Anonymous defend Swartz's funeral from Westboro Baptists

UPDATED: According to the hacker collective, WBC halted picket plans after the launch of #OpAngel

Published January 14, 2013 10:20PM (EST)

UPDATE, Jan. 16: In response to Anonymous' call out for human shields to protect Aaron Swartz's funeral in Chicago Tuesday from any attempted pickets by the Westboro Baptist Church, supporters showed up ready. However, according to Tweets from a main Anonymous operated account, the religious group's lawyer contacted police to inform them that picket plans had been canceled.

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An announcement about the next phase of #OpAngel is expected from Anonymous Wednesday.

Original post: Following the MIT hack this morning, Anonymous has extended its tribute to Aaron Swartz into #OpAngel. The operation, launched Monday just one day ahead of the gifted programmer and activist's funeral, has manifold intent.

First, Anonymous plans to thwart Westboro Baptist Church's announced plans to picket Swartz's open funeral in Chicago. "Twenty-four hours after the death of Aaron Swartz was announced to the world, a heartless cult announced their intention to picket his funeral. In response, Anonymous has launched Operation Angel," the hacker collective announced in a statement.

Noting that WBC's interest in Swartz's funeral likely relates to Anonymous' previous attacks on the religious group, the hackers offered apologies to Swartz's parents:

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.

The statement urges that "organizations who would like to form protective human shields near Aaron's funeral to listen closely for any announcement by the family on this action and respect their wishes ... We are encouraging the public and any members of Highland Park law enforcement with intel on the cults to e-mail that information to"

The hackers go on to explain that #OpAngel will involve a second phase once Swartz has been laid to rest:

Partnering with other organizations, Anonymous intends to pursue reform within the DoJ and other government agencies to prevent the kind of unnecessary harassment that Aaron Swartz was victim to. Some of the brightest men and women in the fields of information technology and security are being targeted by agencies that lack a basic understanding of the so-called crimes they are accusing people of. We will do this for Aaron Swartz and everyone like him.

As of yet it is unknown how #OpAngel will pursue the DoJ, but the launch of #OpAngel -- like so many other tributes following his suicide -- highlights how much respect and care Swartz commanded in activist and hacker networks.

By Natasha Lennard

Natasha Lennard is an assistant news editor at Salon, covering non-electoral politics, general news and rabble-rousing. Follow her on Twitter @natashalennard, email

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Aaron Swartz Anonymous Department Of Justice Hacking Mit #opangel Video Westboro Baptist Church