November 6, 2014 by Rob Hurlbut
Anonymous In Front Of Denver Capitol Dome
Yesterday I went to the Capitol building in Denver, Colorado to take photos of the Million Mask March. This worldwide event, taking place for the second year in a row is organized by the hacktivist group, Anonymous. They are the group that has a cosmic connection to Guy Fawkes, an early 1600’s Englishman involved in what we know today as The Gunpowder Plot. In a nutshell, he was a catholic that wanted to oust the ruling protestant monarchy but the plot was discovered by means an anonymous letter delivered to King James. Over the next 400 years, Fawkes and his likeness in the form of a mask came to be seen as symbols of protest and by 2008 as a symbol for Anonymous. The first time it got onto my radar was when I was covering the 2011 Occupy movement in San Diego.
Anonymous Flag In Denver
Anonymous has their own flag which is specific to the group while the mask is a general symbol of protest. At a protest or march organized by Anonymous you’ll see both of them.
Protest Signs In Denver
So, what was this protest about and what does Anonymous stand for? If you ask a room full of people you will get a room full of different answers. As you’ll see from the signs and posters in this post, there are many different points of view and many statements being made.
Protest Signs On Broadway
The evil of money was a common theme for this march. Our current status quo allows for people with more money to garner more influence, protection and power via political contributions and lobbying. It is not uncommon to see the right thing be ignored in order to go with a more profitable option. The mere fact that a term like “personal political gain” exists in a democracy should be a very telling thing.
Political Protest Signs
Another issue at hand for the march is capitalism itself. The way money is made has become a problematic for a lot of people because of the way it is tied to politics and the way politics is tied to capitalism. I’m not an economist or a politician so I won’t try to give my uneducated take on the matter but as the reader, you should look into points being made by these protesters and make up your own mind. Spending a week getting your news from sources other than mainstream media will help you do this.
Aside from reading the posters, I listened to what many of the protesters had to say. A lot of them are unhappy that corporations have the same rights as a person, the way mainstream media only reports stories that promote an agenda, failure to report on dissent and as a rise in the police state.
Anti Police Poster At Million Mask March
I have never been roughed up by a cop or thrown in jail but I have had a few run-ins with police officers that didn’t like me recording them in public. In 2009 I was kicked out of a San Diego trolley station after recording them arrest a man for smoking. Usually its security guards that give me the most grief over taking photos or recording video in public but a lot of them are police officers moonlighting so the cop mentality really does show through. The fact of the matter is that police like to be obeyed and rarely admit when they do something wrong. That is why so many people turn on their cameras during an interaction with a police officer; video footage provides a record that may or may not contradict what a cop writes on a report. The point is that when a camera is present, police can’t lie their way out of bad behavior. There is an excellent website, “Photography Is Not A Crime” that collects instances of police being recorded and challenging photographers for doing so. Anyway, all this reading and listening took place before the march started. As the sun set, preparations and instructions for the march started to happen.
Million Mask March In Denver Group Photo
I was very impressed with how organized the march was. Anonymous may not have a leader but there were leaders for this march and they did a great job keeping the chaos organized and keeping the protesters on task. There was a core group that worked together to decide what the route for the march would be and whose job it was to keep the group together once the marching started. It was stressed many times that the group had to remain together; no one should ever be more than two feet away from anybody else. I made quick friends with another photographer covering the march so we agreed to be buddies during the march; just in case. A group photo was organized, the PA system was broken down and the march started at about 6pm. They headed out on Colfax and onto the 16th Street Mall.
Marching Through The Streets
It is worth noting that with the exception of a Spanish language news channel, there was no media or police at the capitol building the entire time. There were some bloggers and a few live streamers but for the most part, the documentation of the march fell on the shoulders of the protesters themselves.
Marching Down The 16th Street Mall
Again, I need to give mad props to the leaders of this particular rally. They had runners that would shout directions to the protesters, kept them on the sidewalk when necessary and made sure the route went through the most populated areas of LoDo. I would say that about 90 percent of the route stayed on the 16th Street Mall and it was while on the mall that a slight police presence started to form. Since the protesters were adamant on staying together, red lights and calls of, “Hold the line!” kept the group moving slower than a parade so the police (motorcycle and bicycle) held a respectable 1 block distance ahead of the protesters. When the march stopped, the police stopped, when the march started moving, so did the police. At this point there was very little tension and no words exchanged between them.
Million Mask March Aproaches Union Station
After a few zigs and zags, the march headed towards Denver’s iconic Union Station. As I mentioned before, there were not a lot of police so as a photographer I was running up and down and all around the protesters without much worry about being singled out by law enforcement. When I realized the group was heading towards Union Station, I ran up ahead to frame some shots. When I got there, I saw lots of police wearing riot gear.
Denver Riot Police At Union Station
I got to the station about 60 seconds ahead of the march so as the group got closer, the police walked forward about 10 feet so they were standing in the street, facing the protesters. The next few minutes for me were the tensest of the evening. The march stopped at the intersection of 17th Street and Wynkoop, where the police had gathered. At this point some chanting against the police started to happen and a few people walked out from the group to flip them off and draw invisible lines they dared the police to cross. The police did not interfere with the exception of shining a few lights into a few cameras. The police helicopter showed up as well, lighting the scene from above. The way the police were stationed made it very clear that if the march proceeded west of Wynkoop, things would get ugly.
Anonymous On The 16th Street Mall
Eventually, the protesters simply hung a left turn and went back to 16th Street. Now all the police were behind, following them up the mall. A couple times the entire group did an about face and walked towards the police but as before, the police stayed back by at least a block so there was no real confrontation. The group then walked to the Money Museum at The Federal Reserve Bank where there were some speeches and chanting. It was at this point that I left the march to head home.
My final thoughts on the evening were positive all around. The organizers kept people in line, even going so far as to make sure that trash was picked up from the gathering site at the capitol. I thought the police showed great professionalism and restraint. I did not personally see any altercations nor did I see any guns drawn or tears gas canisters fired. So, I’ll leave it at that. I do think you should do some independent research and question things that you have been taught are true yet in your heart you feel are wrong. Remember, the earth was flat for hundreds of years until free thinkers brought it around to its proper shape. Cheers!