Guy Fawkes Day: 400 years of activism

Nov 5, 2012 | News

The image of Guy Fawkes has become a symbol of social and political protest in the 21st century. COURTESY WIKI COMMONS.

By Alex Fuller

Four hundred and seven years ago Monday, Guy Fawkes and 12 others conspired to destroy the House of Lords in London over increasing religious tension in England.

Beginning in the new millennium, the iconic image of Guy Fawkes has become associated with political protests everywhere.

“It’s become associated in particular with a group called Anonymous,” Megan Boler, an expert in social movements and political protests at the University of Toronto, told Humber News.

Anonymous, a decentralized group that Boler said advocates freedom of information, most often through Internet hacking, has adopted the stylized image of Guy Fawkes for use in public appearances.

The image, made popular by the 2006 film adaptation of Alan Moore’s graphic novel “V for Vendetta,” has become an unofficial symbol for Anonymous – which concerns itself with social and political change rather than Guy Fawkes’ religion-driven mission.

“It is a re-appropriation, a re-purposing,” Boler said, referring to Anonymous’ use of the Guy Fawkes caricature.

When Guy Fawkes and the co-conspirators of the Gunpowder Plot of 1605 plotted to destroy England’s House of Lords, the aim was to kill King James I, who announced his “utter detestation” of Catholics and their brand of Christianity, says a 2011 BBC historical article.

The first incarnation of Guy Fawkes Day took place Nov. 5, 1606, to commemorate the failed assassination attempt, an article published by Time says.

Time says Guy Fawkes’ legacy lives on in England, in the form of annual bonfires and firework displays.

The BBC reported that Anonymous, apparently in observance of Guy Fawkes Day, had hacked the websites of the Australian government and the American broadcaster NBC, and a video uploaded to YouTube called on activists the world over to take action.