Thomas J. Sobocinski, Special Agent in Charge, FBI Baltimore Field Office, speaks during a news conference in Baltimore, Monday, Feb. 6, 2023. Sobocinski and Erek L. Barron, U.S. Attorney for Maryland, announced the arrests and a federal criminal complaint charging Sarah Beth Clendaniel, of Catonsville, and Brandon Clint Russell, of Orlando, with conspiracy to destroy an energy facility. (Amy Davis/The Baltimore Sun via AP)

Baltimore was the target of a foiled terrorist attack on the city’s power stations by two White extremists. Maryland’s Sarah Beth Clendaniel and Florida’s Brandon Clint Russell were arrested on charges of conspiracy to damage energy facilities. They planned “to inflict maximum harm” on the power grid with the aim to “completely destroy” Baltimore, U.S. Attorney Erek Barron said at a news conference.

This predominantly Black city of 580,000 residents, according to the Census, has a median income level of $54,000, well below the national level of $69,000. Destroying the power grid in the middle of the winter would leave people without electricity, but the cold weather would intensify their suffering.

“This type of behavior is endemic in America,” Dr. Wilmer Leon, author and commentator told The Final Call.   “These people were willing to shut down an entire city in the hopes of, as I think they said, bringing the city to the ground because they’re racist and they’re White supremacists.

Workers work on equipment at the West End Substation, at 6910 NC Hwy 211 in West End, N.C., Dec. 5, 2022, where a serious attack on critical infrastructure has caused a power outage to many people around Southern Pines, N.C. A Maryland woman conspired with a Florida neo-Nazi leader to carry out an attack on several electrical substations in the Baltimore area, officials said Monday, Feb. 6, 2023, The arrest of Sarah Beth Clendaniel, of Baltimore County, was the latest in a series across the country as authorities warn electrical infrastructure could be a vulnerable target for domestic terrorists. (AP Photo/Karl B DeBlaker, File)

 “You can’t legislate these attitudes away. You can’t pray this away. You can’t negotiate this away. It also means that we have to wake up as African Americans. We have to understand that nobody will save us but us. Nobody’s going to protect us, but us. We have to return to the playbook of the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense. That was their name. They weren’t just the Black Panthers. They were the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense. That’s the mindset that more of us need to adopt because nobody’s going to save us, but us.”


Court documents about the couple’s charges after their February 3 arrest revealed that from June 2022 to the present, Mr. Russell conspired to carry out attacks against electrical substations, to further his racially or ethnically motivated violent extremist beliefs.

As alleged, Mr. Russell encouraged the use of Mylar balloons to short out a power transformer. In a conversation on Oct. 25, 2022 with an FBI informant, he encouraged an attack happen “when there is greatest strain on the grid,” like “when everyone is using electricity to either heat or cool their homes.”

His conversations on encrypted communications applications included links to open-source maps of the locations of electrical substations. He described to an FBI informant how a small number of attacks on substations could cause a “cascading failure.” Mr. Russell also discussed maximizing the impact of the planned attack by hitting multiple substations at one time.

Lanette Clendaniel, left, mother of Sarah Beth Clendaniel, and her grandson Daniel Clites, 20, nephew of Sarah Beth Clendaniel, pose for a photograph for The Associated Press outside her home, Wednesday, Feb. 8, 2023, in North East, Md. U.S. Attorneys for Maryland announced the arrests and a federal criminal complaint charging Sarah Beth Clendaniel, of Catonsville, and Brandon Clint Russell, of Orlando, with conspiracy to destroy an energy facility. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

 If he was the brains, his co-conspirator, Ms. Clendaniel, was to be the brawn. Mr. Russell told the informant to contact her and she would get it done. In talks with the informant she discussed the type of rifle she wanted for the attack.

In later conversations, she allegedly stated that if they hit a number of electrical substations all in the same day, they “would completely destroy this whole city,” and that a “good four or five shots through the center of them . . . should make that happen.” She further added, “[i]t would probably permanently completely lay this city to waste if we could do that successfully.”

Dr. Tyrone Powers, a former FBI Special Agent and Maryland State Trooper, lives in Baltimore. He told The Final Call, “The reality of the matter is that we [Black people] have been either outright overt or covert targets for a very long time. Domestic terrorists have targeted Black people for a very long time. During my time as a special agent in the FBI, there were groups targeting Blacks. Groups talked about snatching Blacks off the street because Black people wouldn’t necessarily miss them because there’s so much violence going on in our community.”

 “They talked about subversive attacks,” he continued. “This one [Baltimore] is a little bit more sophisticated ’cause it involves the grid. However, the philosophy and the mission is the same. Harm people they perceive as inferior and see as a threat in this country.”

The Program on Extremism at The George Washington University’s latest report, “Mayhem, Murder, and Misdirection: Violent Extremist Attack Plots Against Critical Infrastructure in the United States, 2016-2022” looked at 94 cases of individuals who are alleged to have planned violent extremist attacks in the U.S. Of that number, 55 (59 percent) were classified as White supremacists and 39 (41 percent) as jihadists. Thirty five of the 94 cases (37 percent) involved some level of planning attacks on critical infrastructure, including 16 individuals charged for their roles in White supremacist plots.  

Dr. Kevin Washington, chair of Grambling University’s Psychology and Sociology Department, told The Final Call, “It’s imperative to recognize that this was part of a bigger initiative by so-called extremists with White supremacist ideology. Brandon Russell started a neo-Nazi organization called Atomwaffen in Florida. He has a history of connecting with people that have White supremacist ideologies by attacking vulnerable populations. For them, the greatest threat is the Black population.

 “Recent attacks on power grids include North Carolina, Oregon, Washington state and Las Vegas. These attacks are not isolated but are concerted efforts. These activities received a major thrust with the election of the 45th president. That was a major dog whistle to elevate the causes of White supremacist ideology. They say that it’s extremist, but that’s a misnomer.  It may only be extreme in the sense that it’s the more overt aspect of White supremacist ideology.”

He added, “White supremacist ideology is very much a part of the American society. Whether it is the college boards eliminating certain content from educational material that talks about Black power movements or the state of Florida suggesting that certain content be removed from the African-American Advanced Placement curriculum.”

According to the Department of Energy statistics, there were 171 physical “electric disturbance incidents” around the country in 2022, compared with 99 in 2021. This damage was caused mainly by gunfire. It triggered power outages affecting tens of thousands of Americans.

“If you have a physical attack that damages equipment, it can take weeks, months or years to replace that equipment,” Michael Mabee, a former U.S. Army command sergeant major and an expert in power infrastructure vulnerabilities, told Newsweek. “If enough of these transformers were destroyed in a physical attack, we would have a long-term, wide-scale blackout, and the deaths would be in the tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands or millions.”

The attack in North Carolina, December 3, left more than 40,000 people in the dark. A series of attacks against four sites in Pierce County, Washington, left around 14,000 people without power on Christmas Day.

“The FBI, to its credit,” said Dr. Powers, “indicated over and over again that the largest terrorist threat, and a lot of it is race based, are not foreign terrorist groups. It’s not the groups that we hear about on the international news like Al-Qaeda and Hamas. It is domestic groups in this country.”

Brian Levin, director of the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino, explained in an email to the media that targeting power plants and water supplies is a common aspiration among White supremacists.

“Within both the folklore and history of the racist far right’s plotting over decades has been the glorification of leaderless resistance style targeted plots and attacks, ranging from assassination, infrastructure and intimidation for the purpose of advancing an insurgency, in part through destabilization,” he said.

In November, the Department of Homeland Security issued a warning that the country is a heightened threat environment. “Lone offenders and small groups motivated by a range of ideological beliefs and/or personal grievances continue to pose a persistent and lethal threat to the Homeland,” explained the directive.  Previously, the agency warned of “continued calls for violence directed at U.S. critical infrastructure,” last February, “as a means to create chaos and advance ideological goals.”

With the country at a state of heightened alert for domestic terrorist attacks, what should Black people do to stay safe?  Dr. Powers said, “Black people have to keep in mind that we know about this event because the FBI made arrests. There are other situations that could be ongoing right now that we don’t know about. We have to be prepared all the time. We have to prepare resources in our homes in case the grid does go down.”

“We have to prepare by having a network of where our family members and friends are. We need a network of protection in the community that can be called to respond to any major situation when we come under attack. We have to be in a consistent state of readiness, not a state of paranoia. Being prepared is totally different from being paranoid. There has not been any divine event to make us believe that all of a sudden we are no longer threatened by the forces of White supremacy.”

He added, “These groups have always existed in this country. They have always decided that they would have plots against Black people. They still exist and their skillsets have increased to become more sophisticated. When we look at the attack on the grid, you can look at attacks on food supplies. We can’t get away from that. Over time, we’ve become very complacent and complacency always leads to a situation where we are vulnerable.”

For decades the Most Honorable Elijah Muhammad told Black people to prepare for disasters with a survival kit. The early Muslims stored water, food, first aid supplies, tools and emergency supplies, clothing and medical supplies. That message is repeated by the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan today.

“White people are getting more and more angry every day,” the Minister said during a May 9, 2017 interview on WVON 1690AM Talk of Chicago radio with host Cliff Kelley. The president during the time of the interview was Donald Trump, however Minister Farrakhan’s observation and warning still ring true today. Whites are continuing to become more angry and enraged.

“Mr. Trump was elected that the mask of civility—like an onion peeling—is being peeled off. Now naked hatred, not only in word but in deed, is being openly shown to us.”