A Guy Fawkes Primer For Americans — What Is The Million Mask March?

Do you know about Guy Fawkes? Who, you say, is Guy Fawkes, and why does he get a day named for him? Guy Fawkes was part of a Catholic plot to kill King James I in 1605, and is celebrated by fireworks, which is a grisly reminder of essentially burning an effigy of Mr. Fawkes.

Guy Fawkes was perhaps the fall guy in the plot to kill the Protestant King and his Lords under parliament, according to the Business Insider.

“The plot failed, which was particularly unfortunate for Fawkes. He was the one guy in the plot unlucky enough to be discovered late on November 5 with dozens of barrels of gunpowder hidden under wood. The discovery came after a tip-off to a Catholic politician led to an inspection of the cellars under parliament.”

Guy Fawkes was arrested and gave up the rest of the plot. He was tortured and held in the Tower of London.

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The Independent recalls that the night of Guy Fawkes Day is called Bonfire Night, and today is the day for that celebration.

The event, sometimes called the Gunpowder Plot, is celebrated to this day.

In 1605, he was found with a large amount of gunpowder after hatching a detailed plot to kill the monarch. When the plan failed, members of the public celebrated by lighting bonfires around London.

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Deutsche-Well says that there is a story behind how a Guy Fawkes mask has become the calling card for international protests of any kind.

“On the same night, in cities both in the UK and around the world, thousands of people are also due to take to the streets for the global ‘Million Mask March’ and don their ‘Guy Fawkes’ masks — a pale bearded face, made famous by Alan Moore and David Lloyd’s 1980s graphic novel ‘V for Vendetta’ and the 2006 Warner Bros. film of the same name.”

And the last scene of the movie has spurred a movement.

“In the last scene of the film, a crowd of citizens — fighting against a dystopian fascist authoritarian state — watch the British Houses of Parliament explode while wearing their ‘Guy Fawkes’ masks.”

So, how and why is Guy Fawkes the poster guy for rebels everywhere?

“These old traditions can be very modern as well. People use them in all kinds of different ways to suit whatever they want to say at the moment. It’s part of their reinvention. And Bonfire Night, in particular, has become a tradition where the people can control how it’s manifested in many ways.”

Whatever the sentiment of the protesters, behind the mask, they are all the same.

“After 410 years of celebrating Guy Fawkes Day or Bonfire Night, Fawkes’ intentions have been much forgotten in the common cultural memory. Instead, he has become an icon of dissidence and defiance. Behind the masks, protesters are united.”

#Occupy protesters and #millionmaskmarch are the popular groups that have co-opted the Guy Fawkes cause to make their statement, and make their place in the media.

“Remember, remember the fifth of November” is the chant that can be heard when these masked marchers take to the streets. Most are generally doing this out of a sense of fun or history, but after all, the day just started with a misguided plot to take down a king, and poor Guy Fawkes, perhaps the original patron saint of lost causes, had a plot that ended badly.

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Will you celebrate Guy Fawkes Day today?

[Photo courtesy of YouTube]