Numerous protesters seen scaling the walls of the U.S. Embassy in Cairo, Egypt were wearing Guy Fawkes masks, the signature symbol of the hacktivist collective Anonymous.
The mask, a symbol of dissidence and the rejection of tyranny, is also worn by protesters associated with the Occupy Wall Street movement and by many protesters associated with the Arab Spring.
Anonymous claims credit for the early support of operations during the Arab Spring in Tunisia by hacking government websites.
The group’s signature usage of the Guy Fawkes mask, first popularized by the Hollywood film “V for Vendetta”, has its origins in Anonymous’ ongoing war against the Church of Scientology.
Recently brought back into the media spotlight by the high-profile divorce of actors Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes, Scientology was one of the the hacktivist collective’s first targets.
Cruise is a prominent face of the church, distracting from its reputation for human rights abuses and run-ins with governments around the world — including the U.S. government’s Internal Revenue Service.
Amonymous’ tangles with Scientology began in early 2008 as a form of retaliation for the church’s efforts to censor a highly publicized interview of Cruise during which he gushed about his love of Scientology.
Anonymous sees itself as a guardian of a free flow of information on the Internet.
The mask was adopted to protect protesters’ identities from Scientology, which is known to aggressively pursue its critics.
One Anonymous-affiliated website publicizes human rights violations that Anonymous says it uncovered in its investigation of the organization, which critics often deride as a “cult.”
Scientologists received endorsements in Washington, D.C. Thursday from Texas Democratic Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, Indiana Republican Rep. Dan Burton and Illinois Democratic Rep. Danny Davis during the opening of a new National Office.
Liz Gibson, senior program manager at the Federal Emergency Management Agency, was also in attendance.
Their endorsement marked a significant transition in tone between the federal government and the organization, whose battles stretch back decades.
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