Brandon Darby foiled terror attack, but the men convicted of plotting against 2008 Republican Convention win recognition

Matthew Vadum Senior Vice President, Capital Research Center
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You’ve probably never heard of Brandon Darby.

The former community organizer who saved American lives by undermining a left-wing terrorist plot at the 2008 Republican convention used to be a proud member of the radical left.

He called for the overthrow of the U.S. government. He hated cops. He consorted with eco-terrorist tree-spikers, radical feminists and black nationalists. He was approached to rob an armored car and asked to commit arson to fight gentrification. He mouthed politically correct slogans about the Bush administration. Government didn’t care about people, and he thought the botched response to Katrina proved it.

When he learned people were suffering in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, he moved there, defying police orders not to enter the stricken city. With $50 he co-founded Common Ground Relief in the home of a former Black Panther. Despite many obstacles, Common Ground alleviated some suffering in the devastated city, especially the hard-hit Ninth Ward. The group gutted flood-damaged houses and provided free health care and meals. In its first three years it accommodated 22,000 volunteers.

Gradually Darby began to question his political beliefs. After initially having rocky relations with the New Orleans police, he came to realize that they were all on the same side because they wanted to help people.

“Everybody else [in Common Ground] remained with this protest, ‘fight the power’ deal but I started developing relationships with people in the power structure in the city and in different levels of government so my ideas started to really change,” he told “This American Life.” “I was, ‘Why are we wearing masks and protesting? I mean we should go meet with them. I have the mayor’s cell phone number. I eat dinner with their families. Why are we acting this way?’”

After years of in-your-face protests and confrontational tactics, Darby rejected the radical left and its culture of political violence. He came to realize that America, for all its faults, wasn’t such a bad place after all.

“I felt I had a duty to atone after badmouthing my country for so many years,” Darby told The Daily Caller. “I love my country.”

When he learned of a plan to attack the 2008 Republican convention in Saint Paul, Minn., he felt compelled to act.

Darby assisted an FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force and infiltrated an outfit called the Austin Affinity Group that joined with a larger coalition of progressive organizations wryly named the “RNC Welcoming Committee.”

“It was a group of people whose explicit purpose was to organize a group of ‘black bloc’ anarchists to shut the Republican convention down by any means necessary,” Darby said. He said the activists he met at an anarchist bookstore in the Texas state capital, “showed videos of people throwing Molotov cocktails and they were giving people ideas.”

The two activists on whom Darby informed, David Guy McKay and Bradley Neil Crowder, received prison terms. McKay pleaded guilty and was sentenced in May to 48 months in prison for possession of an unregistered “firearm,” illegal manufacture of a firearm and possession of a firearm with no serial number. The previous week, Crowder made a plea bargain and was sentenced to 24 months in prison for possession of an unregistered firearm.

U.S. District Judge Michael Davis told McKay he crossed the line between peaceful dissent and violent protest. “You were leading the charge. You and Crowder were coming up here [to Minnesota] to do anarchy against the system.”

McKay and Crowder had distributed homemade riot shields to help demonstrators block streets near the Xcel Energy Center in order to prevent GOP delegates from participating in the convention. The shields were discovered and confiscated.

They also planned to throw Molotov cocktails at delegates and police. Later the two changed the plan and plotted to throw the bombs at a checkpoint area for vehicles.

Police found eight assembled Molotov cocktails consisting of bottles filled with gasoline and wicks made from tampons. “They mixed gasoline with oil so it would stick to clothing and skin and burn longer,” Darby told me.

Although McKay and Crowder conspired to deprive Americans of their rights to free speech and assembly, the duo are celebrated by many on the left. Dubbed the Texas 2, documentary filmmakers are making a movie about them called “Better This World.” The documentary received an HBO Documentary Films Fellowship.

Yet Darby, who disrupted McKay and Crowder’s violent terrorist plot, isn’t being celebrated.

Google his name and the words “snitch” and “rat” appear among the few hits generated. Cyber-squatters appropriated his name and created a hateful Web site to defame him.

Darby has learned that if you disrupt a terrorist attack on Americans by Islamic fundamentalists as Dutch tourist Jasper Schuringa did on Christmas Day, you’re a hero, but disrupt a terrorist attack on Americans by left-wing fundamentalists and you might as well be a terrorist yourself.

This is because among many on the left — even some moderate liberals — there is a presumption of good intentions by terrorists who claim to pursue social justice ideals. “My left-wing crazies are better than your right-wing crazies,” progressive talk radio host Thom Hartmann said in an interview last year. “Our left-wing crazies are incited to violence because they’re trying to create a better world.”

To those on the extreme left, such as ACORN founder Wade Rathke, intentions are paramount.

A professional agitator for the radical, often violent group Students for a Democratic Society in the 1960s, Rathke denounced Darby for working with the authorities. It’s “one thing to disagree, but it’s a whole different thing to rat on folks,” he said.

Darby detects a double standard.

“If you flip the equation around and it had been a group of conservatives, not only would everyone expect the government to infiltrate them, they would expect the FBI to stop them and charge with conspiracy to violate the rights of women and others to exercise their rights,” he said.