Protesters in Thailand opposed to a military coup that occurred last month have adopted the three-fingered salute from The Hunger Games as their symbol of opposition. Now, usage of the symbol has lead to arrests, and according to Time, can mean citizens being detained by authorities for up to a week, even for peaceful protesting.
In the first Hunger Games movie, the gesture, which involves raising the three middle fingers of your left hand to the sky, was a symbol of remembrance and goodbye in District 12, the home of Hunger Games protagonist Katniss Everdeen. In The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, the gesture is used by citizens of District 11 to show their silent protest against the Capitol, the oppressive ruling city of Panem.
Usage of the Hunger Games salute has lead to discussion of banning the gesture. “[The junta] must look at [the protester’s] intention, what they want to communicate and surrounding circumstances,” said Thai army deputy spokesman Colonel Winthai Suwaree to the Bangkok Post.
“I am here because I don’t want a coup. I want elections and democracy,” one protester said. She asked that her name be withheld out of fear of being detained.
One woman was reportedly demonstrating alone with the Hunger Games three-fingered salute at Ratchaprasong intersection and was eventually tracked down by plainclothes police officers and then forced into a taxi, with observers screaming nearby.
There are even reports that Thai police officers are posing as journalists in order to arrest protesters. According to the Associated Press, a photo was taken of a female protester being arrested by a man wearing an official press badge and a green cloth that is issued to the Thai Journalists Association and the Thai Broadcast Journalists Association. The man was seen forcing the woman onto a motorcycle before leaving the scene with her.
The Hunger Games salute is being called “a symbolic act of peaceful defiance” by Brad Adams, director of Human Rights Watch’s Asia division.
What happens next is not an accident. It is too well executed to be spontaneous, because it happens in complete unison. Every person in the crowd presses the three middle fingers of their left hand against their lips and extends them to me. It’s our sign from District 12, the last good-bye I gave Rue in the arena.
If I hadn’t spoken to President Snow, this gesture might move me to tears. But with his recent orders to calm the districts fresh in my ears, it fills me with dread.
The above, which is an excerpt from Suzanne Collins’ Catching Fire, the second book in The Hunger Games trilogy, is the point in which the gesture went from one of respect for the dead to one of rebellion.