SEATTLE — Members of the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force tracked Portland, Ore., anarchists to Seattle where they joined the May Day protest and are suspected of damaging a federal courthouse building, according to an affidavit filed in federal court in Seattle.
The Oct. 3 search-warrant affidavit was mistakenly unsealed in U.S. District Court in Seattle on Thursday and quickly resealed, The Seattle Times reported Sunday. It identifies six suspects, but none has been charged.
The Times reported that the warrant makes clear that state and federal agents were watching some members of the small group of Portland anarchists even before May Day. The affidavit, signed by a member of the FB task force, says they were tracking members as early as April 9, when they and others were observed by FBI surveillance at a Portland event that day changing out of black clothing.
Agents later watched the anarchists as they headed up for the May 1 protest, the Times reported.
According to the affidavit, they’re suspected of committing crimes, including conspiracy, destruction of government property and interstate travel with intent to riot.
Authorities believe the anarchists were among about a dozen black-clad protesters who attacked the William Kenzo Nakamura U.S. Courthouse in downtown Seattle during the May Day protest.
FBI agents reported spending long hours reviewing surveillance-camera footage, news video and still photos of the crowd that day, trying to identify suspects based on clues.
The investigation picked up speed after Portland police conducted a search May 3 of a known anarchist crash pad. They recovered “distinctive clothing” from some of the alleged conspirators that was observed being worn by members of the black bloc protesters in Seattle, the Times reported.
That led to three FBI searches July 25 in Portland where they recovered clothing, phones and laptop computers, according to the federal affidavit. An additional search warrant related to the May Day protests was executed in July targeting an address in South Seattle.
Among the items seized in the searches were clothing and backpacks that match some of the six suspects’ May Day attire, the Times reported.
Meanwhile, prosecutors were bringing witnesses before a federal grand jury. Three witnesses ended up being held in civil contempt for refusing to testify, though Leah Lynn Plante of Portland was released after a week. Her lawyer declined to comment. She did not return a phone message.
Grand jury proceedings are secret, and Langlie, the U.S. Attorney’s Office spokeswoman, declined to comment on specifics.
Katherine Olejnik, 23, a recent Evergreen College graduate, was among those jailed. She is not suspected in the courthouse vandalism, court papers say. Her lawyer said she was called in to testify about someone she knows.
But Olejnik declined to testify even after she was given full immunity from prosecution by the judge.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office issued a statement Sept. 13 about grand-jury proceedings, noting: “We do not investigate or seek to silence lawful free speech, or dissent. We do, however, investigate and enforce the law where speech crosses the line and becomes threats or acts of violence.”
Matthew Duran, a roommate of Olejnik’s, was also jailed for civil contempt after he refused to testify before the grand jury. He is not suspected in the courthouse vandalism. Appeals of Olejnik’s and Duran’s case are pending.
“One of our concerns was they were really targeting him because they perceived him to be associated with the anarchist community,” his attorney, Kim Gordon, told the newspaper. “It’s kind of a fishing expedition.”