado as they might be, had passed to the age of being men.

    And that leads to my second point. I think that this situation, if nothing else, should be a clear signal to all those who might identify with these young men that each one of us must ultimately accept responsibility for one’s own self. This does not preclude compassion for those less fortunate but it does require that one be honest with themselves and admit they have mental or emotional shortcomings, that they need help and then seek or at least be willing to accept that help when it is offered.

    I do not know if such help was ever offered to these young men. I am guessing that many gave them help with physical needs such as food and shelter but may not have been willing to confront them with an honest assessment about their level of maturity or their ability to be responsibly involved as active participants in something as potentially dangerous as a political movement.

    Some people seem to think that these five young men hurt the Occupy Cleveland reputation by their actions. There was certainly a negative effect but it seems to me that perhaps the Occupy Cleveland people should have taken better care of its reputation by identifying young drifters like these young men and telling them to stay away from trying to be activists until after they have demonstrated some ability to take care of themselves.

    In fact, I think the oldest one of the five was the same one who was the leaseholder at the warehouse space they were renting. This probably makes him look most responsible as a person and may have something to do with why he has decided to plead guilty. Never the less I think it is somewhat contradictory for those who claim these five young men were coaxed or entrapped into committing the alleged actions but yet from what I see there are some among the Occupy Cleveland people who feel that the oldest one who has pleaded guilty is a traitor, despite him being held in jail and under the direct influence of his accusers since their arrest. Why is it that when a young man is caught in the act of believing he is blowing up a bridge it is entrapment but when a young man is in jail for weeks, being questioned by his jailers and deprived of the freedom and comforts he is accustomed to that he is of free will and clear choice of mind if he chooses to plead guilty and is therefore a traitor to the others? Where is the compassion for him?

    But like I said, I only point these things out not because these young men should not deserve compassion but because I think there are those that surrounded these young men who still do not accept any responsibility themselves for the situation the five ended up in, for failing to take better care of those who tried to be activists but were not really ready for such things, for perhaps putting their own interests in the success of the movement and the benefit that these young men provided by letting them participate in other more peaceful activities ahead of what was really best for these young men as individuals.

    I think some of the older people in the Occupy Cleveland movement should have pulled these kids aside and told them “you are not ready for this”, “you have some serious issues and are using drugs and we will not let you be involved in this until after you address those things”.

    These are just my opinions but I thank you for listening to them and wish you the best in your struggle for justice and a better world. Peace to you.


  2. Thank you for writing this… will be sharing it.

    I think your thoughts and observations on this whole episode are right on target. I’ve thought very much the same about it from the start.. but you’ve put it into words in a way I have not.
    Sad that for the moment it accomplished what the government wanted. It has given the public the idea that the Occupy movement on the whole is just a bunch of crackpots. And not worthy of their further support or consideration. The fact that some of the brightest and most ethical thinkers in this country support this movement is thrown under the bus.

    It is just a matter of time for new life to be breathed into this movement. The civil rights and anti-apartheid movements had lots of hurdles to jump and many years to accomplish their goals. People are suffering and struggling… and they will not stay silent for ever.

    Anyway I will spread the word that there is a defense fund.

  3. Dear Ishaan,

    It is true that the young men didn’t know that they were being set up into a situation where they actually couldn’t cause harm.

    Here’s another way of looking at what happened. If you think about it, usually when people refer to plots they tend to be particularly antagonistic towards the person who “masterminded” the plot, the leader of the plot. In this case, the leader of the plot was the contingent from the FBI who caused this whole problem. Shouldn’t the FBI be prosecuted? I think that it should at least not do such things in the future. It ruined these young peoples’ lives. What good does that do?

    Regarding letting people into political movements, to prevent people from participating has a whole slew of problems and is counter to the purpose of the movement, which is to band together to achieve great things.

    We in Occupy didn’t know that these young men were involved in this plot. Plus, they did not do this as part of the Occupy movement. The movement did not know about it and did not sponsor it.

    How would one determine if someone is involved in something unsavory? We do not have omniscience. Would we profile anyone who looks edgy or says immature stuff? Heck, that would eliminate a lot of participants and basically, marginalize people. To participate in a movement can help people gain maturity and can be a part of community building that helps them along.

    And who would make the determination to kick people out of the movement? How would these decisions be made, especially in a movement based on the consensus model of decision-making? Do you know that we did agree as a community to adopt nonviolence?

    I personally do have compassion for Tony. I know some in the movement do not, but we are a diverse group of people.



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