Apparently, the Department of Homeland Security takes the leaderless activist group Anonymous very, very seriously.
But that doesn’t mean that the feds take what it says at face value. For instance, when Anonymous – which could literally be any teenager behind a keyboard – comes out to say that it’s calling on people to get up off their couches and “rage with voices, not with violence,” DHS evidently takes that as a cue that it’s time to issue a formal security bulletin.
“Information has been received from various law enforcement sources, other federal agencies as well as open source outlets indicating Anonymous has issued a call to action, calling for a ‘Nationwide Day of Rage’ on Thursday, August 21,” a security bulletin issued by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, from the Federal Protective Service of the Threat Management Division announced.
We at the Bay Guardian received the same information, by the way, which entailed Googling “Anonymous + Day of Rage” and then watching a three-minute YouTube video. Anonymous is not an organized group, but hackers who have associated themselves with Anonymous have been known to target corporations and government websites with digital attacks in the past.
Whoever is administrating @OpFerguson, the Twitter account affiliated with Anonymous that has been tweeting consistently about Ferguson since the protests over the shooting of Mike Brown began, stated that they had nothing to do with organizing “Day of Rage” and that a different organization was behind it. However, we did notice that @OpFerguson retweeted a desperate tweet from @denveranon, where apparently very few showed up to rage.
#DAYOFRAGE DENVER IS OUTNUMBERED BY MEDIA. WE NEED PEOPLE
— DenverAnon (@DenverAnon) August 21, 2014
The “Anonymous Day of Rage Protests” even earned a mention on Snopes.com, the website which seeks to illuminate urban legends, in a post noting: “It’s virtually impossible to say who specifically began ‘Day of Rage’ rumors calling for protests across the U.S. on 21 August. However, the @OpFerguson account and the @YourAnonNews account do not appear to be organizing or endorsing the actions mentioned in the circulating emails and Facebook posts.”
Curiously, we hadn’t heard anyone locally talking about this “Day of Rage” in advance. Someone calling themselves the “Ferguson support committee” posted this announcement on IndyBay. That announcement provides a completely different start time from this Facebook announcement.
Beyond that, we’ve heard no mention of it, despite having recently interviewed people who are organizing a peaceful August 22 march and rally “For Civil Rights Against Police Killings!” Planning has been underway for that event for weeks, and it’s focused on the fatal officer-involved shooting of Alejandro Nieto, who was killed by the San Francisco Police Department on March 21.
According to the DHS memo: “The demonstrations are purported to protest the death of Mike Brown in Ferguson, MO, the subsequent police actions against protesters in the city as well as in support of the demonstrators demanding the prosecution of the identified police officer.” The memo also notes: “there is no indication that protests are expected to become violent.”
Which raises the question: Is it really necessary for DHS to go all out and issue a security bulletin over a hastily organized protest that is not “expected to become violent?” That activity can also be described as citizens exercising their First Amendment right to freedom of speech.
Here’s the memo.