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Anonymous' Million Mask March quiet, colorful in Philly

A crowd of 50 Anonymous protesters was vastly outnumbered by Philadelphia police officers who followed them on bicycles and police cars

Marchers on North Broad St in Philadelphia during the Anonymous, Million Mask March on Sunday, November 5, 2017.
Marchers on North Broad St in Philadelphia during the Anonymous, Million Mask March on Sunday, November 5, 2017.Read moreELIZABETH ROBERTSON / Staff Photographer

About 50 people gathered at Thomas Paine Plaza, near City Hall Sunday afternoon for the start of a worldwide protest, organized by Anonymous, the international "hacktivist"  group.

Anonymous said there would be protests in 800 cities worldwide in what it called its "Million Mask March."

While there were reports of thousands taking to the streets in London and scores of arrests there, the Philadelphia march was peaceful.

As they marched, they chanted "Whose Streets? Our Streets!"  and "This is what democracy looks like!"

The crowd was vastly outnumbered by hundreds of Philadelphia police officers who followed the march on bicycles and in police cruisers.

One of the protesters, Billy Taylor, who said he was giving his name because he is already known to police for protests at the Democratic National Convention last summer, said the marchers represented groups who have a variety of causes, fighting government surveillance, ending mass incarceration and helping the homeless.

A few carried  signs that said "The Trump/Pence Regime MUST GO!" which had been printed for a separate demonstration that took place on Saturday as part of the Refuse Fascism protests.

Taylor said Anonymous formed to protect whistleblowers who have hacked into the computer systems of companies or individuals to expose corruption.  Many demonstrators were wearing or carrying the signature mask from the cult film "V For Vendetta."

The masks, Taylor said, would protect the marchers from prosecution, because police were filming the protests.

"They are going to use facial recognition" to keep track of people,  he said.

At one point the Philadelphia marchers stopped outside the U.S. Federal Detention Center, at 700 Arch Street, to condemn mass incarceration. One speaker said the United States imprisons more people than any other developed country. And Taylor stood up to condemn a justice system "that will lock an 18-year-old up for having an ounce of marijuana."

The group then marched to the Federal Reserve Bank on Sixth Street near Arch and denounced the banking system: "End the Fed!," the crowd chanted.

Earlier during the march, as demonstrators left Thomas Paine Plaza and proceeded to the Church of Scientology building on Race Street, several of the marchers stopped along the way to hand out blankets and toiletries to homeless people outside the Pennsylvania Convention Center.

As they marched east, after leaving the Federal Reserve Bank, they wound up outside the Independence Visitor Center where, by now, a smaller group lit up marijuana and said they were going to smoke weed in honor of Edward Forchion Jr., the NJ Weed Man, who is now imprisoned.  They warned the police following them they might get a contact high.

Before starting out on the march, several people gave speeches and DJ Welsh asked the marchers to take part in a music video for a song called "Martial Law." The performers were two solo artists, Stevie Franks, of Lawnside, N.J. and Shari DuBois, from Norristown, who said they collaborated for the protests.

The song ended with the refrain" "March! March! March!"