"Remember, remember the Fifth of November,
The Gunpowder Treason and Plot,
I know of no reason
Why Gunpowder Treason
Should ever be forgot." – Victorian-era Rhyme.
Police aren't yet advising people to stay away from symbols of power and corporations this Saturday, but perhaps they should. If the more extremist and anarchist elements behind the Occupy Wall Street protesters, and their copycat groups around the globe, are secretly planning to cause trouble – it's likely that November 5 will be the day.
In England there certainly will be explosions on November 5, but for the most part they'll be peaceful. The day has had significance there since 1605, when a group of Catholic plotters rented a cellar below the House of Lords, filled it with 36 barrels of gunpowder, and planned to explode them on November 5 – the opening day of parliament, when all of the House of Commons and the Lords, along with the Protestant King James I (of the bible translation that bears his name), would be there.
According to the official version of events, the plot was thwarted after Lord Mounteagle (the brother-in-law of one of the plotters) received an anonymous letter warning him to keep away from parliament – and he alerted the authorities. One of the plotters, Guy Fawkes – or Guido: as he altered his name after fighting for the (Catholic) Spanish Monarchy abroad – was apprehended below parliament waiting for the anointed hour – match in hand, according to some versions of the story. After confessing and naming his co-conspirators, and being tried and convicted in Westminster Hall, Fawkes (along with the others) was hung, drawn, and quartered.
The English authorities declared that the day would be marked every year in history – officially as a celebration that the plot was stopped, and more subtly as a warning against treason. First there were annual sermons, and through time that evolved into the current version celebrations: Fireworks are set off, effigies of guys (Guy Fawkes) burnt (in older times it was effigies of the Pope), and schoolchildren recite the famous rhyme, "Remember, remember, the Fifth of November …"
In recent decades, however, more revolutionary and anarchist-minded groups have celebrated the plot itself, lauding the attempt to topple authority. The comic book series "V for Vendetta" written by Alan Moore, which was popularized further by the 2006 movie by the same name featuring Natalie Portman – in which the "hero" (who wears a sinister looking Guy Fawkes mask) succeeds in blowing up Parliament to overthrow a totalitarian English regime – encourages this idea.
Across the "Occupy" protests, from Zucotti Park in Manhattan to outside Saint Paul's Cathedral in London, some protesters have been wearing Guy Fawkes masks, and discussion forums reference November 5. On the libertarian right, supporters of Republican Presidential candidate Ron Paul have in the past marked the day with a fundraising drive, and in the cyber world, a group of hackers have pledged to "destroy" Facebook this November 5 – citing its lax (and therefore authoritarian) privacy protection laws as a reason.