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Wednesday, July 17, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Homeless Crackdown|Fuels Hacker Threat

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (CN) - In two YouTube videos released this week, speakers claiming to belong to the hacking group Anonymous threatened to bring its "formidable talent" to Sacramento if the city doesn't end its standoff with homeless activists.

The three-minute videos implore activists to join a group of protestors in downtown Sacramento and warn the city to stop enforcing an ordinance that prohibits homeless from camping within city limits.

Protestors have partnered with the city's homeless in a month-long demonstration outside City Hall, pitching tents, cooking and organizing just blocks from the State Capitol. Last week, police officers performed a predawn raid of the downtown protest, removing activists in handcuffs under the city's illegal camping ordinance.

The YouTube videos say the arrests have gained Anonymous' attention and therefore "the attention of the world."

"Your actions on the night of Jan. 2, including the arrest of seven activists is inacceptable," Thursday's video proclaims. "The confiscation of tents and bedding further puts your homeless in harm's way."

One day later, another warning message was sent by a masked speaker asking Anonymous followers and activists to flood city websites and "troll" restaurant review sites to let the world know how "contemptible" the homeless arrests are.

"These are humans just like you and I," the follow-up video states. "They get cold and hungry just like we do and they have a right to satisfy those basic human needs just like you."

On the heels of the arrests and purported Anonymous warnings, Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson responded to complaints about the way police are treating protestors by creating a homeless task force. Johnson said the task force, comprised of several city council members, will give the city more resources to serve Sacramento's homeless.

"If we are truly going to be a city that works for everyone, we can't leave anyone behind," Johnson tweeted.

On Friday, bunched between City Hall buildings and television news trucks, activists took turns on a megaphone urging Johnson to "let us sleep." An estimated 20 homeless protestors were awaiting the results of a closed-door meeting inside City Hall and feared their tents and tables would soon be taken.

Activists said they are making progress by organizing on the steps of the City Hall and that they appreciate the YouTube videos' efforts to highlight their plight.

Donning a Guy Fawkes mask, the symbol of the Anonymous group, protestor Iman Felder said the activists are "right on the [politicians'] doorstep" and that the hacking group is powerful enough to make people listen.

"We need the world; we need a lot of eyes on Sacramento," Felder said.

Another homeless activist said he was recently rushed to the emergency room because of hypothermia caused by cold wet weather after being repeatedly kicked out from underneath overhangs across the city.

During the month-long protest, Sacramento and Northern California has received above-average rain and snow. In the first week of January alone, Sacramento's rainfall totals have surpassed January 2014's total.

"They woke me up with a leaf blower and started blowing wet leaves all over me man," the activist known "Zero" claimed after taking his turn on the megaphone, also wearing a Guy Fawkes mask.

The YouTube videos that purport to be the work of Anonymous are similar to a December 2014 clip that was sent to the city of Fort Lauderdale regarding its panhandling and urban camping policies. One day after the eerie warning video, that city's websites were jammed in a attack known as a "denial-of-service" and temporarily shut down.

Shortly after, Fort Lauderdale spent $430,000 improving its information technology security.

As of Friday, the Sacramento videos had been viewed 60,000 times.

"We do not forgive. We do not forget. United as one, divided by none," the speaker says. "Expect us. Operation Right to Rest - engage."

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