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Charles B. Sears Law Library SUNY Buffalo Law School

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The Fall Guy

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Remember, remember!

The fifth of November,

The Gunpowder treason and plot;

I know of no reason

Why the Gunpowder treason

Should ever be forgot!


If you’re an English history buff, Alan Moore fan, or just someone who happens to love fire, you probably know that today is Guy Fawkes Day. For those unaware, Guy Fawkes was one of the men involved in the Gunpowder Plot in 1605. Had it succeeded, the Gunpowder Plot would have blown up the House of Lords and killed King James I. Guy has the misfortune of being caught guarding the explosives, and was subsequently executed. The British have celebrated the failed attempted on their sovereign ever since by building bonfires and igniting a “Guy” at the top.

Guy has experienced a renaissance of sorts as of late. Since the 2006 movie adaptation of Moore’s graphic novel, V for Vendetta,  the Guy Fawkes mask has been the vogue for protesters. Last week, Canadian lawmakers approved a bill that would make wearing a mask during riots or protests illegal and carry a 10 year prison sentence.  The bill will move on to the Senate.  Interestingly, one of the news reports includes a picture of a Guy Fawkes mask.

Laws against wearing masks is nothing new in New York. Since 1845 there’s been a ban on wearing masks—except for masquerade parties and the like—at public gatherings. Lately the law has been invoked in relation to political demonstrations.  The law has been challenged by various groups over the years and it appears that another challenge is on the horizon.

So, at the end of the day, not many may remember the Gunpowder Plot specifically, but plenty know of Guy Fawkes, and it appears that law enforcement is just as displeased to see him now as they were in 1605.

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