Forget the Bat Signal: This Is a Protest

The Illuminator is a group of activists in New York City who project words and images on the side of buildings like “End Coal” or “Save the Wolves.” They have also projected a giant, moving eyeball on the side of a telecommunications building to protest spying by the NSA.

The group was born on November 17th, 2011, the day Occupy Wall Street activists were kicked out of Zuccotti Park and marched across the Brooklyn Bridge. Mark Read wanted to show his support for the activists, so he shined a "Bat Signal" on the Verizon building by the East River. But he didn't use the Batman, instead it was the logo for Occupy: 99%.

Several current members of The Illuminator say that moment convinced them to join up with Read. He also inspired a financial donor, Ben Cohen of Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream.  He paid for a periscope-projector in a souped-up van that makes it easier to display images on buildings throughout the city. To keep funding going, The Illuminator now stages protests for hire – so long as they believe in the cause.

And they’re sharing their technology with other activists around the country who are starting their own projection protest groups.

99%: The first projection by Mark Read was the 99% "Bat Signal" during Occupy Wall Street — which inspired a group of activists to join him in creating The Illuminator. That 99% logo has become their signature projection, and it's even on their business cards.

( Jenna Pope )

Free Jeremy Hammond: To keep their funding going, The Illuminator has been beaming for hire, so long as they believe in the cause. Jeremy Hammond is a former member of the hacking network "Anonymous."

( Kyle Depew )

Eyeball: The Illuminator also stages "actions" on their own, like this eyeball on the Verizon tower to protest spying by the NSA.

( Jenna Pope, courtesy of The Illuminator )

Save Our Stacks: Social media is crucial to getting the word out. Here members of The Illuminator and the Library Lovers League take pictures to post and tweet all night to protest a plan to close small branches and renovate the main branch of the New York City Public Library at Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street.

( Eric Molinsky )

Inside Van: The group's "technologist" Grayson Earle developed a special projection system that counters the distortion which would normally occur when projecting a large image across a narrow street.

( Eric Molinsky )