Hacktivist group Anonymous has descended on its next target: the town of Maryville, Mo.
The town has garnered much negative attention after a Kansas City Star investigative article about a 14-year-old girl’s alleged rape went viral over the weekend.
Melinda Coleman, mother of alleged rape victim Daisy Coleman, told the Star she found her daughter unconscious in the frost of their front lawn, wearing only a shirt and sweatpants in the freezing temperature. Her daughter told her she had been so intoxicated she couldn’t stand, and didn’t remember what had happened. Daisy’s 13-year-old friend, however, remembered: Both of them had been raped by their male classmates, and Daisy had been dumped on her front lawn. One classmate had taken a video of Daisy and her alleged rapist, Matthew Barnett, having sex on his phone.
Barnett was later arrested and charged with sexual assault, a felony, and he admitted that he knew she had been drinking, though he claimed the sex was consensual. His friend Jordan Zech was also charged with felony sexual exploitation of a minor for recording Daisy and Barnett having sex.
But two months later, the charges were mysteriously dropped. Barnett’s grandfather, Rex Barnett, happens to be a prominent politician in Missouri as a former longtime member of the Missouri House of Representatives. He also had ties with the Nodaway County prosecutor, Robert Rice, who dropped the charges.
Melinda Coleman told the Star that she, Daisy and her sons were bullied by other residents of Maryville after Daisy reported the rape. She was fired from her job, her son was booed during a wrestling match and Daisy was endlessly tortured by her classmates. The family moved back to their old town of Albany, Mo. Their Maryville home was still up for sale when it mysteriously burned down in a fire.
Anonymous blames the townspeople of Maryville, and it has been tweeting all day about its planned revenge. The group sent out a press release: “If Maryville won’t defend these young girls, if the police are too cowardly or corrupt to do their jobs, if justice system has abandoned them, then we will have to stand for them. Mayor Jim Fall, your hands are dirty. Maryville, expect us.”
In addition to targeting the sheriff, the alleged rapists and their families, they are also hitting back at people more tangentially related to the case, like a friend of Barnett’s who created the hashtag #jordanandmattarefree and called Daisy a “skank” on Twitter. Anonymous supporters are trashing the University of Central Missouri Facebook page: Barnett is a student there. They are also flooding the Yelp page of A&G Restaurant, where one of the alleged rapists once worked. “I wouldn’t recommend eating here unless you support the sexual abuse of young women,” wrote one user.
A family member of A&G’s owner told Metro that the restaurant has been inundated with phone calls and e-mails today ever since Anonymous made its announcement. “[The suspect] hasn’t worked here in two years,” said the source. “They think he’s part of our family but he’s not.” The source said people have called saying things like, “You must be proud to have a rapist in the family.” He added, “We just want to move on. It’s sad.”
The group is also planning a live demonstration on Oct. 22 in Maryville. “We are calling on Missouri’s Attorney General Chris Koster to immediately open an investigation into the lack of charges against Matthew Barnett, despite a confession and evidence of his guilt,” wrote the group in a press release. “We are asking members of the press to investigate and file FOIA requests to discover any connections between Matthew’s grandfather, Missouri state Rep. Rex Barnett, Maryville law enforcement and the prosecutors who dropped Daisy’s case.”
A source who attends college in Maryville but was not in town during the alleged rape told Metro of the alleged rapists, “If they would have been anybody besides football players or politicians’ kin, then they would have been locked up. At this point, I wonder what the prosecuting attorney even does.” She added, “Some ‘townies’ are saying there is way more to this case than the press have even began to cover.” The source also told Metro that the University of Kansas sorority of the young woman who started the hashtag #jordanandmattarefree is under fire.
Anonymous is using the hashtags #OpMaryville and #Justice4Daisy for tweets related to the attack on Maryville. They have also released a list of drafted tweets for people to copy and paste. Anonymous planned a similar attack on the town of Steubenville, Ohio, hacking into the town’s high school website and staging live protests. Here is the full press release from Anonymous:
We are #OpMaryville
Two young girls have been raped in the town of Maryville, Missouri. Another high school football star, the grandson of a Missouri state official, has walked free. The people of Maryville turned their backs on these victims and one family has been forced to flee the town. Their house was later burned to the ground.
On January 8th, a 14-year-old girl named Daisy Coleman and her 13-year-old friend were both raped in Maryville. Evidence of this assault was captured on film. Daisy’s unconscious body was later dumped into her family’s yard, left alone for hours in freezing weather. One of Daisy’s attackers was initially in police custody, where he admitted to having sex with her while she was under the influence. He claimed it was consensual. The hospital states the young girl’s blood alcohol level was almost twice the legal limit and they discovered three tears inside of her body, 2-4 inches in length. When asked if a crime occurred, the Sheriff told the press, “Hell yes, it occurred… And did these boys need to be punished for it? Absolutely.”
One suspected rapist is Matthew Barnett, a student at the University of Central Missouri. He’s the grandson of Missouri state Representative, Rex Barnett. At 17, Barnett was legally considered to be an adult. All charges against him have been dropped.
We demand an immediate investigation into the handling by local authorities of Daisy’s case. Why was a suspect, who confessed to a crime, released with no charges? How was video and medical evidence not enough to put one of these football players inside a court room? What is the connection of these prosecutors, if any, to Rep. Rex Barnett? Most of all, We are wondering, how do the residents of Maryville sleep at night?
We have heard Daisy’s story far too often. We heard it from Steubenville, Halifax and Uttar Pradesh. In some cases, it was too late. Both Amanda Todd and Rehtaeh Parsons, girls not much older than Daisy, took their own lives after the adults, the police and the school system, failed to protect them. If Maryville won’t defend these young girls, if the police are too cowardly or corrupt to do their jobs, if justice system has abandoned them, then we will have to stand for them. Mayor Jim Fall, your hands are dirty. Maryville, expect us.
We Are Anonymous.
We Are Legion.
We do not forgive.
We do not forget.