SANTA CRUZ — A homeless activist facing federal charges for allegedly hacking Santa Cruz County computers in December is out of custody. Christopher Doyon, who is homeless himself, was in Santa Cruz on Saturday to declare his innocence and address what he sees as oppression of homeless people.
A federal grand jury indicted Doyon last month in what appears to be part of a nationwide crackdown on the hacker community. The indictment alleges that Doyon is a computer hacker known as Commander X who is part of Massachusetts-based group Peoples Liberation Front, a self-described organization of “cyber-warriors” who work on behalf of the downtrodden. It also alleges that he’s a member of Anonymous, an international collective that’s been linked to a number of online hacking attacks worldwide, and played an instrumental role in a recent series of BART protests.
“I am Commander X,” said Doyon, outside the Santa Cruz County Courthouse on Saturday morning. “Yes, I am immensely proud and humbled to my core to be a part of the movement known as Anonymous.”
He also said he’s a founding member of Peoples Liberation Front.
Doyon, 47, was arrested on Sept. 22 on a street corner in Mountain View by federal agents.
“Both my co-defendant, Josh Covelli, and I are categorically innocent of the charges against us and our legal team will provide irrefutable evidence of this,” said Doyon, who describes himself as homeless.
According to the federal
document, Doyon and Covelli of Fairborn, Ohio, hatched “Operation Peace Camp 2010” on behalf of PLF, and enacted what’s known as a Distributed Denial of Service DDOS on county computers, rendering them temporarily inaccessible. The indictment also states that the actions were taken as retribution for the events of the so-called Peace Camp of August 2010, in which more than 50 people slept outside the County Courthouse for 60 days in protest of the city’s law against sleeping outside.
“The city of Santa Cruz does not regulate camping. It forbids it completely, and this is in a city with over 1,000 houseless people and shelter for less than 10 percent on our best days,” “Peace Camp 2010” organizer Becky Johnson wrote last month on the group’s blog.
Johnson and other organizers of the 2010 protest have stressed that they had nothing to do with the hacking and did not plan nor approve it.
Doyon, who has long red hair and was wearing a shirt that said “Free Bradley Manning,” said he chose to speak in front of the County Courthouse on Saturday because it was the site of the 2010 protest, which he’d attended. He’s one of five people who was ultimately charged with illegal camping, including Gary Johnson and Ed Frey, a homeless activist and attorney. Both men were sentenced to six months in jail in June and are currently appealing the decision.
“The protest was about standing up to the rich and powerful few in Santa Cruz and to demonstrate a better way of building community,” said Doyon. “And it was those powerful few who, fearing the effect that peaceful protest might have on upcoming elections, ordered Peace Camp 2010 to be ended by force, arresting dozens.”
Doyon was released from federal custody Thursday on his own recognizance, and has been prohibited from accessing social networking sites Twitter and Facebook, and Internet Relay Chat.
“They’ve taken away my freedom of speech,” he said.
Doyon strongly believes U.S. citizens have a “moral imperative” to protest what he says are unjust actions by our governments and law enforcement, such as punishing people for sleeping outside.
“All you need to be a world-class hacker is a computer and a cool pair of sunglasses,” he says with a flourish. “And the computer is optional.”