A request that people attending an anti-government rally in central London on the 5th of November wear Guy Fawkes masks has caused confusion among anti-lockdown campaigners taking part.
The Million Mask March, originally associated with hacker group Anonymous, has been organised by various anti-lockdown and anti-government groups such as StandUpX, Earth United and Event 202. Posters advertising the event shared over social media use the image of a Guy Fawkes mask, which became a symbol of anarchy and anti-government sentiment after the film V for Vendetta, and is also widely associated with Anonymous. On Facebook, a page for the march says, “We do support the wearing of masks for the event.”
But supporters of StandUpX and other anti-lockdown groups listed taking part object to wearing masks in public, seeing it as an unacceptable violation of liberties despite evidence it helps to limit the spread of coronavirus.
On Telegram, many StandUpX supporters worried that wearing masks to an anti-mask protest would dilute its message. One member wrote in a channel on the encrypted messaging app, “I thought we were against mask wearing?” When informed a Guy Fawkes mask would be needed, the channel member responded, “I don’t know if that makes it better or worse.”
But another user wrote: “My mask leaves no doubts that I am against mask wearing.”
Users also discussed bringing along other outfits suitable for the Guy Fawkes theme, such as a cape and daggers. One user shared an image of a bayonet knife but said they would not be bringing it with them because they didn’t want to be arrested.
In another anti-lockdown Telegram group discussing where to get hold of a Guy Fawkes mask, one member wrote, “If you want a mask I can bring some, but not wearing it myself”
The protest is set to take place in Trafalgar Square in London on Thursday, marking the first day of the new coronavirus lockdown in England. It also comes after new lockdown legislation, voted through the House of Commons yesterday, failed to include an exemption of protests larger than two people.