Two men were arrested yesterday after an attack on the Colorado Democratic Party headquarters in Denver, in which 11 windows, displaying posters supporting health-care reform, were smashed.
It looked like a case of conservative rage boiling over. State party chair Pat Waak thought so, declaring, in comments eagerly picked up by Think Progress: "Clearly there's been an effort on the other side to stir up hate. I think this is the consequence of it."
But wait. Police soon announced that they had arrested 24-year old Maurice Schwenkler, who allegedly wore a shirt over his face and latex gloves during the attack, then fled on a bicycle before quickly being caught. And Schwenkler doesn't exactly fit the profile of a right-winger.
According to campaign finance records looked at by the Denver Post, a person by that name last November was paid $500 by a group called Colorado Citizens Coalition. That group supported numerous Democratic campaigns last cycle, and the woman registered as its treasurer, Julie Wells, has been active with several liberal causes. Wells did not respond to TPMmuckraker's request for comment.
Schwenkler was also reportedly arrested for unlawful assembly at the 2008 GOP convention in Minneapolis.
And according to WestWord, the Denver alternative weekly, Schwenkler's address is the former location of the Derailer Bicycle Collective, a "radical, free bike fix-it shop". The current owner of the house is a well-known progressive activist who was once the U.S. coordinator for "Potters For Peace"
What about the other attacker? Details are sketchy, but an anarchist news site, for what its worth, is reporting that a person named Ariel Attack, a "Denver-based anarchist," has been arrested in connection with the incident. A supporter writes: "At this moment, we do not know Ariel's status within the jail, especially regarding her gender classification."
Posts by a writer using the name Ariel Attack have appeared at a site called Queers Against Obama, whose tagline declares that "Obamamania is nothing more than yet another manufactured nationalist frenzy." One post is titled "Obama's War On Queer and Trans Youth."
So there you have it. Recently, we've gotten a few glimpses into the fetid cesspool of hate and violence that characterizes the far-right fringe. Smashing windows is, of course, a far cry from murder. But are we now being reminded that the right doesn't have a monopoly on political violence?
Still, it's hard to know what's really going on here. If Maurice Schwenkler and Ariel Attack are indeed the perpetrators, was this a deliberate bait-and-switch, similar to the one perpetrated by the McCain volunteer, with the goal being to discredit conservative opponents of health-care reform? Or, was it more straightforward: far-left nihilists using violence to express their contempt for Obama and the Democratic party? Or some twisted combination of both?
Who knows? But we'll keep you posted as the facts get clearer.
Late Update: OK, the plot thickens...Gawker asserts that Ariel Attack is actually the same person as Maurice, noting the facts that only one person has been arrested, and that the anarchist posting says Ariel "is listed in the jail records and media under her birth name." It seems like that's probably right.
Assuming that's true, there's a broader implication for the story. It seemed to us in writing this post earlier that the goal of the attack was to discredit conservatives, by getting them blamed for it. That was because the one person who had been reliably reported to have been arrested had a background working for a group supportive of Democrats. But now, given that the person arrested has anarchist ties and is on the record as a vocal left-wing opponent of Obama, it looks like that interpretation was wrong. It now seems more likely that the goal was more straight-forward: to express anger at Obama and the Democrats.
Apologies for the evolving take on this story. We'll keep working to get a handle on it as things progress.