The recent and ongoing Occupying Wall Street rally is an interesting and refreshing exercise in US democracy at its best. Starting out with just 200 protesters in mid-September, the New York City rally has grown to thousands of activists, with similar protests in 30 cities including Chicago, Boston and Denver. Initially scoffed at as being “leaderless” and “directionless”, the Occupying Wall Street rally appears to be moving towards focusing on defining such lofty demands as ending the death penalty, ending war and achieving wealth equality.
It should come as no surprise that the hacktivist group Anonymous has joined in the Occupying Wall Street movement, currently in a support, not a leadership role. A recent YouTube video release (a mode of communication that Anonymous enjoys) stated:
“Everyone, everywhere, will be occupying their towns, their capitals and other public spaces. Already we have made tremendous progress. In just a little over a week, ‘Occupy’ initiatives have sprung up in over 30 U.S. cities.“This is now bigger than you, or me. It is about us, a collective 99 percent that will no longer stand for the corruption, greed and inequality that is rampant in our governing bodies.”
In another supporting role, Anonymous identified a NYPD police officer, Anthony Bologna, as the individual responsible for the unprovoked pepper-spraying of two women during the rally. Anonymous went even further and, using a photographic close up of Bologna badge, distributed a file on Bologna including his phone number, addresses, and the names of his family members. In typical Anonymous style, the information included the warning, “Before you commit atrocities against innocent people, think twice. WE ARE WATCHING!!! Expect Us!”
This is not the first time Anonymous has support American protesters. During an August, 2011 protest over a July 4 shooting of Charles Blair Hill (reported as a “wobbly drunk”) by BART police on Anonymous helped coordinate the Twitter guided protesters and issued the following quote during a TV interview:
“We’re filled with indignation, when a little organization like BART … kills innocent people, two or three of them in the last few years, and then has the nerve to also cut off the cell phone service and act exactly like a dictator in the Mideast. How dare they do this in the United States of America.”
While the Occupying Wall Street rally has gained its prominence in the media through its physical presence in New York City, I believe we will see Anonymous’ virtual support in the form of Internet-based protests and social media coordination play an important role.
If I can end this note with an educated prediction – we will soon see several hacks of NYC government websites in support of the Occupying Wall Street and decrying the police actions during the rally. Anonymous will claim responsibility for these attacks.