LONDON (AP) - “Remember, remember, the fifth of November.” The 400-year-old story of Guy Fawkes and other plotters’ failure to blow up London’s Parliament is traditionally marked in Britain with this schoolchildren’s rhyme, bonfires and mulled wine at fun fairs.
But this year Guy Fawkes Day is taking on a distinctly political flavor, as protesters inspired by the folk hero marched on Parliament _ though with entirely different motivations than the 17th-century activist.
Fawkes is a household historical name in Britain for plotting with 12 other conspirators to blow up Parliament with explosives, assassinate King James I and install a Catholic monarch in the botched “Gunpowder Plot” of 1605.
The conspiracy fell apart when authorities found out about it and caught Fawkes guarding barrels of gunpowder in the cellar of Parliament. Fawkes was tried as a traitor, and the king’s narrow escape has been celebrated every year on Nov. 5, with fireworks and the burning of effigies known as “guys” across the country.
Although not widely known outside Britain, the folk hero’s story has recently been seized upon as a potent symbol against state power with the rise of two modern anti-government movements.
Stylized Guy Fawkes plastic masks _ with a clownish, sinister mustachioed smile and features loosely based on drawings of Fawke _ have been worn by hundreds of protesters from the anti-capitalist Occupy Wall Street movement from New York to London. And before that, members of the international rogue collective of “hackivists” known as Anonymous had worn the now instantly recognizable masks during protests against the Church of Scientology.
The design of the masks came from the comic book and movie “V for Vendetta,” which features a violent, anarchist antihero who fashions himself a modern day Guy Fawkes and rebels against a fictional fascist government.
On Saturday, a group including many who wore the same masks tried to march into London’s Parliament Square, but it was blocked by a heavy police presence. Many of the activists were the same people behind the Occupy London movement, which has set up camp outside the iconic St. Paul’s Cathedral for weeks to protest social inequality and the excesses of the banking industry.
Meanwhile Anonymous, which has made a name for itself by launching cyber attacks on government and large corporate websites, also seized on Guy Fawkes Day by backing an online campaign urging people to collectively withdraw their money from large banks Saturday in a bid to show their anger against the banking sector. Activists have dubbed Saturday “Bank Transfer Day” and “Operation Cashback.”
In Britain, the nursery rhyme “Remember, remember, the fifth of November/ Gunpowder, treason and plot” is familiar to most as a warning that treason would never be forgiven.
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