Moral Low Ground


Anonymous Launches #OpFerguson, Identifies Alleged Michael Brown Shooter

The global hacker group Anonymous has identified who it claims is the Missouri police officer who shot and killed unarmed black teenager Michael Brown last weekend in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson.

The hacktivist collective has launched Operation Ferguson in response to the Saturday shooting, in which witnesses said Brown, an 18-year-old who was days away from starting college, had his hands in the air when he was gunned down during a confrontation which allegedly began when an officer commanded the teen and a friend to move from the street where they were walking onto a sidewalk.

#OpFerguson escalated on Thursday when Anonymous tweeted what it believes is the name of the officer who shot Brown.

“St. Louis County PD claims B—- W—— doesn’t work for them or #Ferguson PD. We’ll see about that,” TheAnonMessage tweeted on Thursday morning.

A spokesman for the St. Louis County Police told the Washington Post that the name released by Anonymous was inaccurate.

“People really need to harshly judge the accuracy of this group, given that they’ve now given false information about several important things,” said Sgt. Colby Dolly.

Anonymous told Mother Jones that it was contacted by someone “very close” to the alleged shooter.

“I can only tell you that our source is very close personally to the officer who killed Mike Brown, and that this person is terrified to be our source,” the unnamed Anonymous member claimed, adding that the source “reached out to us, we did not seek this person.”

Shortly after TheAnonMessage tweeted the officer’s name, its Twitter account was suspended.

Earlier, Anonymous released the St. Louis County Police dispatch tape from the time of Brown’s shooting. In the recording, the dispatcher begins talking about the incident around the 10 minute mark.

Anonymous, which eschews politics and tends toward anarchism, took the unusual step of demanding federal legislation “that will set strict national standards for police misconduct and misbehavior.” The anonymous Anonymous activist who spoke with Mother Jones insisted this was in line with previous ‘justice ops’ it has carried out and was universally agreed upon by members.

“We have done a few of these ‘justice ops’ and it seems there needs to be a larger solution to the problem on a nationwide level,” he said. “There was no debate — everyone on the team embraced the idea.”

In an interview with The Cryptosphere, an #OpFerguson organizer said he believes the operation is going well.

“So far so good, we would like to see more support from Occupy St. Louis and Anons [and] activists in Missouri — but that will happen as things unfold,” he said.

Past Anonymous ‘justice ops’ have targeted BART, the San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit authority, over the Oscar Grant killing, in which an unarmed black teen lying restrained and face-down on the ground was shot dead by BART officer Johannes Mehserle on New Year’s Day 2009, as well as the BART Police shooting of homeless man Charles Hill.

‘Justice ops’ have also targeted Steubenville, Ohio, where local high school students, including a pair of football players, sexually assaulted a girl and school officials concealed and obstructed investigators.

Meanwhile, protests continued for the fourth straight night in Ferguson, which some observers said looked more like a war zone than a heartland suburb. Chanting “We ain’t leaving until we have justice,” demonstrators were met by heavily-armed riot and SWAT police in armored vehicles.

What began as peaceful daytime protests deteriorated once again as night fell and a chaotic scene unfolded. Some protesters threw Molotov cocktails, bottles, bricks and other projectiles; police responded with ‘less lethal’ weapons, including rubber-coated steel bullets and chemical agents. NBC News reports a police officer was injured by a brick. At least 16 people were arrested.

Among those arrested were two national news reporters, USA Today reports. Arrested Washington Post reporter Wesley Lowery claimed he was the victim of police brutality.

“As they took me into custody, the officers slammed me into a soda machine, at one point setting off the Coke dispenser,” wrote Lowery, who along with Huffington Post reporter Ryan Reilly was released without charge after being taken to a police facility.

KSDK reports journalists, including an Al Jazeera America crew, were struck with ‘less lethal’ projectiles and tear gas.

Two female reporters for the St. Louis American reported officers pointing assault weapons at them as they attempted to cover the ongoing protests.

St. Louis city alderman (councilman) Antonio French, who has been documenting events in Ferguson, was also arrested and charged with unlawful assembly. He was released on Thursday morning, KMOV reports.

“Inside that jail is nothing but peacekeepers. They picked up the wrong people,” French said following his release. “In an American city people are being tear gassed and snipers are pointing rifles at them when they are peacefully assembling.”

A legislative aide to the president of the St. Louis Board of Aldermen was also arrested and charged with unlawful assembly, the Washington Post reports.

Missouri Governor Jay Nixon, a Democrat, called events in Ferguson “deeply troubling.”

“The worsening situation in Ferguson is deeply troubling, and does not represent who we are as Missourians or as Americans,” Nixon said in a statement. “While we all respect the solemn responsibility of our law enforcement officers to protect the public, we must also safeguard the rights of Missourians to peaceably assemble and the rights of the press to report on matters of public concern.”

Back on the ground in Ferguson, police officials released a statement on Wednesday asking demonstrators to gather “only during daylight hours in an organized and respectful manner.”

French, the arrested St. Louis city alderman, scoffed at the police request.

“Our rights are being violated,” he told reporters after his release. “We have the right to peacefully protest 24 hours a day. Our constitutional rights don’t expire at 9:00.”

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