The annual Million Mask March — aka "Operation Vendetta" — spearheaded by hacktivist group Anonymous, returns to London on Saturday. Whether you're taking part, want to avoid it, or you're simply wondering what on Earth all those eerie grinning masks are all about, here's everything you need to know.
When is the Million Mask March 2022?
As usual, the march takes place on 5 November, AKA Bonfire Night, the anniversary of Guy Fawkes' foiled attempt to blow up the House of Lords — which makes sense for an anti-establishment protest. This year the action kicks off at 6pm in Trafalgar Square. The Facebook event has it finishing up by 11.30pm, though in the past police have imposed a three-hour limit.
What's the route?
There's no word on the exact route, though the demonstration is expected to move from Trafalgar Square to Whitehall, with roads around St James's Park and Green Park having closed early in previous years.
What's the Million Mask March about?
The grievances of Million Mask March protesters are broad in scope, but generally boil down to government corruption, capitalist greed, and the erosion of civil liberties. Marchers we've spoken to in previous years have criticised austerity and internet censorship, while this year's Facebook event also calls out racism against the Black community, fracking, the selling off of the NHS government, austerity... in MMM's own words "the list is endless!!"
What do protestors actually hope to achieve?
This probably depends on who you ask. Supporters see civil disobedience as a catalyst for social change, with the march being a chance to spread awareness of its causes and take a stand. Its detractors have criticised the march for a perceived lack of focus or, more damningly, an excuse to indulge in violent criminal behaviour. For many though, it's seen as an opportunity to spread awareness of injustice and take a stand against 'the 1%'.
Why those masks?
You've probably seen the rosy-cheeked masks crop up in photos from protests all over the world. Designed by illustrator David Lloyd, it features prominently in the 1982 graphic novel V for Vendetta, by Alan Moore. A stylised depiction of Guy Fawkes, it's donned by central character V; an anarchist in dystopian neo-fascist Britain, whose ambitions are more revolutionary that the man behind the Gunpower Plot. After the novel was adapted to film in 2005, Anonymous began using the mask — both as a means of protecting identities, and symbolising commitment to a common cause.
Is the Million Mask March safe to attend?
Expect a significant police presence and — if previous years are anything to go by — potentially dozens of arrests. In 2021, eight Met officers were injured and 12 people were arrested. The much-criticised Policing Act — introduced June 2022 — means that the police response could be stricter than in previous years. If the police decide to contain the protest, you may end up stuck in a kettle, so proceed with caution. Some people also set off fireworks in the streets, which is obviously dangerous, so again, if you're going, be on your guard.