Behind the Mask

Street Photography by Denis Bouvier

Photo by Denis Bouvier

The Occupy Vancouver protester in front of the Vancouver Art Gallery is wearing a Guy Fawkes mask. This has become popular at similar sites throughout the US and other countries.

Guy Fawkes was a British Catholic who wished to overthrow the Protestant King James I and his predominantly Protestant parliament.

Fawkes was discovered with explosives under the House of Lords in 1605, and executed for his gunpowder plot along with other conspirators.

To celebrate the saving of the King and Parliament, people lit bonfires around London. This tradition continued throughout Great Britain with bonfires, fireworks, and general revelry as an anti-Catholic sentiment as well as an expression of general political unrest well into the 20th century.

Today, it’s mostly a community event with bonfires and fireworks celebrated on November 5th.

It’s believed that the current wearing of the Guy Fawkes mask became popular after the film, V for Vendetta (2006). The film shows protesters wearing the Guy Fawkes mask marching on the British Parliament in defiance of a fictional fascist party.

The mask symbolizes the individual against a corrupt system. What’s ironic is that the mask is owned by Time Warner, one of the largest media companies in the world, and it’s paid a licensing fee with the sale of each mask.

Originating with Occupy Wall St., Occupy Vancouver and similar movements throughout the world have risen from dire economic times. People are demanding jobs, fair taxes and an end to the disproportionate wealth, power and influence of global corporations and banks.

Occupy Vancouver began on October 15 and has tried by various means to voice the above issues. They received a boost on Saturday, October 22, when David Suzuki addressed their issues in front of the Vancouver Art gallery.

He rallied against globalization where corporations, in order to maximize profits, foster the lowest standards for medicare, wages, and the environment. He argued passionately about the negative impact industry has had on our global environment and the terrible legacy this will leave for our children and grandchildren.

It’s unclear how long the protesters will occupy the Vancouver Art Gallery site, but the issues they have brought to light will affect us on a daily basis indefinitely.