Brandon Darby, co-founder of Common Grounds, has publicly admitted to working with the Federal Bureau of Investigation and being responsible for the arrest of two activists from Austin, Texas. On Monday he wrote an open letter in explanation of his actions, though the letter does not disclose many details.
In the letter, Darby defends his choice to work for the FBI, admitting that he was not approached by them, but that he actually took the initiative himself when he began disagreeing with his affinity group’s tactics and increased militancy. He wrote that the government is not out to silence dissent or take down activists, but that they merely intend to stop crimes from taking place.
It is not clear exactly how long he has worked for the FBI for or how many people he gave information on, but it appears that he has been an informant for about two to three years. His information led the to the arrests of David McKay and Bradley Crowder, who are charged with making Molotov cocktails which they allegedly intended to use at the Republican National Convention protests in St. Paul this past summer. Activists say that Darby actively encouraged and provoked the two men, who he hadn’t even met yet, to take illegal action.
It is also being speculated that his information may have had something to do with the arrests of eight activists who were rounded up before the week of RNC protests could even begin. The activists, known as the “RNC 8”, are being charged with four felony counts each.
Many of his peers defended him before he was officially outed, saying that Darby would never spy on his fellow activists and that doing so would be completely against his ideology. Darby disagreed, saying in his letter (which he ironically signed “In Solidarity”) that his ideology supports his choice, a choice he “strongly defends.”
I feel the need to editorialize and say that I find the idea of a fellow activist volunteering himself to the FBI to be quite scary. Becoming an informant is always abhorrent, but even more so when it is done gladly. This man says he did not spy on his friends to cut a deal or to make money — he did it because he honestly thought it was the right thing to do.
This may make him slightly less despicable than those who break their ethics for money, but it has frightening implications for radical organizers. If activists cannot trust one another with tactics and secrets, who can be trusted?
I am strictly opposed to violence, but I believe very seriously in solidarity. If I disagree with someone in my affinity group, I use the framework that radicals have created to let that person know how I feel. I expect the same in return, and it literally hurts my stomach to know that people who do work as good as Darby did would turn to the federal government, who is not exactly known for its adherence to pacifism, in order to resolve tactical disputes.