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Using little more than Facebook, the hacktivist collective pulled off a massive protest that featured an estimated 400 cities.
“We are Legion,” Anonymous often claims in its public statements. That’s never been more apparent than on Tuesday, when protesters took to the streets for mass demonstrations as part of the Million Mask March.
Donning Guy Fawkes masks, thousands marched in over 400 cities around the world, from Australia to the Philippines. The motivation for the protests varied depending on their location, but they all carried the Anonymous banner and most took place outside government buildings, where individuals carried signs that condemned corrupt government practices, the extraction of wealth by large corporations, faulty healthcare systems, and National Security Agency surveillance.
The largest gatherings were in Washington, D.C., and London, where traffic literally came to a standstill after Anonymous activists took to the streets. At least one arrest reportedly took place in D.C., where protesters engaged early with local police.
While the demonstrations were simultaneous and widespread, there was no central committee or leadership responsible for planning the events. Using only the power of social media, Anonymous encouraged citizens, especially those in Southeast Asia, to gather in public and voice their grievances to their government.
For many, event pages on Facebook were the sole source of information for many of the demonstrations. A website, millionmaskmarch.org, also sprang up, displaying a world map that reportedly showed 477 cities scheduled to take part.
The first of the protests started in the east, where anywhere from a dozen to several thousand activists wearing Guy Fawkes masks appeared in various cities in Thailand and Indonesia, among others.
As many of the protests in Australia, South Africa, and Southeast Asia began to disperse, anywhere from a few hundred to several thousand activists were starting to line up in London, Dublin, New York City and eventually Los Angeles. Similar protests took place, albeit in a smaller form, in many other countries, as well as throughout the United States.
— إليانا (@ElianaLouisa) November 5, 2013
— #MillionMaskMarch ★ (@RedHackEditor) November 6, 2013
In Washington D.C., Anonymous marched from the Washington Monument to the White House, then the U.S. Department of Justice and eventually through the National Mall to the Capitol building. The police initially approached the demonstrators and placed yellow tape to cordon them off, but their efforts eventually proved futile. A livestream of the protest was viewed by more than 200,000 people.
Eventually, over a thousand demonstrators poured onto Pennsylvania Ave., effectively shutting down at least a portion of the major street entirely. There were no reported incidents of violence. Eight hours after the protest began, activists still lingering near the White House, where a reporter captured a photograph of a man in a Guy Fawkes mask burning an American flag.
— Jenna Çapulcu Pope (@BatmanWI) November 5, 2013
A larger demonstration took place in the U.K., where several thousands swarmed London’s Trafalgar Square and marched to Parliament. There were several reported clashes with police, but it never escalated beyond a few shoving matches. The crowd eventually made its way to Buckingham Palace, where several protesters climbed the Victoria Memorial and waved flags displaying Anonymous symbols.
— Anonymous (@YourAnonNews) November 5, 2013
— Anonymous Operations (@YourAnonCentral) November 5, 2013
Comedian Russell Brand, continuing his recent revolutionary streak, attended the London protest and tweeted a photograph of himself wearing a Guy Fawkes mask. Earlier in the day, Brand published an op-ed in the Guardian, titled “We deserve more from our democratic system,” in which he voiced his support for a change in the system of government.
— Anonymous Press (@AnonymousPress) November 5, 2013
While several online news sites reported on the protests as they were occurring, a majority of major news agencies, including the BBC, remained silent throughout the Million Mask March, a trend that didn’t go unnoticed by supporters.
— @BondInNewYork (@BondInNewYork) November 5, 2013
#MillionMaskMarch is happening all over the world and its not being reported at all on mainstream media… what a surprise.
— Danny Sollis (@xDannyBoy92x) November 5, 2013
But if anything, the Million Mask March proved that Anonymous doesn’t need traditional media. The hacktivist collective still has the ability to create its own headlines, to rally thousands around the world, to occupy public property—both online and off-.
Anonymous is, in fact, “Legion,” and it’s not going away anytime soon.
Dell Cameron was a reporter at the Daily Dot who covered security and politics. In 2015, he revealed the existence of an American hacker on the U.S. government's terrorist watchlist. He is a co-author of the Sabu Files, an award-nominated investigation into the FBI's use of cyber-informants. He became a staff writer at Gizmodo in 2017.