STEUBENVILLE - A second protest rally tied to the alleged rape of an underage girl is set for noon today at the Jefferson County Courthouse.
The rally, co-organized by the Internet hacktivist group Anonymous, would be the second rally on the courthouse steps in the past two weeks. While the first rally Dec. 29 drew between 300 and 400 people, nearly 1,400 individuals have committed to attending today's rally on a Facebook invite page.
Trent Mays, 16, of Bloomingdale and Malik Richmond, 16, of Steubenville, Steubenville High School student-athletes, have been charged with the alleged crime, and their trial is set to begin Feb. 13 before visiting Judge Tom Lipps.
The protests are connected to the trial, as Anonymous and other individuals and groups assert there's been a cover-up by local officials surrounding the trial and that other individuals should be charged in connection with an alleged rape that reportedly occurred Aug. 11-12. Anonymous has leaked photos, videos and tweets of some the individuals they assert were involved with the alleged incident, which has led to an outcry on Facebook, Twitter and other social sites.
Cable news network CNN reported on the case Thursday morning, and it was discussed during a 20-minute segment on "Anderson-Cooper 360" Thursday evening, while the New York Times had published two separate articles on the alleged rape and the response by members of the community. The webzine Huffington Post also picked up on the story Wednesday evening, as have numerous blog sites.
The Cleveland Plain Dealer picked the story as one of its Top 10 in Ohio for 2012. A private website dedicated to the case, www.occupysteubenville.com, includes links with messages from Anonymous, media reports on the case, blogs, interviews with local authorities and even has apparel for sale. Also, a petition on the White House's website demanding additional individuals be arrested in the case had gathered more than 5,000 signatures as of this morning - an increase of more than 2,000 signatures since Thursday.
In a Friday interview, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine said said the case is being handled by outside prosecutors and a visiting judge. He also said the attorney general's office has been working in tandem with the Steubenville Police Department on the case, and the objective of state prosecutors was "to find the truth." DeWine also said prosecutors on the case were unbiased and not from the local area.
A Facebook invitation page had been established for another rally, "Stand Up for Steubenville Youth," that had been scheduled for 1 p.m. today at Jim Woods Park. Officials announced Frirday afternoon that that rally had been canceled.