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FDL Movie Night Preview: We Are Legion: The Story of the Hacktivists

12:11 pm in Uncategorized by Lisa Derrick

On Saturday, February 10 2008, I had a life changing experience. My friend Maria called me up and said, “Check out this website WhyWeProtest.com, then I’m coming over and we’re walking to the protest.” Uh okay. Little did I realize that just two weeks earlier in my living room, my housemate, journalist Mark Ebner had dullah’ed the nascent Chanology movement, the first real life appearance of “the internet hate machine” aka Anonymous, by flowing the now infamous Tom Cruise Scientology video to Gawker. I thought he was just chasing some story as he babbled into his cell phone, banging away at the computer. But what he actually did was launch Anonymous into the public eye. And the protest Maria dragged me to was the two-headed baby that Mark helped shoot out of the womb of the internet. Or some other equally tortured metaphor.

I spent nearly nine months protesting with Anonymous. I threw myself into it, especially after I ran into people I’d known in earlier phases of my life behind the masks. I was shoved, followed and chased by those we protested and their private goon squads; encouraged, supported (and berated for my hideous typing skills in IRC) by a core group of Anons. We marched in parades and changed a Los Angeles City street closure code through legal means, and generally had fun, goofing late into  the night making jokes in chat rooms. By September 2008, my time in Anon/Project Chanology felt complete, and I stopped visiting our IRC, though I stayed in touch with a few of people I’d gotten to know in real life. When one of the main Anons in Los Angeles, and a foundational 4Channer, known as ODB or The Captain, who I  knew from the record industry as Sean Carasov died, Anons formed an honor guard at his memorial.

But of course I paid attention to what Anonymous was up to via the news: Wikileaks, Tunisia, OpPayback, OpBART. I flew up to San Francisco to cover OpBART for FDL where I saw some of  Monday’ s movie We Are Legion being filmed and got handfuls of fliers for Occupy Wall Street.

We Are Legion is an in-depth look at Anonymous, tracing its history back to the early hacking culture, through 4Chan, Chanology, through Wikileaks/OpPayback, Tunisia, LulzSec, betrayals, backstabbings, FBI raids, and prison sentences, and their support of Occupy.

Please join us and We Are Legion‘s director/writer/producer Brian Knappenberger Monday at 8pm ET (5pm PT) on the front page of Firedoglake.com. To ask questions/comment you must be logged in (you can register–it’s free!–using the button up top).

BART Contractor Says Over-Limit Contribution to BART Director’s Campaign is “Free Speech”

6:23 pm in Uncategorized by Lisa Derrick

Kal Krishnan, a contractor with business pending before BART, made a $7,000 campaign contribution to BART director  James Fang. Fang accepted the donation–well over the $1,000 campaign contribution limit set by BART– knowing that Krishnan’s company, Kal Krishana Consulting Services, had  multi-million dollar bid pending, and that the contribution was in excess of the permitted amount. BART  put regulations prohibiting donations in excess of $1,000 in place after the transportation agency was rocked by bribery scandals in 1995 and 1996.

CalWatch writing on SFGate.com reports that two other BART directors each received the maximum $1,000 from Kal Krishnan Consulting Services, and an additional $1,250 from staff and Kal Krishnan’s relatives last year. Both directors, Thomas Blalock and Joel Keller voted in favor of awarding the contract to Krishnan, despite opposition from two unions representing BART employees which argued that

BART staff could do some of the work that was being contracted out. One of the unions, Service Employees International Union Local 1021, gave Fang $7,500 in February.

Krishnan defends his donations to Fang as a First Amendment right:

All these limitations are all unconstitutional and illegal. We have the right to free speech in America. Are you working against that?

Heck, if BART shut off cellphone service, a violation of First Amendment rights, they damn well can shut down donations from contractors with bids before the board of directors.

Fang is up for reelection in 2014; isn’t it kinda early to start campaigning? Anyway, after receiving the contribution, Fang voted to award  a multimillion dollar contract Kal Krishnan Consulting Services, a longtime BART general engineering contractor, saying when questioned, that he was just following staff recommendations. Oh, and he said the contribution didn’t influence his vote. And he’d look into it and return the money.

In 2007 Fang and Keller voted to loosen campaign contribution rules to allow donations from contractors with bids before BART. Such contributions had been banned after the bribery scandals. BART director Lynette Sweet, the only voice of reason on the BART board, judging from her reactions to the cellphone shut-off,  protests and the campaign contributions said that

the board should return to a previous policy banning campaign contributions from contractors.

This is another black mark on Bay Area Rapid Transit, coming on the heels of the July 3 shooting of  Charles Hill by BART police (the second shooting in two years; the first was Oscar Grant in 2009), and the internationally reported suspension of cellphone service on August 11 in an effort to thwart protestors.
Since then BART has been the focus of Monday afternoon demonstrations by Anonymous and No Justice No BART. In an overwrought reaction to the protests, BART officials have shut down BART stations, delaying and angering commuters.
I want to make this clear: BART officials are closing the stations. The protesters have not tried in anyway to interfer with the trains running on time. Anonymous have stayed off the platforms, while No Justice No BART have passed out fliers on the platform (a violation of BART policy; BART does not allow expressive activities once past the fare turnstiles, and requires a permit for expressive activity on BART property to be filed at least a week in advance).
As No Justice No BART spokesperson Krystof told the BART board of directors on Wednesday:
Your counter-protest strategy is failing miserably
Lynette Sweet told her fellow directors in the same meeting:
Instead of fixing the situation, we have escalated it to the point of, we don’t know how we’re ever going to get rid of the protestors, because they’re protesting for the right reason. We’re not talking to folks the right way, and we’ve gotta fix that.
Another #OpBART peaceful protest is planned for Monday August 29 at 5pm outside Civic Center Station. BART Deputy Police Chief Ben Fairow said Thursday
I worry somewhat about the protesters, because some people are pretty upset. We can’t control what they do.
Oddly BART police had no problem “controlling” protesters, arresting five free speech advocates in stations on August 22 and one on August 15.  The San Francisco Police Department arrested 40 people on August 22, the majority for fail or refuse to comply with a lawful order, signal, or direction of a peace officer and/or failure to yield the right-of-way at a crosswalk. (Some protesters claimed on Twitter feed #OpBART that the police told them to get off the sidewalk, then arrested them for being in the street; kind of a Catch-22!)
Anonymous urges protestors to cross on the green lights, stay in the crosswalks, and obey the traffic laws. And to bring the National Lawyers Guild’s phone number and legal ID. Anon Street Medics will be on hand.

 

photo 1:  Brendan Gates, creative commons
photo 2: Wikipedia, creative commons

BART Communications Chief: We Could Shut It Down Again

3:32 pm in Uncategorized by Lisa Derrick

Majortek’s Eric Rassmussen scored an impromptu interview with Linton Johnson, Chief Communications Officer for BART as he checked out the preparations for today’s Anonymous-organized protest at the entrance of the Civic Center BART Station in downtown San Francisco; a widely publicized reaction to BART shutting off cellphone service last Thursday. And wow, Johnson acts like he’s the one to decide when things

get out of hand.

Considering the protest is designed to be outside the BART station, there seems to be no reason to shut off cellphone service inside the station! Here’s what Linton Johnson told Majortek.

How do you plan on avoiding a similar situation from that of last week?
As long as people don’t become unruly, there won’t be any problems.
I’m talking specifically about turning off cell service.
Right, as long as the protest doesn’t get out of hand, we won’t have to do that again.
I want to let you know that the intention to have a peaceful demonstration.
Good.
My question is, what needs to occur before you shut off service?
I can’t tell you that.
My question is, what it the threshold?
I can’t tell you that.
You don’t know or you can’t?
I won’t.
Can the police tell me?
You can ask, but I don’t think there are any guidelines set in place… Read the rest of this entry →