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Million Mask March protests police brutality, 'corrupt' election at First Friday

An "Anonymous" rally drew about 30 protesters to downtown Phoenix to sound off on current social issues

A protestor participates in the Million Mask March held by Arizona Anonymous in Downtown Phoenix on Friday, Nov. 4, 2016.
A protestor participates in the Million Mask March held by Arizona Anonymous in Downtown Phoenix on Friday, Nov. 4, 2016.

Around 30 Phoenicians wearing bandanas and Guy Fawkes "Anonymous" masks gathered at the Margaret T. Hance Park on Friday for the worldwide event known as the Million Mask March. 

Although Saturday, Nov. 5 is the official rallying day for the group, organizers held it a day early to get maximum exposure.

The march was used to protest police brutality and perceptions of corruption in politics. 

The significance of the date comes from the 2006 film “V for Vendetta," which surrounds an English visionary who plots to overthrow parliament. This idea was taken up by an activist collective that started on anonymous messaging boards known simply as Anonymous.

The march, which did not start until after 9 p.m., was hosted by Arizona Anonymous Legion and went directly through the  First Friday grounds.

Daniel Orton was one of the protestors present. Orton, an ASU secondary education major, said some of the issues he was marching for included large pharmaceutical companies and medication pricing, war, police corruption and more.

“Big Pharma is not my only issue,” Orton said. “I’m also anti-war and anti-corruption; this election has finally woken me up.”

Many of the activists were upset with the state of the election. Orton said that the Wikileaks Podesta emails were particularly disconcerting to him.

“Wikilieaks showed us that presidents are selected, not elected,” he said. “And unfortunately, they are always the wrong people.”

Some of the protesters wore shirts bearing the phrase “Arrest Arpaio" and mentioned support for the Bazta Arpaio campaign.

Geoff Woods is an ASU alum and said Arpaio, who was charged with criminal contempt for refusing orders to stop racial profiling, was no longer an issue. Rather, the whole police force had been corrupted, he said. 

“Arpaio isn’t even the problem anymore," he said. "All of Phoenix police racially profile now."

The march slowed down as it hit the foot traffic at First Friday.

Muddled chants, mostly defaming police, were mostly drowned out by the drone of the crowds. Nearly every protester bore a sign representing their cause. 

Ben Strouse, an ASU sustainability junior, held signs representing The Venus Project, a sustainability organization which focuses on a new vision of society that is free of the monetary system.

“The Venus Project seeks to eliminate inequality,” he said. “If you eliminate all the money in the world, we still have resources and we still have people."

About halfway through the march, one organizer stopped the group to warn about police officers following their procession. She also told marchers to watch out for police infiltrators who would allegedly work to incite violence and profile activists.

Sgt. Vince Lewis, a public information officer for the Phoenix Police Department, said officers do not profile or infiltrate marches.

“We aren't political," Lewis said. "Our main goal is to protect the rights to peacefully demonstrate and the community's rights to lead their lives uninterrupted.” 

He said the department doesn’t have the capacity — or the grounds — to profile activists.

“I don’t think we have the time, resources or manpower to go after people for exercising their First Amendment rights,” he said. “I don’t know how we would be justified Constitutionally to do that either.”

The fact officers were following the march was simply a matter of community response procedure, he said in a follow-up email. 

“Our detectives, in plain clothes, with badges and ID's visible, will walk among the demonstrators to help keep the peace and liaise with leaders as the demonstration progresses,” he wrote. “Their mission is not to 'infiltrate' as we keep a plainly visible police presence, and be easily recognized as either a resource or to ensure everyone's safety.”

Marchers also rallied around the street artist Binghi Slew. He told the group the FBI had most likely infiltrated their group and said they needed to look at the members of their revolution. He said journalists covering the event could be with the FBI.

"Find out the snitches in your revolution and deal with them,” Slew said. 

Another similar event, hosted by True Underground AZ, attracted 100 people, although organizers from the two events did not see completely eye-to-eye on the purpose of the Anonymous movement.

Jarvis Mackling owns True Underground AZ and said Anonymous isn't supposed to have leaders.

"If you ever see anyone with the mask getting political, it isn't a real Anon," Mackling said. 

He said Nov. 5 celebrations were about being "awakened" and said his event was a way to do that safely. Simply protesting won't accomplish this sort of "awakening," he said.

"What is a march going to do?" he asked. "At most, you are going to make some noise and flip over a cop car; which is going to just make this place worse."

Reach the reporter at or follow @isaacwindeschef on Twitter.

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