Aaron Swartz’s Memorial: A Call to Continue the Fight


Death is inevitable.  Though it can be overwhelming or even frightening to talk about, it is a certainty that each one of us will eventually meet our end, no matter how much we dread it.

But there may be something good that results from a tragic event, it usually brings people together.  Friends, families, and even mere acquaintances pay their respect, say their final goodbye to a person they once knew; a person they once shared a life with; a person they shared fond memories with.

Some organize a memorial where people can share stories, shed tears, laugh at the funniest memories they can remember about the person, or just simply share anything they want to share.  But on February 24, 2013, a different kind of memorial was held.  It was a memorial not for sharing tears and laughter, but for sharing a common cause – to keep information free and open for everyone–just like what Aaron Swartz fought for while he was still alive.

The memorial was held at the perfect place, the Internet Archive,  a non-profit digital library offering free universal access to books, movies and music that occupies a former church in San Francisco.  What better place to fight for information freedom than in a place that holds huge amounts of information for free?

Supporters, family and friends attended the memorial which was organized by Internet Archive founder Brewster Kahle and supporters.

Speakers at the memorial included Danny O’Brien, Taren Stinebrickner-Kauffman, Lisa Rein, Peter Eckersley, Molly Shaffer Van Houweling, Cindy Cohn, Brewster Kahle, Tim O’Reilly, Elliot Peters, Alex Stamos, and Carl Malamud.

“Aaron’s death should radicalize us,” Stinebrickner-Kauffman, Swartz’s girlfriend said at the memorial.  “And I mean that specifically about us, about you if you’re here in this room or if you’re watching this online.  Aaron died because of deep injustice in this world.”

What he was fighting for is for the good of the many.  Some may even say that he died fighting for freedom of information and see him as a hero or a saint, but we must not forget, he committed suicide.  No one close to Swartz can fathom as to why he made this brash decision when he was never out of people that supported him and his cause.  Swartz may be a victim of injustice but what he did sends out the wrong message.

“I worry that a 16-year old kid that gets trapped in similar circumstances will take their life as Aaron did,” Stamos said.

To watch Part I of the memorial click here, and Part II here.