Anonymous prepares for ‘Million Mask March’ protests around the world
Tuesday’s happening will coincide with Guy Fawkes Day, an annual celebration that started centuries ago in Britain upon an unsuccessful attempt by the date’s namesake to blow up the British Parliament as part of the Gunpowder Treason Plot on November 5, 1605. And though there are no plans in the mix to annihilate any federal office buildings this time around, activists involved with the Anonymous movement — an international legion of likeminded individuals who’ve adopted a representation of Fawkes as an emblem of sorts — are staging a series of protests near political institutions around the world this year.
The Anonymous movement has exploded in the last several years after almost a decade of nurturing on the Web, and protests around the globe have been led by the group on Guy Fawkes Day regularly in recent memory, at times in tandem with hacks that have targeted the online presence of the same institutions.
This year, activists involved with Anonymous have scheduled rallies for Nov 5 slated to occur in over 400 cities around the globe, including highly anticipated events in metropolitan cities such as Washington, DC and London. Although largely described in the media as a loose-knit band of hackers and activists, Anonymous has coalesced into a powerful force to be reckoned with on the Web in recent years, having successfully waged operations that have garnered international attention, including anti-censorship protests against corporate and government websites, as well as orchestrating campaigns that called attentions on-and-off the Internet to allegations of corruption on all levels, from small-town law enforcement agencies to internationally-reaching spy operations.
A “Million Mask March” event in the capital of the United States is expected to get underway starting at 9 a.m. on Tuesday, and thousands of protesters on the Web said they plan to participate “To remind this world what it has forgotten, That fairness, justice and freedom are more than just words,” according to the gathering’s Facebook page. The rally is scheduled to involve a meet-up near the Washington Monument that will then involve a march up the street to the nearby White House. A related groups has managed to raise more than $2,000 to cover the transportation and accommodations for so-called Anons who plan to travel from around the US to get to DC for Tuesday’s event, and a Facebook page for the march to the White House is ripe with comments from Anons from all sides of the US who have orchestrated detailed travel plans to put themselves in the nation’s capital for the march.
In London, thousands are expected to rally at Trafalgar Square, where Anonymous has congregated on past Guy Fawkes Days in huge numbers. On the website for London’s OpVendetta event, an administrator wrote, “Anonymous have changed the rules by turning this morality of petition into more of a festival of ideas and new age discussion that has formed the political views of the youth of today. Anonymous understand now that we have filled the void in the protest world that others have failed Anonymous have managed to hold on to the system of having no system which allows everyone's beliefs to join the great debate.”
“This will be common knowledge by 2013 and again that is our chance, not a chance to ask the government for change, but for one night only - a chance to create the change the world wants to see! Our goal for that evening is to make people smile, to make people laugh, and to make people believe in the idea,” the message continues.
On another page that bills itself as the official Million Mask March blog, an Anon says, “As we all protest, let’s also remember the Anons, hacktivists, activists and ordinary citizens who have been put in prison or are facing the possibility of it for the information they are being accused of obtaining and sharing.”
As a worldwide movement, Anonymous-at-large has in the past rallied in support of the anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks and Army soldier-turned-whistleblower Chelsea Manning, as well as the Occupy Wall Street movement, which started in New York City two years ago but has since spread across the world as a means for addressing the overt, allegedly corrupt ties between corporations and the big banks.
In California last week, a federal judge held a status hearing for the case of 14 alleged members of Anonymous accused of taking down the website for PayPal after the money-processing site stopped allowing users to donate to WikiLeaks in late 2010. In Northern Virginia only a stone’s throw from where Tuesday’s event in DC is planned, another magistrate recently arraigned others involved in a federal case that accuses 13 alleged Anons with waging a similar campaign that took down the sites of the US Copyright Office and other entities as part of the Anonymous-led “Operation Payback.”
Jeremy Hammond, a 28-year-old hacktivist, is scheduled to be sentenced in New York later this month for his role with an Anonymous offshoot in pilfering sensitive data from the private intelligence firm Strategic Forecasting, or Stratfor, that was later released by WikiLeaks. Barrett Brown, 31, was portrayed by the media as the “unofficial spokesperson for Anonymous” before being arrested in September 2012. His trial won’t start until early next year, but when it wraps up he could be sentenced to as much time as 100 years in prison for the crimes he’s accused of, some involving intelligence gathering and analysis in which he was believed to be assisted by operatives of Anonymous.
Facebook pages exist for other rallies around the world scheduled for this Tuesday, including events in Nigeria, Mexico, the Netherlands, Turkey, Italy, Greece, New Zealand, Irelana, Canada, Servia, Belieze, Switzerland, Poland, Brazil and elsewhere.