After issuing a press release declaring their intention to protest the funeral of Internet activist Aaron Swartz, members of the Westboro Baptist Church were nowhere to be found outside the ceremony on Tuesday. Anonymous hackers announced they would stand in opposition to any church members who picketed the memorial, part of the reason, some think, why the church members never made an appearance.
Swartz was found dead in his New York City apartment Friday after hanging himself two years to the day after his arrest for allegedly downloading 5 million academic articles from the JSTOR primary source database and planning to distribute them for free online.
Swartz, who co-authored the popular RSS format and had been a co-owner of the social news site Reddit, was facing 30 years in prison and a one million dollar fine. He was 26.
Two days after Swartz was found dead the Westboro Baptist Church issued a press release detailing their plan to protest his funeral in Highland Park, Illinois, presumably while holding offensive signs and shouting homophobic epithets while Swartz’s family mourned nearby. The Church is best known for demonstrating outside military funerals with rainbow color signs that read “God Hates Fags.”
“Cyber criminals are the latest face of this nation’s and this world’s raging at God and His Servants at WBC, the press release read. “Now the gloves are off, cyber rebels! We will picket the funeral, the LORD willing, so in that Great Day of His Wrath, your blood is not on our hands.”
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The Church’s official Twitter feed also told of a “public memorial praising God for killing” Swartz in New York City’s Times Square.
All the braggadocio seemed to quiet down, though, when Anonymous announced their own picket opposing the offensive themes of the WBC. Last month, when the Church declared it would protest the funeral of children killed in the Sandy Hook elementary shooting, Anonymous hacked the group’s website and Twitter feeds of some of its’ most outspoken members.
Anonymous revealed personal details of church followers and pushed a petition pleading with the White House to declare the WBC a hate group. The religious group never showed up in Newtown, where they were protesting because gay marriage is legal in Connecticut, citing “financial difficulties.”
A tweet from Anonymous’ Twitter page said, “Police confirm WBC’s lawyer contacted them and said they would not be protesting.”
The hackers announced they would demonstrate against the Church’s picket line in a video released Monday.
"Before discussing the operation, there is something that needs to be said to Aaron's family and his friends: We're sorry," says Anonymous in the video. "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."