Million Mask March Hits Montreal

Protesters gather in Montreal in support of hacker group Anonymous. Photo Willie Wilson
Protesters gather in Montreal in support of hacker group Anonymous. Photo Willie Wilson
Protesters gather in Montreal in support of hacker group Anonymous. Photo Willie Wilson
Protesters gather in Montreal in support of hacker group Anonymous. Photo Willie Wilson
Police presence at downtown demonstration. Photo Willie Wilson

“Stop war. Feed the poor,” “Free Palestine” and “Power to people” were some of the slogans that Montreal supporters of the activist group Anonymous carried as they demonstrated for the annual Million Mask March on Thursday night.

Updated: November 10, 2015, 1:08 a.m.

The demonstration is held every Nov. 5 in tribute to 17th century militant Guy Fawkes. The group Anonymous claims to be a fierce opponent of all forms of domination, whether political, economic, social, or cultural.

Approximately 70 activists first gathered in Square Victoria for a peaceful march across the city, stopping by symbolic places of capitalism, such as the headquarters of HSBC or the Embassy of the United States.

Among them was Danaë Detox (not her real name). The blue-haired mother of a soon-to-be student at UQAM came with streamers and placards.

“I have always been anti-system,” confessed Detox, who joined the movement in 2011. She was tired of standing idly-by in a world full of corruption, and recognized herself as having the same values as the
Anonymous group.

This online movement, created in 2003, is said to be the first group to have spawned a societal shift in consciousness. It aims to expose systemic corruption. Anonymous doesn’t recognize any leader and refuses any kind of hierarchical system, explained Detox.

“We are fundamentally anti-politics, as a political party we would not be better than others: change has to come from below,” she added with a smile.

The symbol of Guy Fawkes

Anonymous’ message goes hand in hand with the symbol of Guy Fawkes, an English Catholic activist who took part in the Gunpowder Plot on Nov. 5, 1605.

As legend goes, a group of English Catholics and Fawkes planned a failed assassination against King James I of England, reprimanding the king for his anti-Catholic policies. Fawkes hid 36 barrels of gunpowder explosives under the king’s seat in parliament.

“We know that back in those days, it was the struggle between Catholics and Protestants,” Detox commented about this contradiction. “We have upgraded the idea. And we don’t advocate for putting bombs anywhere, we’re pacifists.”

Those who marched last Thursday don’t necessarily associate with the hacktivist aspect of the movement, which has been making headlines in recent weeks for outing a thousand alleged KKK members.

The hacktivist members of Anonymous represent “only five per cent of us,” she stated.

The word “guy” in English was first used as slang for a “grotesquely or poorly dressed person,” referencing the effigies of Guy Fawkes, which were traditionally burned on Nov. 5, since his famed assassination attempt. The modern manifestation of this display is a firework demonstration across London.

“The voice of the voiceless”

Alexandre Paradis is an Anonymous activist and founder of SOS Itinérance, a Montreal association that provides food and clothes to people living in poverty and homelessness. His definition of the meaning of Anonymous is that of a community that acts for the underprivileged.

“We help everybody,” he said.

Paradis made reference to how Quebec just invested $166 million, according to the Journal de Montréal, for renovations of the Olympic Stadium but is still treating homeless people “like garbage.”