WASHINGTON - British police arrested nearly 50 people in London Saturday during a protest they described as “anti-capitalist,” organized by the computer hacking group known as Anonymous.
A similar demonstration in Washington, said to be “anti-corruption,” resulted in two arrests for defacing or damaging public property.
The Anonymous group said the actions were part of its annual “Million Mask March,” with a broad theme of opposition to “corruption, censorship, inequality and war.” Scattered reports of small-scale demonstrations in other cities have appeared on social media.
Many demonstrators were disguised as Guy Fawkes, wearing masks with a stylized image of the 17th-century revolutionary who plotted to blow up the British Parliament. Anonymous has adopted the Guy Fawkes visage, which first appeared in the cult film V for Vendetta, as a symbol of its anti-establishment stance.
Britons traditionally remember Guy Fawkes each year on November 5, known as Bonfire Night, by celebrations in towns and cities throughout the country, usually with large public bonfires commemorating the foiled Gunpowder Plot in 1605.
London crowd spreads
The largest crowd for Saturday’s Million Mask March demonstration was in London. The Independent newspaper said several thousand people turned out in central London and began marching toward Trafalgar Square, ignoring restrictions imposed on the event. London police had issued a public warning beforehand that “masked criminals seeking to run amok” were expected.
The march began peacefully, with the crowd chanting “Whose streets? Our streets,” and “One solution: revolution” as police officers walked beside the protesters.
When the crowd reached Trafalgar Square, fireworks were set off, several demonstrators climbed onto the base of a tall stone column that honors the British naval hero Lord Nelson, and others split off in groups marching along routes that had not been approved by police.
Officers wearing protective helmets and carrying riot gear moved into the crowd, demanding that protesters remove their masks and identify themselves, and detaining those who refused. By late evening, 47 people had been arrested — many for drug offenses, others for obstruction, criminal damage and other infractions.
Incidents in U.S.
In Washington, meanwhile, police reported protesters spray-painted graffiti at FBI headquarters, midway between the White House and the U.S. Capitol, as well as at the nearby Trump International Hotel. A city police car was damaged at some point, and two men were arrested.
In what appeared to be an unconnected incident, the U.S. Secret Service said officers arrested a man who was walking near the White House carrying a firearm. The executive mansion was briefly placed on lockdown, but President Barack Obama was not present at the time.
Obama was enjoying the sunny autumn afternoon by playing golf at the time at an Air Force base outside Washington, when the security incident occurred downtown.