Forget the Bat Signal: This Is a Protest

Monday, March 24, 2014

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.

Jenna Pope

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.

Kyle Depew

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."

Jenna Pope, courtesy of The Illuminator

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

Eric Molinsky

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.


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Comments [7]

The 2011 "bat signal" might be Mark Read's first illumination but Students for A Free Tibet has been doing it in NYC since at least 2008. Jim O'Dwyer wrote up SFTs actions in a NY Times column on August 15th 2008 called "Protest on 12th Avenue Takes Aim at Beijing." One of my tweets on the issue was projected on buildings with a series of real time tweets in Midtown along President Deng's route when he was here a few years later. In fact my son Nick Gulotta who was with SFT at the time wrote a handbook on doing projection actions for social activists. Anti Koch brother illuminations took place in Lincoln Center when the Koch Theater was renamed.

Projection actions have also been used in Los Angeles in 2007 around the topic of clergy sex abuse and its coverup. It is a great way to put up information without trespassing or causing vandalism.

Mar. 27 2014 07:20 PM
Michael D. D. White from Brooklyn Heights

The Illuminator produced a fabulous evening for us protesting the sell-off and shrinkage of libraries and elimination of books involved with the NYPL's "Central Library Plan" the evening before the NYPL trustee's meeting when we held a concurrent, well-attended rally of committed people willing to stand and hold signs and banners in a drenching rain.

What were the messages? "Save The NYPL From Deal Drunk Trustees"- "Bring back the Books" - "Not For Sale" More.

Images of the Illuminator strike and the rally are available here: PHOTO GALLERY: March 12, 2014 Rally on Day of NYPL Trustee's Meeting, Plus The ILLUMINATOR Strikes!

Mar. 26 2014 10:37 AM
Mike Gallo from Englewood Cliffs, NJ

"Life was good before LG" in protest of LG's planned building of a 143 foot office building on the NJ Palisades just north of the GWB. Property was previously zoned for 35 feet.

Mar. 25 2014 10:09 PM
maria meli from Bronx NY 10465

Free non violent felons

Mar. 25 2014 07:59 PM
Peter H. Tassone from Carmel, NY

My illuminated message would be "CORPORATIONS ARE NOT PEOPLE"

Mar. 25 2014 06:52 PM
Linda from Queens

My slogan would be across City Hall "Let teachers teach"

Mar. 25 2014 12:32 PM
Matthew Lusk from Bedford-Stuyvesant


Mar. 25 2014 11:41 AM

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