Aaron Swartz Memorial Demonstration in Boston Sees Renewed Criticism of “Prosecutorial Overreach”
BOSTON/South Boston - Marking the first anniversary of the death of renowned internet activist Aaron Swartz, there were renewed calls in Boston for the resignation of US Attorney Carmen Ortiz and Assistant US Attorney Stephen Heymann.
A small group of independent activists, and Massachusetts Pirate Party members, demonstrated outside the US District Court in the city Monday, and delivered a letter to an Ortiz official stating their position.
“We want a resignation from Ortiz and Stephen Heymann for their roles in this,” said one of the organizers, Bry Gallant, an independent activist from Worcester, Mass.
“They pushed us way too far; they pushed the community too far; they pushed this guy (referring to Swartz) into a game where he couldn’t win. He was facing felony counts; you know how hard it is to beat a felony count?” said Gallant.
The 26 year old Swartz, a pioneer computer programmer and internet activist, took his own life on January 11 last year.
In what was broadly dubbed ‘prosecutorial overreach,’ Ortiz and Heymann faced widespread criticism for the charges brought against Swartz following his arrest in 2011 that may have played a part in his suicide.
Swartz was charged in federal court with 13 felonies allegedly after he accessed a computer network at MIT, and subsequently downloaded academic articles from the online journal depository JSTOR; supposedly in an attempt to make the information available to the public.
He reportedly faced a long prison sentence, and large fines, were he to be found guilty of the charges against him.
Gallant claims that Swartz was prosecuted with such zeal by Assistant US Attorney Stephen Heymann, because “it was his first big juicy case to kind of make a name out of himself,” as the head of the Internet and Computer Crimes Unit.
US Attorney Ortiz’ office declined to provide a statement to Open Media Boston addressing the claims and demands of the protestors.
Gallant told Open Media Boston that the demonstration was also “to remember and honor” Swartz, adding that “it’s a shame ... that he’s gone, and we miss him.”
Also mourning the loss of Swartz’s activism, Gallant spoke of the threats to internet freedoms contained in the forthcoming Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement, which Swartz would’ve been “up in arms about.”
Two of the activists were threatened with arrest for filming inside the entranceway to the Moakley Courthouse, but no arrests were made and the demonstration passed without incident.