Anonymous Million Mask March
Anonymous members in London take part in the Million Mask March along with thousands of people around the worldIBTimes UK

Hundreds of thousands of people took to the street to protest as part of the Anonymous Million Mask March on 5 November, which is now a truly global activist movement.

Comparing Anonymous to Sepp Blatter is not an obvious connection to make, but the only other event which brings together such a disparate group of people in locations as diverse as Auckland, Kampala, Hong Kong, Kabul, Socotra, Tangier, Lima, and even Fossil Bluff in Antarctica is Fifa's World Cup - though thankfully Anonymous doesn't have a leader like Sepp Blatter.

The Million Mask March which took place around the world on Wednesday, 5 November (and could actually still be happening in the six locations in Hawaii which planned to hold protests) is only in its second year, yet it is already a genuine global movement. At a time when activism and taking to the streets to protest is an increasingly rare occurrence, it is all the more remarkable.

Anonymous emerged as a force online, using the internet to protest against perceived injustices and highlight wrongs. It doesn't have a overarching goal, but decides what to protest against on a case-by-case basis.

Why are they protesting?

The one question everyone who has heard about the Million Mask March has asked in the last 24 hours is 'What are they protesting against?' - and that is a difficult question to answer.

In Ireland it was water charges introduced by the government. In Ferguson, Missouri, it was the killing of Mike Brown by a police officer. In London it varied from badger culling to GCHQ spying.

The Million Mask March was not about a single achievable goal, it was about giving groups of people around the world a platform to be heard.

Headlines will focus on the violence and arrests which took place in major cities throughout the world such as London, Washington, and New York, but it is the truly global spread of the protests which is the movement's greatest achievement.

million mask march budapest
Protesters hold up their Guy Fawkes masks on the Liberty Bridge in Budapest, HungaryReuters

Over 450 locations across the globe took part in protests according to a map produced by the activist group ahead of the marches on Wednesday, 5 November. The map gives an idea of how truly global Anonymous is, with the only blank areas of the maps being Russia and China - though there appears to have been at least some marches taking place in the latter on Wednesday.

Anonymous Numbers

Trying to estimate the numbers of people which took part in the Million Mask March on Wednesday is difficult. Some in Anonymous claim the figure is as high as 2 million, but that sounds a little ambitious.

London was one of the biggest marches with several thousand participants. Even if those numbers were repeated at all marches around the world (and they certainly were not) you would still fall short of 1 million protesters.

With most of the headlines you will read today focusing on the minority of people who engaged in violence or destructive activity, or Russell Brand showing up in London once again (possibly to boost his mayoral credentials), the real significance lies in the emergence of a global movement.

Anthropologist and Anonymous biographer Gabriella Coleman calls the group an "activist ensemble" and in her book 'Hacker, Hoaxer, Whistleblower, Spy: The Many Faces of Anonymous' she details how the group has evolved from its early days when it was known as "the internet hate machine" to a force for (mostly) good.

Moving from the online world of IRC channels, 4Chan and trolling, to the streets and squares of cities from Paris to Los Angeles is another step in the evolution of this movement which, in a world where apathy dominates, is a very refreshing change.