In response to a driver killing one person and injuring 19 others during a peaceful protest against a white supremacy rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, the notorious hacker collective known as Anonymous declared war against alt-right and neo-Nazi organizations by targeting their websites and posting lists of their email addresses. In an act of protest against the violent incident and recently organized white supremacist rally, Anonymous immediately launched a distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack against the city’s official website, forcing the site to go offline.
On Friday night, a planned “Unite the Right” rally organized and attended by far-right groups marched through Emancipation Park protesting against the removal of the statue of Gen. Robert E. Lee while engaging in physical altercations with counter-protesters. In February, the city council voted to remove the statue of the Confederate general while renaming the park from Lee Park to Emancipation Park.
In a statement posted on Facebook, Charlottesville Mayor Mike Signer wrote, “I have seen tonight the images of torches on the Grounds of the University of Virginia. When I think of torches, I want to think of the Statue of Liberty. When I think of candelight, I want to think of prayer vigils. Today, in 2017, we are instead seeing a cowardly parade of hatred, bigotry, racism, and intolerance march down the lawns of the architect of our Bill of Rights. Everyone has a right under the First Amendment to express their opinion peaceably, so here’s mine: not only as the Mayor of Charlottesville, but as a UVA faculty member and alumnus, I am beyond disgusted by this unsanctioned and despicable display of visual intimidation on a college campus.”
On Saturday, a bystander recorded a cellphone video depicting a car driving into a crowd of peaceful counter-protesters marching down the street. Hidden by tinted windows, the driver immediately fled in the damaged vehicle before police later arrested the suspect.
After witnessing the hit-and-run, photographer Pat Jarrett told The Guardian, “A gray Dodge Charger ploughed into a sedan and then into a mini-van. Bodies flew. People were terrified and screaming. Those closest to it said it was definitely a violent attack. The driver, who people later described as a skinny white guy with a straggly beard, reversed out of there and drove off, the front end of his car all smashed up.”
Shortly after several videos of the incident resulting in one death and 19 injuries were posted online, members of Anonymous issued a statement to the citizens of Charlottesville: “It has come to our attention that the far-right, alt-right, and neo-nazi organizations have attempted to use your city as a rallying point to display their hatred and intolerance towards the people. You as citizens cannot allow these types of actions to go unpunished. Anonymous has taken steps to remove the websites of these far-right extremists under the banner of #OpDomesticTerrorism.
“You’re not alone; Anonymous is the people, and the people is Anonymous. Take a stand with us and do not allow these domestic terrorists to use your city as a rallying point for their hatred. Counter protest. Organize. Attend their rallies. Pass & distribute Anonymous flyers. Use the hashtag: #OpDomesticTerrorism and #OpAltRight to display your message of anti-fascism within your community; let these right wing extremists know Anonymous is watching.”
Besides posting links providing tools for DDoS attacks, Anonymous took credit for immediately taking websites offline, including charlottesville.org and altright.com. In addition to the DDoS attacks, some members of Anonymous also posted links to “Nazi Email Lists” throughout social media.
The city council in Charlottesville voted to remove the Confederate statue after white supremacist Dylann Roof murdered nine unarmed black people at a church two years ago in Charleston, South Carolina.