Just days before May Day, federal agents this morning arrested and charged a man involved in last year’s anti-capitalist march. The timing of the arrest, law enforcement claims, is entirely coincidental and unrelated to protestors currently prepping for the first May Day in Trump's America.
Federal prosecutors are charging 32-year-old Wil Casey Floyd with “unlawful possession of a destructive device,” which could land him in prison for up to 10 years. The charge can also carry up to a $250,000 fine.
Investigators say Floyd made Molotov cocktails from green Heineken beer bottles, an "unknown flammable liquid," tampons, and strips of white cloth. He allegedly brought the homemade projectiles to last year’s May Day march, and around 7:30 pm near 4th Avenue South and South Seattle Boulevard, threw one at an officer. According to the federal complaint, Floyd did not light the bottle, but the device still ignited when it landed near an officer, causing him to accidentally drop a flash-bang device. The officer, Anthony Ducre, suffered a burn to his lower right leg, according to the complaint.
Signed by FBI agent Michael Louis Baldino, the complaint says investigators initially misidentified another protester as the Molotov thrower and charged him in state court. Those charges were later dropped. Investigators identified Floyd in October and unsuccessfully tried to locate him for six months. They confronted him at the Denver airport on April 20, obtained his fingerprints and a DNA sample, and finally arrested him this morning at his mom’s house in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin. In other words, federal terrorism agents took six months to find and arrest a 32-year-old anarchist living with his mom before holding a press conference celebrating their Good Police Work.
On April 20, Baldino says Floyd confirmed to investigators that he assembled the Molotov cocktails, which he learned how to make online, and threw “several” at officers. He told investigators he did not light any of them and “had no intention of doing so.” According to the complaint, he “panicked after throwing the Molotov cocktails,” dropped his bag, and shed his black bloc clothes.
The FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force investigated the case and made the arrest, but Special Agent in Charge Jay Tabb offered little explanation today for why the feds took the lead on the arrest of a protester who did not target federal employees or property.
“I don’t know that I would go so far as to call this a terrorism incident,” Tabb told reporters today, saying the task force worked on the case “because of the partnerships already built with state and federal partners and agencies.”
It’s not the first time the FBI has taken an interest in Seattle’s May Day protesters, but a spokesperson for U.S. Attorney Annette Hayes said she was not aware of other cases in which the feds have tracked down and arrested a single protester like this.
Is Seattle’s black bloc now a federal priority?
“We prioritize protecting people’s constitutional rights to assembly, peaceful demonstration, and free speech,” Tabb said. “When it exceeds that, we prioritize our investigative efforts to meet that.”
Seattle Police Chief Kathleen O’Toole called the timing of the arrest “entirely coincidental,” but said “it is an opportunity for us to send a message to those who would bring something of this nature to an event. It’s incredibly dangerous.”
The timing may be a coincidence, but the SPD’s and FBI’s messaging sure sounds intentional.
In a press release, Hayes calls out black bloc tactics, saying Floyd’s “disguise was useless in his effort to evade responsibility for his actions.” Tabb said in that release that authorities “worked tirelessly to uncover the faces under the black masks who chose to turn a peaceful protest into a violent confrontation”
“We hope this arrest and prosecution will deter those who think they can stay anonymous while causing injury and destruction on the streets of Seattle,” Tabb said.
So, what should we make of all this? Well, it turns out facts that seem contradictory can be true at the same time!
The black bloc tactic works to help conceal your identity and endure pepper spray, while (obviously) not guaranteeing evasion from arrest.
One Seattle anarchist can be arrested for showing up with Molotov cocktails, while his larger, inherently leaderless movement—because, you know, anarchy—remains nothing more than a mostly harmless, annual annoyance.
May Day feels pointless and redundant, and yet, also like something we all have to cover for some fucking reason.