Sprinkled among these organizers and the parade of visitors through Zuccotti and OWS’ various other demonstrations are stoic, always grinning, manila faces sporting thin moustaches and perfectly manicured goatees. They move amongst the protesters, holding signs themselves or simply watching silently within the encampment. The $6 disguise depicts the protagonist from the comic book series V for Vendetta, an anarchist revolutionary in post-nuclear war England who wears a Guy Fawkes mask and fights to overthrow an oppressive government. Fawkes was a co-conspirator in an infamously failed assassination attempt to kill King James I of England by blowing up the House of Lords on Nov. 5, 1605, a scheme known as the Gunpowder Plot. The ill-fated hit is immortalized annually on Nov. 5, known as Guy Fawkes Night or Bonfire Night primarily throughout the United Kingdom, in which revelers set bonfires or burn effigies of Fawkes.
Yet these are not all comic book fans occupying Liberty Square. The mask and Fawkes persona has been adopted by members and supporters of Anonymous, a faceless, nameless collective of Internet activists and hackers blamed for cyber attacks governments, corporations, municipalities and other entities it deems corrupt. Earlier this month the group allegedly shut down the New York Stock Exchange’s website for approximately one minute. Anonymous will reportedly launch an attack to shut down Facebook on Nov. 5—also the date of the OWS-supported Bank Transfer Day, in which people are encouraged to transfer their money from big banks into credit unions.
Anonymous has issued calls of support for the OWS movement, according to its Twitter feed and various online media outlets and posts, though OWS, on OccupyWallSt.org, the movement’s “unofficial de facto online resource,” disavows any affiliation with the group or Adbusters. Anonymous is also a staunch supporter of WikiLeaks, the international nonprofit that publishes secret and classified data—who’s also had a presence at Zuccotti and other OWS rallies.
Though OWS and Anonymous both lack a singular leader, a face to their campaigns, and are absent a set list of demands—which critics and cable talking heads love to harp on—this is by design.
It’s this “shift in revolutionary tactics,” as Adbusters describes it, which is largely responsible for its mass appeal. By not handcuffing the movement to any particular set of issues, they are open to all—championing, among other actions, an end to corporate greed; the reinstatement of the Glass-Steagall Act, which prohibited banks from engaging in investment-banking activities; and a millionaire’s tax for “the 1 percent.”
The latter includes mega-rich billionaires such as oil magnates Charles and David Koch, whose extreme wealth increased exponentially during the current fiscal crisis and an August 2010 expose in The New Yorker revealed has been covertly creating and funding think tanks and nonprofits that perpetuate the current corporate and ideological status quo. [Their combined worth is $50 billion, according to Forbes magazine’s 2011 list of the super rich, up from $35 billion just last year. They’re currently tied for fourth.]
OWS’s distaste and battle cries are gaining momentum across Long Island.
Lisa Tyson, director of the Long Island Progressive Coalition—who organized a rally earlier this week with labor unions under the banner 99 New York, to stop a “$5 billion tax break” for the wealthiest New Yorkers that would result if the current tax rates expire as planned on Dec. 31—tells the Press, “I’ve been working on economic justice issues for 16 years, and for the first time ever I believe that the American people’s eyes are opened.”