LONDON — "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 plan to march 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 fight against state power has gained traction 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 group of "hackivists" known as Anonymous had worn the now instantly recognizable masks during protests against the Church of Scientology.
The design of the mask originated 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.Comment on this story
On Saturday, a group that called itself "Anonymous of the UK" was organizing a march on Parliament and gathering support on Twitter. It was to be joined by some protesters from 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.
It was not clear what the protesters plan to do once they arrive at Parliament.
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.
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.