After the tragic suicide of Reddit co-founder and Internet activist Aaron Swartz, hacktivist group Anonymous vowed to derail picketing efforts by the hate-mongering members of the Westboro Baptist Church, who threatened to protest Swartz's funeral on Tuesday. When members of Anonymous and supporters showed up to block the WBC's picket line, the quasi-religious group was nowhere to be seen.
Westboro Baptist Church on Sunday announced plans to protest Swarz's open funeral in a press release titled "GOD H8S Cyber Criminal THUGS."
"Cyber criminals are the latest face of this nation's and this world's raging at God and His Servants at WBC," reads the Westboro press release, via Twitter account @WBCSays. "Now the gloves are off, cyber rebels! ... We will picket the funeral, the LORD willing, so that in that Great Day of His Wrath, your blood is not on our hands."
A crowd showed up to the funeral home in Highland Park, Ill., on Tuesday, willing to stand in the way of Westboro members to prevent them from getting close to the procession, according to a tweet sent from Anon-affiliated account @Anon2World. According to a tweet from Anonymous mouthpiece account @YourAnonNews, the WBC's lawyer contacted police to say that WBC would not be attending the funeral.
On Monday, a video was uploaded to YouTube by user ChannelZeroYT11, an apparently Anonymous-controlled account, announcing that hacktivists would block any attempt by Westboro to picket Swartz's funeral.
"Before discussing the operation, there is something that needs to be said to Aaron's family and his friends: We're sorry," says the Anonymous statement (see in the video above). "It is likely that our continuous condemnation and attacks against this cult is the very reason Aaron is being targeted by them. We would do anything to stop them from attending Aaron's services. Aaron deserves peace and we will not allow this cult to overpower what should be the media's focus, the monsters at DOJ who ruthlessly targeted your son."
Swartz committed suicide in New York City on Jan. 11. In July 2011, the 26-year-old was charged with felony hacking. He was accused of stealing nearly 5 million academic articles from JSTOR, a popular online research outlet. He pled not guilty in September 2012 but was still facing a possible prison sentence, according to ZDNet.
This is not the first time Anonymous has pushed back against controversial protest attempts made by the WBC. In December, Anonymous revealed the personal information of various alleged WBC members and called for supporters to head to Connecticut to block WBC members from the funerals of the Sandy Hook Elementary school shooting victims, whom WBC targeted because Connecticut supports gay marriage.
Sir Tim Berners Lee, Founder Of The World Wide Web
He <a href="https://twitter.com/timberners_lee/status/290140454211698689">tweeted</a>: “Aaron dead. World wanderers, we have lost a wise elder. Hackers for right, we are one down. Parents all, we have lost a child. Let us weep.”
Quinn Norton, Freelance Journalist And Swartz's Close Friend
"We used to have a fight about how much the internet would grieve if he died. I was right, but the last word you get in as the still living is a hollow thing, trailing off, as it does, into oblivion." Read more <a href="http://www.quinnnorton.com/said/?p=644">here</a>.
Danah Boyd, Social Media Researcher And Swartz's Friend
"What I feel right now is anger. I'm angry at Aaron, angry at the state, angry at MIT, angry at anti-hactivist sentiment & angry at myself." Read Boyd's full statement on Swartz's death <a href="http://www.zephoria.org/thoughts/archives/2013/01/13/aaron-swartz.html">here</a>.
Cory Doctorow, Science Fiction Author And Swartz's Friend
"Whatever problems Aaron was facing, killing himself didn't solve them. Whatever problems Aaron was facing, they will go unsolved forever. If he was lonely, he will never again be embraced by his friends. If he was despairing of the fight, he will never again rally his comrades with brilliant strategies and leadership. If he was sorrowing, he will never again be lifted from it." Read more <a href="http://boingboing.net/2013/01/12/rip-aaron-swartz.html">here</a>.
Swartz Family Statement
“Aaron’s death is not simply a personal tragedy. It is the product of a criminal justice system rife with intimidation and prosecutorial overreach. Decisions made by officials in the Massachusetts U.S. Attorney’s office and at MIT contributed to his death.” Read more <a href="http://rememberaaronsw.tumblr.com/post/40372208044/official-statement-from-the-family-and-partner-of-aaron">here</a>.
Lawrence Lessig, Director Of The Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics At Harvard University
"The question this government needs to answer is why it was so necessary that Aaron Swartz be labeled a 'felon.' For in the 18 months of negotiations, that was what he was not willing to accept, and so that was the reason he was facing a million-dollar trial in April -- his wealth bled dry, yet unable to appeal openly to us for the financial help he needed to fund his defense, at least without risking the ire of a district court judge. And so as wrong and misguided and fucking sad as this is, I get how the prospect of this fight, defenseless, made it make sense to this brilliant but troubled boy to end it." Read more <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/lawrence-lessig/aaron-swartz-suicide_b_2467079.html">here</a>.
JSTOR, Academic Archive
"We are deeply saddened to hear the news about Aaron Swartz. We extend our heartfelt condolences to Aaron’s family, friends, and everyone who loved, knew, and admired him. He was a truly gifted person who made important contributions to the development of the internet and the web from which we all benefit." Read more <a href="http://about.jstor.org/statement-swartz">here</a>.
L. Rafael Reif, MIT President
"I have asked professor Hal Abelson to lead a thorough analysis of MIT's involvement from the time that we first perceived unusual activity on our network in Fall 2010 up to the present. I have asked that this analysis describe the options MIT had and the decisions MIT made, in order to understand and to learn from the actions MIT took. I will share the report with the MIT community when I receive it." Read more <a href="http://web.mit.edu/newsoffice/2013/letter-on-death-of-aaron-swartz.html">here</a>.
Anonymous, Hacktivist Collective
On Sunday night, one day after Swartz's death, Anonymous knocked out Internet access at MIT, <a href="http://tech.mit.edu/V132/N61/anonymous.html" target="_hplink">according to The Tech</a>, a campus newspaper. Two MIT-affiliated websites were rewritten with the following message from the hacktivist group: "Whether or not the government contributed to his suicide, the government's prosecution of Swartz was a grotesque miscarriage of justice, a distorted and perverse shadow of the justice that Aaron died fighting for - freeing the publicly-funded scientific literature from a publishing system that makes it inaccessible to most of those who paid for it - enabling the collective betterment of the world through the facilitation of sharing - an ideal that we should all support." Read the full text of the hack <a href="http://gizmodo.com/5975646/anonymous-hacks-mit-in-aaron-swartzs-name">here</a>.
Danny O'Brien, Journalist And Swartz's Friend
"Ada [O'Brien's daughter] cried, then we hugged, then Ada suggested we have a goodbye party, with ice-cream and sprinkles and a movie, and make a board where we could pin all our memories. We laughed at how funny he was. Aaron taught her so well." Read more <a href="http://www.oblomovka.com/wp/2013/01/12/he-was-funny/">here</a>. <strong>Correction:</strong> This slide originally reported that Ada was Aaron Swartz's daughter, not Danny O'Brien's. The Huffington Post regrets this error.