In more than 700 locations around the world, people gathered this past Saturday the 5th of November in a protest organised by social movement ‘Anonymous’. Most wore Guy Fawkes masks as a symbol of standing up against oppression.
The Guy Fawkes mask has long been the symbol of Anonymous – adorning the group’s various Facebook pages as its profile picture. The story of Fawkes is not only reflective of what Anonymous stands for, it is in many ways its motivation too – the failed plot by disgruntled Catholics to blow up the British Houses of Parliament resonates with much of what the group represents today –– a distrust of governments and the powers that be.
The story of Guy Fawkes
But it turns out that Guy Fawkes was an unlikely hero.
Contrary to what many believe, Guy Fawkes was not the mastermind of the plan to assassinate the King– he was just unfortunate enough to get caught.
Fawkes’ best friend was an outspoken, high-ranking member of the Catholic Church named Robert Catesby. Catesby wanted to kill the King, who was a believer in the Church of England. As a devout Catholic, Catesby was discontent with the Monarchy and the government of the time. He planned to restore a Catholic to the throne after the explosion, which was planned for the opening of Parliament on November 5th.
In the months leading up to the attack, Catesby, Fawkes and their fellow conspirators stockpiled gunpowder underneath the House of Lords. In the final hours leading up to the planned explosion, Fawkes was left in the dungeon guarding the powder. But prompted by the receipt of an anonymous letter, authorities searched the grounds and found Fawkes.
For several days, he was the only man implicated over the foiled plot, and he was interrogated and tortured. He remained steadfast in his defiance and righteousness for days, which, ironically, earned him the respect of King James, the very man he had intended to kill.
In the tradition of dealing with traitors at the time, Fawkes was due to be ‘hung drawn and quartered’ but he actually fell to his death from the scaffold moments before his execution, dying from a broken neck. His body was mutilated and his remains sent to the ‘four corners’ of the Kingdom, communicating a strong message to others that standing up against the authority of the King would not be tolerated.
Fawkes has been celebrated as a hero since 1605.
Face of the Million Mask March
Fawkes is the face of the Anonymous Million Mask March that was held globally this past Saturday.
The Anonymous manifesto is simply: “Anonymous is not a group. Anonymous is the name that all oppressed people can use to be unrecognised to stand against oppression, injustice and all unjustified acts that limit our freedom.”
Organisers of the Sydney event were thrilled with the turnout at Martin Place in the CBD, with a declaration on social media that it was the largest gathering of Anonymous activists in Australian history.
“The internet has awoken a generation, and now we must act together to defend our rights!” the page says.
This year’s event was styled with an ‘open mic’ format which allowed people from all walks of life to speak of their own person views and experiences of injustice.