STEUBENVILLE - Protesters plan to gather in the city today to complain the county hasn't done enough to prosecute individuals allegedly tied to the reported rape of a teenaged girl in August.
Hundreds of protesters are expected at a rally scheduled at the Jefferson County Courthouse today at noon. The gathering was called by members of Anonymous, an Internet hacktivist group. More than 700 people had committed to attend the rally as of Friday evening on a Facebook invitation page.
However, according to the National Weather Service's website, the temperatures are expected to drop this morning, and snow is in the forecast, with up to 3 inches possible by noon.
The rally is tied to the upcoming trial of two Steubenville High School student-athletes, Trent Mays, 16, of Bloomingdale and Malik Richmond, 16, of Steubenville who are charged with the alleged rape of an underage girl on Aug. 11-12. The trial before visiting Judge Tom Lipps is set for Feb. 13.
Anonymous contends more than two people were involved in the alleged incident. Earlier in the week, the group took over a local sports fan site, www.rollredroll.com, where the group posted a video and links to information about what they asserted were other individuals allegedly involved in the incident, including from Twitter.com and other Internet sources.
The site is private and not affiliated with the Steubenville City School District in any way, officials have explained. Jim Parks, owner and site webmaster, previously expressed outrage the site had been taken over and said he didn't personally know any Steubenville athletes nor was in any way involved in the matter.
Parks declined to comment on the matter Friday. However, a message on the site's homepage blasted Anonymous for taking over the site as well as the New York Times for publishing stories on the alleged rape without checking sources. The message, which has been copywrited, also threatened legal action against those who took over the site for alleged slander and libel.
In an interview with the Herald-Star Thursday, Kyanonymous, a confirmed member of Anonymous and one of those involved in the planned protest, said the group's intentions were to bring to light evidence other individuals were involved in the alleged rape. Kyanonymous also said the group's intentions were to stage a peaceful protest demanding others be prosecuted for the alleged rape.
Friday, Steubenville Police Chief Bill McCaffety said the city hadn't received any official notification about the rally, and protests would be limited to sidewalks. McCafferty also said protest organizers would need to apply for a permit if the rally blocked city streets.
Jefferson County Sheriff Fred Abdalla said he'd received phone calls and messages on the matter, and "I'm not afraid to talk to Anonymous. If they want to talk with me, I have no problem with that. I'm not afraid to talk to anyone."
McCafferty and Abdalla said they anticipated no problems as long as the rally is peaceful.
Anonymous reportedly began in 2003 and gained a broader profile several years ago with a cyber attack on the religion Scientology and its affiliated sites. Since then, the group has targeted websites of different countries, international banks, formed an alliance with the Occupy movement. Anonymous most recently attacked and hacked into the website for the Westboro Baptist Church in Kansas because of church members' threat to protest at funerals for victims of the Newtown, Conn., school shooting.
The Guy Fawkes mask worn by members is borrowed from the 2005 movie "V For Vendetta," in which a man trying to lead a future uprising against a fascist British government dons the mask and ultimately leads a revolution. Some individuals associated with Anonymous have been arrested in several countries in the past five years for hacking activities, but the group has no formal structure.
(Miller can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.)