C. Molly Smith
June 03, 2014 AT 08:41 PM EDT

Life has imitated art in Thailand. Protestors against the Thai military coup have been spotted using a three-finger salute popularized by The Hunger Games as a real form of resistance. The gesture appeared over the weekend as protestors gathered to oppose the military takeover of Thailand’s elected government.

“If a single individual raises three fingers in the air, we are not going to arrest him or her,” Col. Weerachon Sukhondhapatipak, a spokesman for the junta, told The Associated Press. “But if it is a political gathering of five people or more, then we will have to take some action. If it persists, then we will have to make an arrest.”

The gesture represents resistance against totalitarian rule in Suzanne Collins’s book series, as well as the films based on her novels.  It appears early in the first film when Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) takes the place of her sister, Primrose (Willow Shields), in that year’s Hunger Games. The people of District 12 support their tribute silently, raising their hands and pointing three fingers outwards. The gesture serves as an act of defiance throughout the series.

While many protestors have embraced the gesture’s original definition, some have given it new meaning, pointing to both the French Revolution’s trinity of values — liberty, equality and fraternity — and freedom, election and democracy.

Protesters have also been spotted reading George Orwell’s dystopian novel 1984, which challenges the ethics of an authoritarian state. Additionally, BBC correspondent Jonah Fisher tweeted a photo of a banner that appeared at a flash-mob protest at a shopping mall on Sunday. The image pictures military leader Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha as Thailand’s Big Brother; it’s captioned with the text “Thailand 1984.”

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