Chaos reigned in central London on Bonfire Night. But would Guy Fawkes approve?
Guy Fawkes would probably be mystified by what his name has come to stand for in the 21st century.
Despite being a minor member in the failed plot to explode the Houses of Parliament in 1605, his name now represents Britain’s annual night of effigy burning, firework displays, toffee apple gobbling, and more recently, anti-capitalist protest.
The latest addition is perhaps the most strange. The Million Mask March, which seems to have become an annual protest in cities across the world, was originally organised by vigilante hacking collective Anonymous.
Since the group’s inception in 2003, Anonymous have worn stylised Guy Fawkes face masks, based on a design from the Alan Moore graphic novel V for Vendetta.
But Guy Fawkes himself was strongly Catholic and a supporter of the hegemonic Spanish regime, and even fought with Catholic Spain in an attempt to crush the formation of the new Dutch republic. It was after this that he turned his attention to the terrorist act of blowing up parliament during the annual state opening, killing the protestant king James I and replacing him with his daughter Elizabeth, who was third in line to the throne and who could be influenced by Spain.
Nonetheless, November the 5th in London now sees the streets filled with plastic Guy Fawkes masks, as protestors take to the streets to demand a vast range of social changes, from the end of the monarchy to closing the banks, from stopping censorship to ending wars, or from demanding full-blown social revolution to the opposite, complete anarchy.
This year’s 5 November protest began peacefully, but eventually turned unpleasant and violent after police “kettled” hundreds of protestors, who then attempted to break out of their enclosure. The majority of the 50 arrests made were for “breaching police containments” in Trafalgar Square.
Two people were arrested for assaulting police officers and a police car windscreen was also broken, after an attempt to set the vehicle on fire failed.
The walls of the National Gallery were lit up by police lasers which scrolled ominous messages to the protestors, including: “Officers may require you to remove face coverings. Failure to do so is an offence.”