This mask has become a worldwide symbol of anti-capitalist protest. Its copyright is held by the Time Warner Corporation. It is made in China.


This is V’s mask. V is the fictional revolutionary anarchist in V for Vendetta, a 2006 film based on comic books by British writer Alan Moore. In 2008, hackers belonging to the group Anonymous wore the mask in public to conceal their identities offline, and in 2011, it suddenly became the predominant symbol of the global Occupy protests – a unifying face for a movement without leaders or heroes. More than 100,000 of the US$10 masks were sold in 2011, and for each one sold, royalties were sent to the makers of the movie, Time Warner. This is V’s mask, but it is owned by the world’s largest media conglomerate. 

The demands of the 2011 Occupy protests varied: in New York, protestors demanded that bankers take responsibility for the financial crisis, while demonstrations in Moscow focused on allegations of electoral fraud. But each confronted social and economic inequality, and the Occupy slogan resonates everywhere – “We are the 99 percent” was originally directed at the richest one-percent of US citizens, who own almost 40 percent of the country’s wealth. Globally, the wealthiest 20 percent of mankind controls 83 percent of the world’s wealth, compared to the poorest 20 percent, who share one percent of it between them.

The price of protest: Gearing up for a rioT

26 vmask-002Saucepan

From strapped-down plastic bottles to Styrofoam held in place with a scarf, 2011 saw demonstrators in Tahrir Square, Cairo, improvise helmets to defend against rocks and rubber bullets. One used a saucepan (30EGP or $US5) fixed in place with a surgical mask (free from the protest organisers).


26 vmask-003Coca-Cola

During Tunisia’s 2011 revolution, protesters poured Coca-Cola on their faces to protect against tear gas. A one-liter bottle costs 1 Tunisian dinar ($US 0.64). Alternatively, follow advice sponsored by the US Department of Defense and cover your face with a bandana soaked in lemon juice.


26 vmask-004Keffiyeh

If you want to support the Palestinian economy, make sure your keffiyeh scarf is authentic. Herbawi Textile Factory is the last remaining in the West Bank, after cheaper, Chinese-made keffiyehs flooded the market in the 2000s. A Herbawi original costs US$3.30; a Chinese version goes for $1.90.


26 vmask-005Gasoline

The going rate for a Molotov cocktail depends on where you live. One liter of gasoline for an improvised explosive retails for US$0.70 in Tehran and $2.50 in Athens. A glass bottle, a box of matches, a rag: the rest of the ingredients are easily found.


From the pages of COLORS #85 - Going to Market.