November 10, 2014
(TheAntiMedia) Central Intelligence Agency analysts have stated that Anonymous has the ability to build a US movement similar to the “Arab Spring” that swept governments out of power in the Middle East. With that analysis in mind, it isn’t surprising to find that this year’s protests were met with scores of undercover agents, internet disinformation campaigns, and police initiated violence. Anonymous street activities are just moving out of their infancy, but have already drawn attention from federal intelligence agencies. Anonymous has developed a counter-intelligence network to combat government spying that was successful in identifying quite a few undercover agents within the crowd.
The movement’s momentum is growing and evolving from what could initially be written off as a group of disgruntled and angry outcasts into a movement with the capability to cause severe discomfort to the establishment. The anatomy of Anonymous causes major issues for the powers that be.
It’s a leaderless organization that can’t be taken apart with a typical “top down” law enforcement. If tomorrow, all of the main organizers of the marches were arrested worldwide, the marches would still take place next year. The arrests of those that law enforcement and the intelligence community sees as “leaders” would probably only serve to increase the numbers that turn out for next year’s events. The marches themselves are increasing in intensity and duration; extending from just a couple of days last year, to a weeklong series of actions in DC this year. As I write this on the 8th of November, there are still Anons actively conducting operations in DC. Even if the street operatives were all taken out, the hacktivists would continue their work and the organization would regenerate.
The goals of Anonymous are as fluid as their tactics. If it could be summed up simply, it rests in the fact that, as Michael Pendleton said, “the government doesn’t represent us anymore.” Anonymous isn’t really an organization; it’s a collective of individuals. These individuals all have their own causes that are close to their hearts, but the overriding sentiment is disgust at the status quo that is exploiting the world for the sake of profit. This disgust is growing all over the world, but it is in Washington, DC that the message can be sent the strongest.
The capital of the United States is the home to the best of the worst humanity has to offer. The most corrupt, the most deceitful, the most tyrannical, the most greedy, and the most evil rise through the ranks of the political machines and eventually find themselves safely in bed participating in the incestuous orgy of corruption occurring daily in Washington, DC.
The 4th of November
I arrived in DC just in time to show up late to a screening of The Hacker Wars at Busboys and Poets. Walking the streets of DC, I saw Anons already strolling the streets and talking to residents. Outside the screening venue I met John Foltz and Majestic, who were outside directing Anons into the screening. Foltz had a small sheathed knife attached to his belt, DC cops walked by without saying a word about the knife that was plainly visible.
Inside the venue, my companion and I ordered our drinks and proceeded into the room where the movie was playing. I scanned the crowd and recognized a collection of some the more influential US based Anons. I watched the footage of Barrett Brown being kidnapped by federal agents playing on the screen. The footage exists because the raid was carried out while Brown was on a video conference. The crowd could hear federal agents threatening the journalist with death. Everybody in the room watched intently as the stakes of their activities were clearly displayed on the screen at the front of the room. The crowd tried to keep the “lulz” (internet slang for laughter) coming, but it’s hard to accept that your own government has declared you an enemy and that there is a very real possibility of getting “V&” (V& or “vanned” is the short hand for getting tossed into a government vehicle).
The film was a great tour of the war that has been waged in the shadows for far too long. It’s a war that isn’t fought with bullets and bombs, but with little bits of data.
I discussed some of the new hacktivism tools that Anonymous is making use of with one of the hacktivists that turned up at the screening. “Kenny” mentioned a few of the tools being used to replace the older tools Anonymous uses to disrupt internet traffic and stage “digital sit-ins” on opposition websites.
The film’s associate producer, Joe Fionda, took questions from the audience about the film. I had never met him and didn’t personally know him, so I decided to toss out a question that would help me determine whether he was an activist or somebody simply attempting to cash in on the movement. I asked a question heavily blurred by generous amounts of Jack Daniels that could be summed up as “Do you think it’s possible to change the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act to help limit sentences for those convicted of minor crimes?”
His response was “How are we going to do that? We’re not ALEC.” ALEC is the American Legislative Exchange Council. That’s the think tank where corporations write the laws that they have bribed representatives and senators to pass. It was a very cynical and very true answer. In other words, yes, the guy cares and is in this for more than just seeing his name in lights. It’s probably worth supporting future endeavors that have his name attached.
After the question and answer session, the group moved on to the sidewalk and Fionda continued to mingle and chat with the crowd as cops looped the block.
The call came to “Get off the sidewalk and into the streets,” and the Anons walked out into the road and began blocking traffic as they made their way to the White House. Even with a relatively small number of Anons, the group was able to hold the streets. When law enforcement neared, the group would throw their hands in the air and chant “Hands up, don’t shoot” while walking past. When residents asked what was going on, Anons would break off from the crowd and chat with them to give them an idea of what was happening and invite them to the March the following day.
At the White House, the protesters lent their bullhorn to another demonstration that was requesting the President keep his promise to help undocumented aliens in the United States find a legal path to citizenship. The Anons used an accent similar to Borat to inform officers
“We see you in the government kidnap wagon.”
After mocking the police momentarily, the group fanned out and began engaging residents and tourists in conversation about the state of the world until it was time to head back to the various hotels and prepare for the main event.
Heading back to the hotel on the subway, I sat down and stared into the faces of the average DC resident. Leaving a passionate and highly motivated group of people and sitting down on the subway with people who were doing everything they could to avoid eye contact with each other was a sobering experience. The decay of Western society can easily be seen in the faces of those heading home from well-paying government jobs. The workers had spent a long day foreclosing on homes, preparing sentencing reports, threatening farmers on behalf of Monsanto, and drafting more laws to regulate what you can do in your own home. The worker bees that push the paper required to enable tyranny are no happier than anyone else. They are numb to both the misery their jobs cause people thousands of miles away and the misery they cause themselves.
The 5th of November
Early in the morning I filled my camelbak, checked the police scanner, pulled my vest on over my clothing, checked my first aid kit, and drank my coffee before hopping the subway into town. Ideally, the events of the day would make all of my preparation worthless.
Just like last year, the marchers met at the Washington Monument. Due to the political infighting that occurred within Anonymous in 2013, no permits were sought. The statement that “the First Amendment is my permit” became common.
The atmosphere was festive and friendly that morning. People laughed, danced, and hugged as they greeted each other. Even in the happy atmosphere, foreshadowing of the upcoming clashes peaked through the smiles and laughter. Many protesters had gas masks, first aid kits, and helmets hanging off their clothing or stuffed into bags.
Appearances by high-profile people within the movement added to the festival atmosphere. Steve Grant, a noted Anonymous-affiliated musician, was distributing CDs to the crowd for free. Civil Rights activist Daniel Johnson was in attendance with the equipment to livestream the March. Luke Rudkowski of We Are Change was also preparing to document the event. I’m certain all of those named above and those that went unnamed will object to being called “high-profile,” but their participation and presence added legitimacy in the eyes of the mainstream press.
Before the March even began, law enforcement decided to make their presence known. John Foltz was on his knees with a swarm of officers around him as I finished my sprint to the arrest site. He was being detained for the knife sheathed on his belt. It was the same knife DC cops had ignored the night before. Having learned from arrests last year, when video evidence cleared a protester of bogus charges leveled by DC cops, Anons quickly began filming the entire encounter.
Foltz was undeterred by the arrest and was even smiling while he was being cuffed. Prior to being tossed into the van, he shouted to the crowd “Whose streets?”
The crowd answered in unison, “Our streets!”
DC police evidently learned nothing from the events of the March in 2013, when an extremely peaceful event became more defiant after the first arrest. Immediately following Foltz’s arrest, the crowd began questioning law enforcement’s actions and boldly defying any order they gave. Officers were asked if they believed they were protecting and serving or if they knew they were now simply used as a tool of oppression. This incident galvanized the crowd before the March had even started and the open defiance of law enforcement grew throughout the day.
Disinformation campaign begins: Notices on social media begin to appear stating that protesters were being arrested “for not having a permit.” There was not a single arrest all day related to permits. This was an attempt to discourage protesters from attending the March. It is widely suspected that the officers were looking to arrest anyone, for any reason, so that the claim could be circulated on social media before the March began. This attempt at discouraging marchers and those that followed all failed.
Once the van with Foltz pulled off, the crowd began the march to the White House. The marchers took over NW 15th Street, blocking off traffic and chanting as they moved down the street. The police blocked off the normal entrance to the White House area, which sent the marchers further down the road and led to a longer disruption of traffic. Skateboarders led the March, and mainstream press who seemed unprepared for the mobility of the demonstration fumbled to keep up.
When the marchers passed Bank of America, security officers bolted the doors. It seemed a gross overreaction at the time, but given the events that occurred at the FBI building and a Monsanto office, it was probably a good decision on their part.
During a break, in which protesters sat down in the middle of the street, the decision was made that the crowd would push through any police barricade at the other entrance to the White House area. After all, these were “our streets.” It was at this point that the first two of several plain clothes officers that had infiltrated the March were identified.
Protip for cops: If you plan to infiltrate a movement, make sure your shirt is long enough to cover your badge. Bad cop. No Donut.
Not all of the officers around the March seemed to be there for nefarious purposes. Some even took pamphlets and engaged demonstrators in conversation. In other words, they behaved like human beings, rather than just another cog in the wheel.
The other entrance to the White House was unmanned and the protesters filed into Laffeyette Park, with a few lighting joints along the way. Admit it; smoking a joint in front of the home of the Drug War that has left millions with criminal records for nonviolent activities has a very special draw.
Anon’s medical team, set up a perimeter around the protesters and kept a watchful eye over the participants. The fact that a collective that the FBI has, in the past, described as “dismantled” can field their own first responders says something about the regenerative quality of the group. It proves that after all of this time, “Anonymous still delivers.”
After a brief intermission, and break to wait for any stragglers, the March proceeded to shut down Pennsylvania Avenue and headed in the direction of the Capitol. In the early part of the stroll to Capitol Hill, an Anonymous affiliated skateboarder barely dodged a Metro PD squad car that was attempting to reach the front of the March. Steve Grant took the opportunity to film a music video while strolling down the most famous street in the United States, while demonstrators handed out pamphlets and spoke with residents and workers along the way.
At the J. Edgar Hoover building, home of the FBI and America’s federal law enforcement, activists attempted to enter the building. A few made their way through a revolving door, but were pushed out by officers. The feds locked the doors, which protesters banged on until a visibly terrified officer came out swinging a baton and threatening protesters. He was met with a perfect example of nonviolent resistance when Josh Weber raised his hands over his head, but refused to be moved or intimidated by the aggression.
Eventually, an older and much more level headed officer emerged from the building and directed the “billy club badass” to stop threatening people. Weber began trying to make the officer, who was threatening him just moments before, smile or laugh. He even offered him a hug. During the few preceding tense moments, the March could have spiraled into a full scale riot.
Weber’s commitment to nonviolence in the face of blatant aggression combined with a more experienced officer curtailing the actions of his subordinates stopped a riot. Had the officer struck the activist, there is no doubt that every officer outside of the building would have been attacked. This was the first of many near misses throughout the day, all initiated by law enforcement overreaction, that could have led to widespread violence and injury. When the situation deescalated completely, the activist walked away smiling, and flashed a peace sign to the few reporters that stuck around during the altercation.
Later, he described his actions over a social media site.
“I am only acting the way that I want to see others in the movement act. I want to see everyone refusing to be intimidated by the US Gestapo’s violent terrorist tactics.”
The marchers continued in the direction of the Capitol displaying even less regard for the wishes of law enforcement. One marcher chased a motorcycle cop down the street, while trying to hand him a mask. As is now tradition, the March stopped in front of the Newseum to read the First Amendment, which is prominently inscribed on the side of the building.
Shortly after the March resumed, the same squad car that almost hit a skateboard riding protester earlier in the day, struck a Marcher… twice. The cop was reportedly attempting to hurry the protester by driving close behind them. The car, marked 8480, was surrounded by protesters, and Marchers demanded a supervisor. When contact was finally made with someone in authority, the complaint was ignored. Had this been a “regular” DC resident, a police report would have been taken and charges would have been filed. Those laws don’t apply to members of the “thin blue line.”
Upon arriving at the Capitol, protesters were informed that the public building was not open to the public, and that any attempt to cross the barricades that had been erected would result in arrest. The barricades were shook by protesters, and when an officer reached out and struck the hand of a protester, the barricades were stripped away from the officers clutching them, and carried back into the crowd, leaving nothing between the officers and the protesters but air. The barricade came down on my knee, leaving it swollen for a couple of days.
Protesters, now face to face with law enforcement, raised their hands over their heads and began chanting “Hands up! Don’t shoot!” in obvious reference to Ferguson’s battle cry. Meanwhile behind the wall of protesters, the barricade was being tagged by Anons who, quite literally, left their mark on the Capitol. The barricades were then tossed over the stone wall and onto the lawn.
Protesters then fanned out on the stone wall surrounding the Capitol and questioned law enforcement’s motives. Suddenly, Christopher decided to reignite the crowd and jumped the stone barrier and ran towards the Capitol screaming “Fuck your laws!” He was immediately tackled by a swarm of officers and taken into custody.
After the ensuing cheers for Christopher and jeers for law enforcement, the March became mobile again. Heading back down Pennsylvania Avenue, the Marchers were joined by tourists coming off the sidewalks. Every time a spectator became a participant, the Marchers cheered and stepped just a little bit bolder.
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) decided to taunt marchers along the way and set up a van along the route with a cop readying dozens of plastic cuffs. The attempt at intimidation was mocked and the officer was surrounded by protesters who informed him the he was “going to need a hell of a lot more than that.” DHS officers in tactical gear appeared along the route. They were ignored and not engaged directly, but quietly those that took notice began putting on gloves, tightening masks, and readying for a tactical assault. The attempt at intimidation simply warned protesters to the upcoming police onslaught.
There was a brief stop at the Treasury building and protesters were generally ignored by the staff. Over a police radio, marchers heard a voice say “Do not let them enter the tunnel.”
The tunnel was not even remotely close to the planned route, but once a voice of authority was instructing the goon squad to make certain nobody enter it, it became an imperative of the March to take control of the tunnel.
The trip through the tunnel was probably ill-advised. Some marchers held their ground at the mouth of the tunnel out of fear of the traffic inside; others saw the tactical failure of entering a tunnel without any real means of escape so shortly after seeing that DHS was readying a tactical team. I unzipped the pouch I would need to access if we were gassed, and headed into the tunnel.
Tensions were high as we made our way through the cars and trucks that had come to a dead stop inside the tunnel. Marchers engaged the captive audience in conversation and received more “Hell yes!” statements than “Get the fuck out of the way!” statements. At the opposite end of the tunnel, having made it through what is described in military circles as a “fatal funnel” without incident, the March did the only sensible thing: turn around and go back through again. Residents lined the streets above to cheer and videotape the March in what was obviously a small triumph, however reckless.
Coming out of the tunnel, the marchers were informed that DHS had taken the opportunity to prey on the smaller group that had stayed behind. After running up the street, I found myself in the middle of a second altercation in which a DHS officer was attempting to arrest a young Anon known as “Mad Mardigan” for filming on a public street, which is not a crime. He was attempting to film incidents related to the first arrest, when an officer attempted to seize his camera and physically assaulted him. He jerked back and continued to film when the officer attempted to use a taser on him, placing everyone in the surrounding area at risk. The officer’s incredible aim placed the taser darts into Mardigan’s backpack, accomplishing nothing. Other officers rushed to help capture the elusive criminal who was armed only with a camera, including the officer nearest me. As the young cameraman took off running, attempting to make an escape aided by other protesters, I tripped and fell into the nearest officer. What can I say? There was a lot of commotion and I’m just naturally clumsy, I guess.
What would have been a simple “Excuse me,” changed drastically when I noticed a loop on my lens pouch had become caught on the officer’s firearm. He ordered me to step back. While I would like to say that my repeated shouts of “I’m not moving” were an act of defiance, the plain and simple truth is that had I stepped back as ordered, I would have stripped his firearm from him in the process. Since I don’t particularly like being shot, I held my ground. The officer cleared my webbing from his sidearm and appeared to reach for his cuffs. I became certain I was going to jail when a second person grabbed my shoulder from behind and yelled “You’re coming with us!” I was spun away from the officer and only caught a glimpse of the dark hoodie of the person dragging me away. I assumed it was one of the plain clothes officers that had been identified earlier in the day, so I started to spin to go under his arm and make a break for the crowd. In the process I came face to face with my “arresting officer.” It was an Anon. He smiled and said “They’re not taking our press.” He then pointed me in the direction that the cameraman had taken off in. I sprinted to catch up and found Mardigan on the ground being cuffed.
The DHS officers attempting to drag him away could not answer why he was being arrested. The protesters continued to follow as the officers dragged him up the street. When one of the officers reached out and pushed one of the protesters who was behind the suspect and not interfering with his transfer, the crowd attempted to encircle the officers. As the officers behaved more violently and began pushing protesters and press (I guess that makes us even), the crowd reacted more violently closing in on the officers. Eventually, Mardigan was taken inside the Customs and Border Patrol building and a phalanx of cops in tactical gear secured the entrance.
The officers were just following orders as they allowed a young man who committed no crime to be kidnapped and held in a cage. If you want to know why people are “anti-cop,” it’s because they’ve seen officers act like the Gestapo. Make no mistake, Mardigan was kidnapped, not arrested. He was later released without charges after being held for more than a day.
Reluctantly, the March moved away from the building where Mardigan was being held and continued on its journey. The resistance and non-compliance encountered during the DHS actions were apparently enough to make them keep their distance. They were not seen again. On the way to the Federal Reserve, the March encountered an ambulance and immediately cleared the streets for the emergency vehicle to make its way through.
At the Federal Reserve, the marchers took a break long enough to rehydrate and smoke a little hash. While most protesters rested on the lawn of the Reserve, a few stayed in the street to continue to disrupt traffic.
Even though DC traffic was widely disrupted by the March, those in non-government vehicles seemed overwhelmingly supportive of Anonymous and their activities.
Back at the White House I ran into Christopher, who had jumped the fence earlier at the Capitol. He had already been released after paying a small fine. I asked why he had jumped the barrier. He said simply while laughing
“I thought other people were going to follow me. The two guys next to me said they were going to come, too. I kind of hoped it would inspire people.”
After the intermission at the White House, the marchers took off again through the streets of DC. A segment of the march stayed behind to catch their breath and rest a little bit longer. They had plans to rejoin the March at a later time. It was approaching the rush hour, when federal workers attempt to crawl their way through the streets of DC and make their way home after a long hard day of keeping the empire safe. The marchers began making more erratic turns and keeping to a completely unpredictable route in an attempt to keep DC’s finest on their toes. Several times over the next few hours, the March was able to completely lose their police escort. Well, except for the police in plain clothes that were still within the march.
On some of the police vehicles, I noticed stickers depicting the Guy Fawkes mask as well as some of the “Justin King News” stickers I had distributed the night before at the screening. Thanks for that, guys. I’m still expecting a call about that from Metro PD.
As the sun began to fall from the sky above the nation’s capital, the next bit of disinformation began to surface: a tactical team was prepping to capture John Fairhurst, a vocal organizer, at 5pm (the time the marchers still at the White House were going to rejoin the group). The March found itself in front of an office building where GMO-giant Monsanto reportedly maintained an office. The door was unlocked and a few brave protesters entered the lobby of the building. Inside, the protesters danced and laughed. A security guard came and firmly but politely asked everyone to leave. The marchers complied.
Allow me to make clear exactly what happened on the off chance that any DHS agents are reading this. A single unarmed private security guard with no arrest powers was able to completely disperse the protest that walked all over your team of agents, and she used nothing more than a civil tongue and a commanding tone. She didn’t pull her taser. She didn’t have one. She didn’t threaten a protester by walking up and saying “I’m going to put you on the fucking the ground.” She didn’t wave a baton around like a drunken marching band leader. She simply held the door open and repeatedly said “Everybody out. All of you outside, now.” Human Resources at DHS should probably consider hiring her to teach their agents how not be run ragged by a “dismantled” group of “computer geeks.”
If there is any company in the world that irks the Anonymous collective, it’s Monsanto. It’s an organization that kills off the family farm and pollutes almost everywhere it does business. I can assure you that if government agents attempted to clear the lobby using force, every window in the building would have ended up being busted out.
The time of the predicted raid came and went and Fairhurst was not the target of any special task force. Then the next bit of disinformation surfaced: Fairhurst wasn’t the target of a special task force this time; he had been shot and killed at the White House. I was standing next to Fairhurst when the “news” surfaced of his untimely death. I showed him the message and said “You’re dead dude.” He laughed, and we posted a quick selfie to stifle the rumor.
We made our way by the FBI building again, and apparently the security guard from the Monsanto office building had called over to the feds and taught the cops stationed outside how to deal with protesters. They calmly stood in front of the building without threatening or provoking the crowd. Big surprise, there was no incident.
The protest snaked its way throughout DC for a few more hours with no more major incidents to report.
After the March, there were several afterparties at various DC hotels. My swollen knee and the fact that I have leather jackets older than many of the participants kept me from being able to attend. In short: I was exhausted. The police eventually got called to most of the parties. While I may appear to be glossing over some of the events of that night, the omission is intentional, as I have been told any discussion could jeopardize future Anonymous operations.
The 6th of November
A series of small operations were conducted throughout the day, most having to do with Anonymous counter-intelligence and intelligence gathering operations. Anons scoured DC to retrieve those that were still in law enforcement custody from the previous day’s activities.
That night, I was able to make it to one of the parties celebrating the global success of the March. I only knew the hotel, and was unsure of the room number when I arrived. I simply followed the trail of disabled surveillance cameras like they were bread crumbs and found my way to a corridor of full of Anons. “Mad Mardigan” had already been freed and was still sporting his jail identification like a vet shows off his Bronze Star.
Shortly after my arrival, John Foltz was recovered from the authorities. Unsurprisingly, the bogus charges against him had been completely dropped. After what I can only assume was one of many, many beer runs, the party began to hit its stride. While most would take time to congratulate themselves for a job well done, between beers and joints the crowd was already planning next year’s event.
Partying with Anons is a lot like trying to get drunk during a debate between Stephen Hawking and Carl Sagan while the rest of the audience is reenacting their favorite scenes from professional wrestling. It’s chaos fueled by mind altering substances, adrenaline, and way too many high-IQs in a single room. I’m used to being the strangest guy in the room, but with this crowd I’m considered the normal one. There’s an overwhelming feeling of camaraderie that I have only witnessed among war buddies, and the unmistakable bond of those that know they are in a fight for something greater than themselves.
At the end of the day, the world wasn’t changed. The system was not brought to its knees. The banks didn’t return foreclosed homes. Police will still kill unarmed kids sometime this week. Poisons are still being dumped into our drinking water. Your elected representatives are still bought and sold like properties on a Monopoly board.
What did change is that millions of people worldwide were made aware, however briefly, that a war is being fought for the very future of humanity. You cannot tell someone the truth; they have to realize it on their own. The marches that took place all over the globe on November 5th let those that are awakening to the truth know that they aren’t alone. There are others who see the corruption for what it is, and are willing to fight against it.
These events are as much about boosting morale for those who spend all year fighting injustice as they are about continuing the fight. Anonymous is not an organization that is going to fade away. When the revolution finally reaches America’s shores in earnest, there is no doubt in my mind that some of the leaders of the rebellion will be wearing Guy Fawkes masks.
It’s now November 8th, and as I write this my Maytag is still trying wash the smell of sweat, booze, pot, and blood out of my clothing. My knee still hurts like hell. I’m exhausted. But above all of this, I’m hopeful. I watched a group of people from every possible ethnicity, religion, and political tilt stand together for one day in the den of the most expansive empire the world has ever seen and declare that they have had enough.
This is a revolution. The people that marched as part of this global protest are patriots. They aren’t patriots that owe their allegiance to a colored cloth or to an imaginary line on a map. They are patriots that stand for more than petty nationalism; they stand for the belief that at the end of the day there should be justice. They believe that all people are entitled to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. They believe it, and they have clearly demonstrated that they are prepared to fight for it. Nobody regretted marching; the only regrets came from those that didn’t march.
The corrupt fear them, the honest support them, the heroic join them. Don’t have a regret next year.
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