Hugh McQuaid Photo
Civic engagement wasn’t just a struggle for municipal candidates Tuesday. Organizers of a new, “Anonymous Collective” counterculture movement had difficulty drawing protesters to participate in a demonstration on the state Capitol’s steps.

The event was part of a Million Mask March in which simultaneous demonstrations were scheduled to take place at locations around the globe. The events, organized by protesters aligning themselves with the hacker group Anonymous, were staged in response to domestic spying, genetically modified foods, war, and other issues.

Here in Hartford around two dozen demonstrators — some wearing the hacker group’s signature Guy Fawkes masks — turned up for a rally on the steps of the Capitol building. More than 200 had signed up to attend on the event’s Facebook page.

Shannon Watson, organizer of the Hartford event, said it can be tough to get people engaged.

“I think people are overwhelmed right now with so many things they’re shutting down. A lot of people have just given up,” she said, adding that many folks have given up on government and the electoral process.

Hugh McQuaid Photo
For her part, Watson said she votes on local issues in her hometown of Suffield, although she has her doubts about how much it accomplishes. Watson said elected officials and the media spend too much time squabbling over divisive issues like same-sex marriage, abortion, and gun control. While those issues are important, she said the government should focus on things people can agree on, such as staying out of foreign wars.

“We have to put aside some of the differences we all feel and work together. It’s that simple and that hard,” Watson said.

Despite being associated with a movement often viewed as anti-establishment, Watson encouraged the protesters who gathered on a cold Tuesday morning to work within the system as well. She said she was able to meet with U.S. Rep. John Larson after badgering his office.

“This is our government. This is our building. These are our steps. We pay for this shit. The people in this building work for us,” she said. “. . . You have to use your rights to get them. If you don’t call your congressman, call your senators, if you don’t stand up constantly and drive them bat-shit crazy, they’re not going to listen to you.”