Photos by Jake Lewis
Last night was fireworks night, which meant that members of Anonymous descended upon London once again to take part in their global Million Mask March. The event invited everyone to a “tea party,” the purpose of which was “to remind this world what it has forgotten, that fairness, justice, and freedom are more than just words.” Other Anonymous bugbears included the mainstream media blackout and the whitewashing of world issues—legitimate, if fairly nebulous, concerns.
I didn’t know of any other tea parties where everyone wears masks and remains nameless, unless it’s the kind where you end up covered in a bunch of semen, so I decided to go and check it out.
According to the plan, Trafalgar Square was the launchpad for a march bound for Westminster, where everyone would shout at Parliament. Rather than going home when they got cold, the idea was that everyone would stay for an entire day. At least, that seemed to be the idea from the Facebook call out, which said, "NOTE: This will be a 24 hour event, please be prepared to peacefully assemble for up to 24hrs." (Spoiler: This didn't happen.)
Amid the throng, I was a little disappointed when I asked Jerry here what he hoped the march would achieve. “Nothing," he replied. "It needs a lot more people. That’s why I go around with the billboard. Most people don’t understand what’s going on in the world.” His friend Mindy butted in. “We want to make a loud noise,” she said. “We want change—genuine change!”
Already it seemed clear that the marchers were operating at cross-purposes.
I found myself chatting to some blokes under the shadow of Nelson's Column. “We’re here for the revolution, brother. We want to raise public awareness, There’s fracking going on, they’re poisoning the water. It’s not just that, it’s the food produce, too," said one. His friend made it clear he wasn't standing for any more government nonsense, either, “What we need to do is go over there," he said, "and blow up the buildings. Shoot them in the face."
The mass eventually made its way to Parliament, an array of muffled chants and war cries emerging through the masks.
Someone set off a smoke bomb. I wondered if it was some kind of signal to start the revolution, but unfortunately it was just a smoke bomb.
As often happens at protests, some people who didn't particularly want to be involved got caught up in it—in this case, some late commuters. The guy on the top deck was probably more concerned about getting back to Streatham after a hard day's work than he was about challenging the corrupt cabal ruling the planet.
At least he wasn't having as bad a time as this driver.
Eventually he began to see the funny side, or perhaps he decided that by pretending to side with the Anons he could ensure himself an easy life in the post-revolutionary New World Order. A new order that will probably be headed up by this guy, if the messianic pose and the hero worship of the throng was anything to go by.
This man, on the other hand, simply lacked the charisma. Or maybe just the mask. Even after making a herculean effort to climb the traffic light and co-opt it as his own, luminous crotch, he couldn't gather a cult of followers.
They were all at it, climbing lampposts for peace.
I met 16-year-old Steven from Surrey, who told me, “Tonight will be a success so long as everyone sticks to the plan and is calm and peaceful. I want all the government to know that we are here, we have a voice. We’re a big majority and they need to understand that.” As you can see from this photo, most people were happy to soak up the spirit of peaceful protest, though judging by his threads the guy on the left is more David Gandy than Mahatma Gandhi.
Others veered a little "off message" though, and there were a few minor scuffles with the cops, who really didn't want anyone to steal their prized metal barrier.
Do cops play GTA V? It has no relevance to this article at all but it's an interesting one to think about.
Others talked a violent game, but I got the feeling that they weren't gonna act on it. You can buy one of these sweet tees for $10, by the way. The hassle you'll get from cops at airport security comes free.
These guys were still trying to make carrying tents around at protests a thing. That, or they were some of the few people responding to the Facebook call out to stay up all night.
I ended up listening to this man rapping. He had pretty good flow, but I couldn't help but think that the ears will hold him back from that platinum-selling record, or indeed from being taken seriously by anyone in the world. The girl next to him didn't seem particularly impressed, to the extent that she phubbed him twice.
People continued to hang around and someone, maybe Russell Brand, launched a firework at Buckingham Palace. Unfortunately, I was too busy admiring these cool dogs to catch that, but I don't think it took the government down. Or at least it hadn't by the time I got home.
In all seriousness, it’s very easy to mock the Million Mask March because there's so much science-fiction themed hyperbole and conspiracy theory injected into the proceedings. Anonymous is primarily an online community birthed in the murky depths of the internet’s vast un-policed oceans. As such, it can often seem uneasy outside of those waters, like the unfortunate seacow of the protest scene; lacerated by propellers whenever it ventures too far from familiar territory.
A great deal of the group's online activities are impressive, but surveying the scene, I couldn't help but think that it would be better if they stuck to what they're good at. This is essentially a social movement for people who would rather ground their beliefs in graphic novels and internet memes and try to relate that back to IRL politics. Unfortunately for them, reality tends to work the other way round.
Anon and on and on: