Philadelphia, Pennsylvania recently caught the attention of the hacktivist collective Anonymous when the city government targeted a businessman’s attempt to clean up downtown trash.
The city owns a vacant lot overrun with weeds and debris, adjacent to Ori Feibush’s coffeeshop. After years of battling with the city over the eyesore, Feibush took it upon himself to clean it up. He spent at least $20,000 of his own money to remove 40 tons of trash and renovate the property — a project Anonymous claims would have cost Philadelphia taxpayers $1.5 million.
The city is threatening Feibush with legal action for trespassing and “endangering the public,” although its lot is now complete with cherry trees, park benches, gravel and a cemented sidewalk.
Feibush documented his struggle on his blog, PleaseFixPhilly.com.
Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority executive director Ed Covington said in a press conference Friday that “distortion” about the property has clouded public discussion. He also claimed Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority crews — not Feibush — cleaned up the lot.
“This incompetence and abuse of power clearly shows that We The People need to take action and pay the ‘City of Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority’ and Councilman Kenyatta Johnson a visit,” said the hacktivists, announcing operations ‘#OpPRA’ and ‘OpPhillyGovTrash’ against them.
“For seeking to take unwarranted punitive action against this small business owner, a member of the 99%, you have gathered the attention of Anonymous,” said the group. “This is not something you wish to do.”
“We demand you immediately retract all claims of wrong doing by Mr Feibush and that you seek to arrange amicable compensation for his expenses incurred while doing YOUR job,” Anonymous continued. “Failure to do so is a terribly foolish move, and will not go unpunished. You have been warned.”
Feibush is willing to pay the city more than $50,000 for the property in an upcoming sale, reported KYW-TV3 in Philadelphia. The city sold a nearby lot for just $500 several years ago. Councilman Johnson bought a home on that lot.
“Anonymous can only presume that a few government officials and contractors are butthurt because
they aren’t getting their kickbacks this year, due to this benevolent ‘trespasser,’ the hacktivists said, theorizing that the city was hoping to drive down the property value and then “develop it for a profit.”
Feibush told reporters he was contacted Thursday evening by someone from Anonymous. As soon as he learned of the threat, he contacted local authorities.
“I have no idea who they are,” he told Philadelphia’s WCAU-TV10. “We made it a point to immediately reach out to authorities the moment we received any word about it.”