Masked Avengers©Linda Dawn Hammond 2001/03
Black Bloc PHOTOS-
Black Bloc at Quebec Summit/ Quebec Summit Report Index
The following articles were posted on the web and as it was likely that they would disappear
at some point, for historic reference I thought that they should be preserved.The following viewpoints do not necessarily reflect those of this website, its creator and (or) owner.
Four Articles from (Alleged) Black Bloc Members, Ya Basta solidarity from Genoa
1. LEARNING FROM OUR MISTAKES:
A note on anarchist tactics since Seattle.
2. The Black Bloc and Movement Solidarity
3. Letter from Inside the Black Bloc
4. Non criminalizziamo il Black Bloc!(In English)
5. Black Bloc Photo Link
A note on anarchist tactics since Seattle.
Having just returned from Cincinnati, it seems as though it's necessary to do an analysis on anarchist tactics and strategy at anti-globalization protests. We definitely did some things very well in Cincinnati, and I would like to begin by saying that I was very pleased with the Black Bloc there, which was around 250-300 strong (an incredible accomplishment for the Midwest). Of course, we also did some things very wrong, and with the FTAA meeting coming up in Quebec City, I think we have ample time to make sure that we learn from our mistakes.
THE BLACK "BLOC" The whole idea of a Black Bloc is that people wear all black, and stay in a tight formation. If people don't stay in formation, and wander around with large gaps in-between, well, that's not a black bloc, that's a march of anarchists wearing black. A black bloc requires that people stay tight and stay alert. In Cincinnati, we did very well with this idea. People (for the most part) stayed tight and alert, and there were very few instances where gaps became a problem. In DC (IMF Protests), this was a *huge* problem. The Bloc was very loose, and a lot of times, it seemed like people were not alert to what was going on. This luckily didn't turn too ugly, but if the cops didn't have their heads so far up their ass, they could have used that opportunity to divide us and make mass arrests. We cannot allow any opportunity for them to do that, an injury to one is an injury to all, remember.
BLACK BLOC ATTIRE Seattle was probably the most effective Black Bloc we've seen in this country, and yet there was one glaring mistake that the Black Bloc made. Their black bloc attire wasn't exactly anonymous. It all boils down to this: Wearing a bandanna doesn't mean much if you have blue hair and a huge "Aus Rotten" patch on your back. Part of the purpose of a Black Bloc is to provide anonymity for it's members. You are not doing yourself or your comrades any service by dressing in a distinct way. Individuality is great and all, but sometimes it's okay to ditch it for a few hours in order to avoid jail time. Cincinnati was definitely better in this regard, but in order for a Black Bloc to truly be effective, then that means that we should dress appropriately. This means, black jeans or pants, black hooded sweatshirt, black shoes, and, if necessary, plain black jackets. Face masks should be plain black, whether bandannas or ski masks. Most black bandannas that are purchased are black and white. This is not good. You're better off just cutting a piece of plain black cloth into a bandanna shape.As the police and the FBI learn more about anarchist culture, they're going to become much better at singling people out based on patches or clothing. They didn't have much experience with it in Seattle, which is why people were able to get away with wearing patch-pants or other distinctive outfits, but rest assured that they're getting better at it, which means that we're going to have to get better at dressing properly.
STOP RUNNING! Sometimes, in a march, people get the idea to run. This is a bad idea. Usually, this results in the march getting separated, which would provide a perfect opportunity for the police to split us up. This happened a couple of times in Cincinnati, and luckily the cops there were so inept that they didn't do anything with the opportunity. Basically, the point is this: Sometimes you'll find yourselves without a police presence, and you'll get the urge to get a head start in order to occupy an intersection. When you get this urge, just remember, even if you police get there before you, you have a better chance of dealing with them as a solid group than a dispersed crowd. So, if you get the urge to run, just lock arms with people, and walk quickly. But don't run.
DON'T LET THE MARCH SPLIT UP. If a march is headed a bad direction, be careful about how you get people to change direction. Yelling, "Let's go this way" in the middle of the march is a bad idea, because the first part will keep going the first way, and people will get split up. Instead, run to the front of the march, and tell of the new direction. Also, make sure that people know the tactical reason for changing direction. If the same people keep changing the direction of the march, the march will stop trusting them. This is good, because if that happens, those people are probably either infiltrators or assholes. Usually you can deal with both in the same manner.
DON'T BE AFRAID OF THE BIG BAD PIGGIES. A big problem in Philly is that we actually allowed ourselves to be intimidated by a row of bike police (5 or 6 usually). The march would actually become scared and bothered by a bunch of guys in spandex shorts. Why?!? The number one weapon of the police is intimidation. Intimidation actually works as a crowd control technique. If we refuse to be intimidated, all they have left is tear gas and pepper spray, which time and time again have been proven to be ineffective as tools of crowd control. Usually, they don't disperse crowds, they just piss us off.
DO NOT ALLOW ARRESTS TO OCCUR. There's a lot of people facing felony charges in Philly right now that would have loved to have been unarrested. I think anarchists should take a "no arrest" policy. Any time that the police grab somebody, no matter who they are (yes, even members of Stalinist groups like the RCP, except for maybe Bob Avakian) we should do anything in our power to make sure that the arrest fails. The only exception to this should be those who choose to be arrested, i.e., people doing civil disobedience. This is their choice, and they probably wouldn't appreciate people interfering with it.
FUCK THE MEDIA. One thing we found in Cincinnati was that there was little opportunity to do property damage without the corporate media immediately filming from two feet away. Hell, they even did this when people were simply doing graffiti in sidewalk chalk. As soon as anybody leaves the block, the media was on thier ass, documenting the action. Because the point of a bloc is not to provide a cool action photo for the corporate press, it's time that we stopped allowing them to fuck up our plans. This means that we have to take a much more adversarial approach to the corporate media and their presence during black blocs. First, when you leave the bloc to do an action, make sure a large group of people (preferably your affinity group) goes with you. This should provide a decent amount of cover, and should slow down the rest of the bloc so that you don't have to worry about catching up with them. Second, if members of your group have shields, these can have a dual purpose. If the media parasites show up, throw up the shields in front of their cameras. This may make them mad, and they may threaten you, or start throwing a fit. This leads to our third option. Very politely and calmly tell them that if they do not get out of there, that you will break their fucking camera. If they don't listen, do your best to keep your promise. It's time that we started treating the corporate media along the same lines as the police: As the winged-monkey servants of the ruling class.
ASSUME INFILTRATION AND SURVEILLANCE One big problem we had in Cincinnati amongst members of the Black Bloc is that we got cocky. We had meetings where we assumed that we were not infiltrated. By the events on Saturday, it's obvious that we were. I'm not laying blame or pointing fingers, we were all somewhat guilty. Even people I know who are completely obsessive about security culture were open and candid at the meetings. We cannot make this mistake again, because at some point the stakes may become much higher. We need to practice a good security culture at all times.
DON'T BLINDLY FOLLOW MARCH "LEADERS" There have been situations, such as the Steelworkers march in Seattle, or the Stop Police Brutality march in Cincinnati, where march leaders lead a march directly into the hands of the police. Whether this was the work of infiltrators or undercovers, or just plain stupid leaders, doesn't really matter. Next time a march starts going somewhere sketchy, or if it leaves early while people are still showing up to the starting point, we need to put our foots down, maybe even run up to the "leaders" and cause a ruckus. Usually in situations like that people are wondering if it's a trap or if what is happening is the best thing to be doing, but most people just stay quiet about it. If somebody speaks up, usually people will speak up as well.
RUMOR CONTROL For those who have been to most of the major actions, have you noticed that ever since Seattle, there have been a lot of cancellations of teach-ins, marches, actions, etc? This has probably been a tactic that the Feds and police have used to disrupt our activities. You start a rumor that an event has been cancelled, then very few people show up, and the event gets cancelled. So from now on, if you hear a rumor that something has been cancelled, assume that it hasn't. Confront anybody who is perpetuating the rumor, and ask them if they have confirmation about it. If they say that they have confirmation, still assume that it hasn't been cancelled. Hell, start a counter-rumor that it has not been cancelled. Better that a bunch of people show up somewhere with nothing going on than a bunch of really important events get cancelled due to what seems like a lack of interest.
BRING PROPAGANDA Why is it primitivists always have the most propaganda? Seattle had an incredible amount of anarchist propaganda. It was out on tables at the convergence space, people would sometimes just hand it out, it was everywhere. DC, a few months later, was abysmal. Philly was a slight bit better, as was Cincinnati. Los Angeles had quite a bit of anarchist propaganda, but most of it seemed to be, again, primitivist oriented. Because this movement is becoming increasingly anti-capitalist, and increasingly anarchistic, we anarchists need to be prepared, and we need to make sure to bombard any action with anarchist propaganda. Flyers, magazines, newspapers (given away for free, of course), posters, banner hangs, etc. We need to get ourselves in gear and make sure that there is more anarchist literature than people can handle. And then we need to do things like wheat pasting, hang banners in visible sections, etc. We cannot find ourselves empty-handed when local people come up to us and ask us what we're all about. It's also a good idea to have anarchist, syndicalist, and green anarchist flags, banners, and visual representations of who we are. This makes sure that our presence cannot be ignored. So do whatever you can, there are plenty of pre-made flyers to print out all over the Internet. Visit your local infoshop for more options. The Malatesta League website also has plenty of flyers for downloading: http://www.geocities.com/malatestaleague/ FTAA in Quebec City is going to be a major turning point in our movement. We need to be there on the street level to make sure that movement "leaders" don't take credit for all of the hard work that anarchists have done.
NEVER TRY TO REPEAT THE SAME SITUATION. One problem we've consistently been having is attempting to recreate situations. First of all, this is dumb. Cops can learn, although usually not as quickly as us, so if we want to stay a step ahead of them, we need to stay random and spontaneous. In Cincinnati, we had an impromptu march on Friday where we took to the streets and had a little bit of fun. It was very empowering, and very enjoyable. The next day we tried to do the same thing. It didn't work. The cops were willing to do whatever it takes (even search people before they got into the starting rally) in order to make sure we didn't have our right to assemble. So, remember, if at one point you kick ass in a certain way, and you're all fired up to do it again, don't. Quit while you're ahead, and switch your tactics. For instance, you may want to do the whole mass action thing one day, and if it works, move to guerilla tactics the next day. Whatever you do, stay spontaneous. Assess the situation, and figure out which tactic the police will be expecting the least, then use that tactic to it's fullest.
CONCLUSION. This whole movement is getting very interesting. It's also getting very serious. We need to start taking it seriously, while still having fun and being empowered by our actions. The FTAA meeting in Quebec City is coming up in April of 2001. Let's do our best to make sure that Anarchists are recognized as being organized, self-disciplined, and visible. See you there...
Malatesta League (firstname.lastname@example.org)
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2. The Black Bloc and Movement Solidarity
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by BB 10:14am Thu Oct 5 '00
Despite differences in tactics, and sometimes overarching strategy, I believe deeply that those commited to peaceful protest and those commited to assertive direct action can work in unison. If we defuse unnecessary animosities and attempt to open communication, we can both work toward eachother's mutual benefit.
Disclaimer: I speak only for myself and use the pronoun "we" for functional reasons only.
Essentially, we are all disgusted with the current economic system which places power in the hands of an elite few at the extreme detriment to humanity and the natural world. We are also equally disgusted by the current American political system which strips every individual the right to assert her/his political power and forces us to choose between a few party-backed, corporately-sponsored puppets to make decisions for us. These systems continue to exist because of well orchestrated illusions called representative democracy and the free market. We are demanding, I presume, that the fundamentally misleading and tyrannical nature of these systems be exposed. Simultaneously, we are commited to exploring and implementing political and economic alternatives such as direct democracy, community control of resources, cooperative labor, and establishing autonomy. Some, including many Naderites, believe that these goals can be forwarded by strengthening leftist power within the political structure, and forcing it to provide concessions to disenfranchised and oppressed people. Others, including many within the bloc, reject this strategy as being counterproductive, directing revolutionary political energy into bureaucratic and ultimately meaningless reforms which fail to change the actual power structure of the state.
Despite these differences, however, we can work together to forward our collective goals. Few within the bloc would have been upset had Nader entered the debates. I personally think that he would have undermined the validity of both mainstream candidates and brought forth important issues which could have persueded the American public to question the corporate power structure. On the other hand, I do not support his bid for the presidency because I do not support the concept of the presidency. In fact, i would rather have more openly oppressive conservative politicians come to power than more subtly oppressive liberals. No matter who wins, the poor lose, and will continue to until we all rise up and demand fundamental control over our political and economic decisions. And flagrant oppression breeds dissent while subtle oppression breeds apathy and complacence. Nevertheless, we were all in Boston a few days ago to expose the debates as a corporate, elitist mockery of democracy. I believe we can all agree with that.
Given that goal, softcore and hardcore tactics were both appropriate and didn't need to conflict with one another. Because it is the disruptive, as well as creative and noisy, nature of protest that attracts media attention, civil disobedience was a good choice. Virtually all disobedience was also perfectly constitutional, given that UMass is public property and that it has been specified by the U.S. Supreme Court that protests "must be allowed to occur within the reasonable sight and hearing range of those against whom or for whom the participants are demonstrating". When the police created a "free speech zone" barring demonstrators from the general vicinity of the Debate center, our civil rights were violated. Therefore, we were absolutely justified in attempting to breech those barriers. Additionally, even if such a move were not protected by the U.S. Constitution, we have an ethical right to participate in our political system, and to impede the functioning of, and indeed remove, that system if it no longer serves the people.
So, some within the black bloc chose to push back, tear down, and rush some of the barricades. This was not an attempt to incite the police to attack us, however. We are not masochistic, nor do we want merely to "fight with the police". As I understand it, we wanted to move our demonstration to the debate center itself, and block the participants from leaving for as long as possible. Because the police violently prevented us from doing so, we were forced to engage them. Had we made it to the center it would have provided massive media coverage and effectively communicated the outrage we feel toward our misrepresentative political system. Some Greens contend that in blocking participants from entering/leaving the debates, we are acting undemocratically and violating their freedom. I contend that our political machinery, which is propped up by illusions of democracy such as the meaningless corporate debates violates our fundamental freedoms daily. In order to free ourselves, and consequently our brothers and sisters, we must attack such a system and attack it intelligently. If in the process we violate the "freedoms" of corporate elites to rule us, so be it. Many Greens, and also many anarchists, were disapproving toward those in the crowd who launched plastic bottles and occasional sticks at the riot police, some calling this "violence". The projectiles, however, had no capability of harming the well-protected officers, but served as an effective distraction and annoyance. When police are pelted with small, harmles objects, they can't pay as much attention to beating back those on the frontlines who are trying to breech the barriers. There were also complaints that the bloc would rush the police, then run away, leaving peaceful protesters vulnerable to attack. Such is a complete misperception. Yes, after one of the orderly breeches of the blockades, the police rushed us and some retreated. Yet, those who retreated did so to gather medics for the injured and to regroup to decide how to procede. The plan was that while the police were busy handling the initial broken blockade, we would rush forward at another point. This plan failed due to lack of general coordination. But let me assure anyone who felt betrayed that we are here to protect you as much as we're here to defy the police. Also, ALL of those beaten and sprayed as a result of the rush were blocers, many of them my close friends. As a testament of support, we risked our own safety to dislodge and drag many police barriers between seated protesters and police in order to block oncoming horse and riot police. The message: we respect and will assist all those struggling against capitalism and the state. Sometimes our tactics differ, and yes, sometimes we make mistakes, but we're here for eachother.
To an equal or even greater extent, the bloc needs softcore peaceful protesters as well. the community created in the streets through singing, peaceful blockading, puppet shows, etc. is inspiring and important. Not only does it add to the festive mood of protest events, it also makes for good pr, which is essential at this point. Softcore folks also provide inspiring numbers and support, and their contributions are just as important as those practicing direct action.
These differing tactics can coexist simultaneously, and add to the strength of our movement when they do. The black bloc will continue to break police lines, occupy buildings, takeover areas, unarrest people, etc. with the goal of moving from protest to actual resistance. This does not preclude anyone else from less confrontational tactics. I, for one, also commit myself fully to avoiding placing people who do not want to confront the police in dangerous positions. This means that I will avoid inciting the police and running off leaving others in harm's way. We need to use all sorts of tactics to achieve our common goals. This is one of our greatest strengths, and confuses the hell out of the police who are trying to shut us down. Let's try to communicate wihout placing blame on one another. If we do, I am extremely confident that we can coordinate actions which allow room for multiple tactical angles, and fuel the unity and momentum of our growing movement.
SOLIDARITY NOW AND FOREVER! DON'T LET ANYONE DIVIDE US!
one participant in the O3 Black Bloc
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3. Interesting article from within the Black Bloc
by miste 6:22am Fri Jul 27 '01 (Modified on 3:42am Sun Jul 29 '01)
Letter from Inside the Black Bloc
Mary Black*, AlterNet, July 25, 2001
I'm running as fast as my asthmatic lungs will allow in the midst of what can only be called a mob. My friend from back home and I hold hands so that we won't loose each other, but I'm holding him back a little. He's in much better shape than I am and he'd probably be out of range of the tear gas by now if it wasn't for me.
A phalanx of riot cops is getting closer and I let go of my friend's hand, so that at least one of us can get away. He darts ahead of me onto a side street. I'm small, and now I'm by myself, so I'm not attracting much attention from the cops. I raise my hands in the air to show that I'm giving in, and let the cops push me in the direction that they are pushing all of us -- conventional protester and black clad rioter alike -- down a blocked side street.
Probably there is no way out of this alley; it's a trap, but the tear gas is too thick at this point for me to resist. I'm fumbling for my gas mask, but I'm going where I'm being told to go. I'm aware that some folks I've been marching with are being picked out of the crowd and thrown to the ground. Folks are trying to pull people out of the hands of the cops. One guy gets yanked back from the police line and runs; he gets away, but the friend I came here with is tackled. The last time I see him that day he's face down on the cement, two big undercover cops straddling him. Like most of the folks around me, I run.
We're retreating, but only as much as we have to. And in a few minutes we'll find our group again and advance back toward the area that the cops have declared off limits to all but a small group of extremely wealthy, extremely powerful, mostly white, mostly men.
If words like "advance" sound militaristic in tone, that's probably because I'm a part of a group that at least appears paramilitary. Our clothes are uniform issue and intentionally menacing: black bandanas, ragged black army surplus pants, black hooded sweatshirts (with optional red and black flag or slogan-covered patches) and shiny black boots (or for the vegans in the crowd, battered black converse).
I'm part of a loosely affiliated international group of individuals known as the Black Bloc. We don't have a party platform, and you don't have to sign anything or go to any meetings to join us. We show up at all kinds of demonstrations, from actions to free Mumia Abu Jamal, to protests against the sanctions in Iraq, and at just about every meeting of international financial and political organizations from the WTO to the G8. Although most anarchists would never wear black bandanas over their faces or break windows at McDonalds, almost all of us are anarchists.
Most folks I know who have used Black Bloc tactics have day jobs working for nonprofits. Some are school teachers, labor organizers or students. Some don't have full-time jobs, but instead spend most of their time working for change in their communities. They start urban garden projects and bike libraries; they cook food for Food Not Bombs and other groups. These are thinking and caring folks who, if they did not have radical political and social agendas, would be compared with nuns, monks, and others who live their lives in service.
There is a fair amount of diversity in who we are and what we believe. I've known folks in the Black Bloc who come from as far south as Mexico City and as far north as Montreal. I think that the stereotype is correct that we are mostly young and mostly white, although I wouldn't agree that we are mostly men. When I'm dressed from head to toe in baggy black clothes, and my face is covered up, most people think I'm a man too. The behavior of Black Bloc protesters is not associated with women, so reporters often assume we are all guys.
People associated with a Black Bloc may just march with the rest of the group, showing our solidarity with each other and bringing visibility to anarchists, or we may step up the mood of the protest, escalating the atmosphere and encouraging others to ask for more than just reforms to a corrupt system. Spray painting of political messages, destroying property of corporations and creating road blocks out of found materials are all common tactics of a Black Bloc.
The Black Bloc is a fairly recent phenomenon, probably first seen in the U.S. in the early '90s and evolving out of protest tactics in Germany in the '80s. The Black Bloc may be in part a response to the large-scale repression of activist groups by the FBI during the '60s, '70s and '80s. It is impossible at this point to form a radical activist group without the fear of infiltration and disruption by the police and. for some, taking militant direct action in the streets with very little planning and working only with small networks of friends are the only meaningful forms of protest available.
Although there is no consensus among us on what we all believe, I think I can safely say that we have a few ideas in common. The first is the basic anarchist philosophy that we do not need or want governments or laws to decide our actions. Instead, we imagine a society where there is true liberty for all, where work and play are shared by everyone and where those in need are taken care of by the voluntary and mutual aid of their communities. Beyond this vision of an ideal society, we believe that public space is for everyone. We have a right to go where we want, when we want and governments should not have the right to control our movements, especially in order to hold secret meetings of groups like the WTO, which make decisions that affect millions.
We believe that destroying the property of oppressive and exploitative corporations like The Gap is an acceptable and useful protest tactic. We believe that we have the right to defend ourselves when we are in physical danger from tear gas, batons, armored personnel carriers and other law enforcement technology. We reject the idea that police should be allowed to control our actions at all. Looking at Rodney King, Amadu Dialo, Abner Ruima, the Ramparts scandal in Los Angeles and the Riders in Oakland, many of us conclude that abuse by the police is not only endemic, it is inherent.
We live in a society that is racist and homophobic and sexist and unless that is taken out of our society, it cannot be taken out of the cops who enforce the rules of our society. In an even larger view, we live in a society that has agreed to give some people the right to control what others do. This creates a power imbalance that cannot be remedied even with reforms of the police. It is not just that police abuse their power, we believe that the existence of police is an abuse of power. Most of us believe that if cops are in the way of where we want to go or what we want to do, we have a right to directly confront them. Some of us extend this idea to include the acceptability of physically attacking cops. I have to emphasize that this is controversial even within the Black Bloc, but also explain that many of us believe in armed revolution, and within that context, attacking the cops doesn't seem out of place.
There have been hours of debate in both the mainstream and left-wing press about the Black Bloc. For the most part, the media seem to agree that the Black Bloc is bad. The mainstream media's current consensus is that the Black Bloc is bad and extremely dangerous. The progressive media's most common line is that the Black Bloc is bad, but at least their aren't many of us. Everyone seems to call Black Bloc protesters violent. Violence is a tricky concept. I'm not totally clear what actions are violent, and what are not. And when is a violent action considered self defense? I believe that using the word violent to describe breaking the window of a Nike store takes meaning away from the word. Nike makes shoes out of toxic chemicals in poor countries using exploitative labor practices. Then they sell the shoes for vastly inflated prices to poor black kids from the first world. In my view, this takes resources out of poor communities on both sides of the globe, increasing poverty and suffering. I think poverty and suffering could well be described as violent, or at least as creating violence.
What violence does breaking a window at Nike Town cause? It makes a loud noise; maybe that is what is considered violent. It creates broken glass, which could hurt people, although most of the time those surrounding the window are only Black Bloc protesters who are aware of the risks of broken glass. It costs a giant multi-billion dollar corporation money to replace their window. Is that violent? It is true that some underpaid Nike employee will have to clean up a mess, which is unfortunate, but a local glass installer will get a little extra income too.
As a protest tactic, the usefulness of property destruction is limited but important. It brings the media to the scene and it sends a message that seemingly impervious corporations are not impervious. People at the protest, and those at home watching on TV, can see that a little brick, in the hands of a motivated individual, can break down a symbolic wall. A broken window at Nike Town is not threatening to peoples safety, but I hope it sends a message that I don't just want Nike to improve their actions, I want them to shut down and I'm not afraid to say it.
The biggest complaint that the left has expressed about the Black Bloc is that we make the rest of the protesters look bad. It is understandably frustrating for organizers who have spent months planning a demonstration when a group of scary looking young people get all of the news coverage by lighting things on fire. Yet what is missing in this critique is an acknowledgement that the corporate media never covers the real content of demonstrations. Militant demonstration and peaceful protest alike are rarely covered by the media at all, let alone in any depth. Although I too wish that the media would cover all styles of protest, or, more importantly, the underlying issues inspiring the protest, I'm also aware that militant tactics do get media attention. And I think that is a good thing.
I started my activist work during the Gulf War, and learned early that sheer numbers of people at demonstrations are rarely enough to bring the media out. During the war I spent weeks organizing demonstrations against the war. In one case, thousands showed up to demonstrate. But again and again, the newspapers and television ignored us. It was a major contrast the first time I saw someone break a window at a demonstration and suddenly we were all on the six o'clock news. The militant mood of anti-globalization protests in the last couple years has undeniably contributed to the level of attention that globalization is now getting in the media. And although the Black Bloc is not the only reason for this, (a myriad of creative, innovative strategies have helped to bring the fickle eye of the media in the direction of the left), I believe that George Bush II felt compelled to directly address the protesters at the G8 summit in Genoa because of the media coverage that our movement is finally getting.
A second complaint that I have heard from the left, and in particular from other, non-Black Bloc protesters, is that they don't like our masks. I've been yelled at by protester and cop alike to take off my mask. This idea is impossible for most of us. What we are doing is illegal. We believe in militant, direct action protest tactics. We are well aware that police photograph and videotape demonstrations, even when they are legally disallowed from doing so. To take off our masks will put us in direct danger of the police.
The masks serve another, symbolic purpose as well. Although there are certainly those who wish to advance their own positions or gain popularity within the militant anarchist community, the Black Bloc maintains an ideal of putting the group before the individual. We rarely give interviews to the press (and those of us who do are generally frowned upon or regarded with suspicion). We act as a group because safety is in numbers and more can be accomplished by a group than by individuals, but also because we do not believe in this struggle for the advancement of any one individual. We don't want stars or spokespeople. I think the anonymity of the Black Bloc is in part a response to the problems that young activists see when we look back at the civil rights, anti-war, feminist and anti-nuclear movements. Dependence on charismatic leaders has not only led to infighting and hierarchy within the left, but has given the FBI and police easy targets who, if killed or arrested, leave their movements without direction. Anarchists resist hierarchy, and hope to create a movement that is difficult for police to infiltrate or destroy.
Some of the critiques of the Black Bloc by the left come from our own acceptance of the values of our corrupt society. There is outcry when some kids move a dumpster into the street and light it on fire. Most people conclude the protesters are doing this to give themselves a thrill, and I can't deny that there is a thrilling rush of adrenaline each time I risk myself in this way. But how many of us forgive ourselves for occasionally buying a T-Shirt from The Gap, even though we know that our dollars are going directly to a corporation that violently exploits their workers? Why is occasional "shopping therapy" more acceptable than finding joy in an act of militant protest that may be limited in its usefulness? I would argue that even if Black Bloc protests only served to enrich the lives of those who do them, they are still better for the world than spending money at the multiplex, getting drunk or other culturally sanctioned forms of entertainment or relaxation.
I have my own criticisms of what I'm doing and of the efficacy of my protest tactics. Property destruction, spray painting and looking menacing on TV is clearly not enough to bring on a revolution. The Black Bloc won't change the world. I dislike the feeling of danger or at least the fear of danger at protests for those who do not want to be in danger -- particularly for the kids, pregnant women and older folks I see there. I really hate the annoying use of pseudo-military jargon like "communique" and "bloc" by my "comrades." But mostly I hate hearing myself and my friends trashed by every mainstream organizing group from the AFL-CIO to Global Exchange and in every left-wing rag from Mother Jones to the beloved Indymedia.org. Although this is not true for everyone in the Black Bloc, I respect the strategies of most other left-wing groups. At demonstrations I attempt to use Black Bloc actions to protect non-violent protesters or to draw police attention away from them. When this is not possible, I try to just stay out of the way of other protesters.
Despite my concerns, I think that Black Bloc actions are a worthwhile form of protest. And as I watch the increasingly deadly force with which the police enforce the law at demonstrations around the world (three protesters were shot dead at an anti-WTO demonstration in Papua New Guinea in June, two protesters were shot dead at an anti-globalization demonstration in Venezuela last year, and Carlo Giulliani, a 23 year old, was killed by police during the G8 summit in Genoa), I find it increasingly ironic that my actions are labeled as violent and dangerous while even the left seems to think that the police are "just doing their jobs."
I will continue to participate in protest in this way, and anyone who cares to is welcome to join me. Bricks are easy to find and targets are as close as your local McDonalds.
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4. Non criminalizziamo il Black Bloc!
by Wu Ming 1 5:24am Mon Jul 23'01 (Modified on 11:57pm Sat Jul 28'01) email@example.com
Please understand: we are not criminalizing the Black Bloc or accusing anarchists. What happened in Genoa has very little to do with the tactics of the B.B. and there is EVIDENCE (video footage, hundreds of oral testimonies) that the top trashers were carabinieri in disguise.
I was in Genoa, I came back worn out, angry, disappointed and feverish, with the ligaments of my knees destroyed and completely out of voice, and I say: do not go hunting anarchists, do not criminalize the international Black Bloc. It is our duty to draw distinctions between the Black Bloc and what happened in Genoa. It is our duty not to charge with being a carabiniere in disguise anyone who took direct action in Genoa. Pogroms and paranoid conspiracy theories do not belong to our culture.
Last friday in Genoa were some German anarchists of the Schwartze Block. They hit such precise targets as banks and big corporate offices. They had no intention to attack other demonstrators. On Saturday a Dutch journalist of Vrij Neederland magazine met them while they were packing and maybe going back to Germany. They told him they were pissed-off because of what other "men in black" had done. In fact what went on saturday had very little to do with the BB's modus operandi: the BB has a method. One may disagree with them, and yet they have a method and go their own way without interfering with other forms of action. On the contrary, in Genoa the carabinieri escorted the trashers all day long, and never charged them, not because they were too fast and informal, as someone commented. No, they had all the time to go inside banks, trash them accurately and set them on fire, an operation which requires more than a quarter of an hour. In the meanwhile, the carabinieri hanged on in the street, _waiting for them_. When the trashers went out, the magical mystery tour went on. The carabinieri quietly accompanied the trashers to the places where many other people (belonging to the GSF) were demonstrating in other ways, as if they were walking their dogs. There are hundreds of testimonies. All along the path the men in black attacked small shops, set fire to cars that certainly didn't belong to millionaires, destroyed very little gas stations and so on. Then they were unchained in the square where hundreds of members of the Lilliput network were doing a sit-in. The carabinieri followed them and beat up women and children, boy scouts, peaceful demonstrators.
Then carabinieri and trashers left again and went to the convergence center in Piazza Kennedy. The carabinieri assaulted the place, then the merry party directed to Brignole station and bumped into the demonstration by the civil disobedience bloc, which was still far from the Red Zone. The carabinieri charged the demonstrators. In the meanwhile, some of those fake Black Blocsters broke into the ranks of the white overalls and assaulted some comrades. A very big comrade from Venice-based squat "Rivolta" was knocked down by a guy that surely was a very well trained martial artist. After that, the carabinieri kept attacking the demo for seven hours, while people were trying to go back to Carlini Stadium. The last attack took place less than 600 yards from the camping. The men in black had completely disappeared.
This has nothing to do with the praxis of the Black Bloc. In fact many people saw these fake black blocsters coming out of carabinieri vans, putting on the balaklava and starting to raise hell, trashers discussing plans with marshalls, carabinieri giving crowbars to fake black blocsters etc. The press is reporting these stories, and the national TV is showing shocking footage. On June 19th, after Gothenburg, the White Overalls of Bologna and the Wu Ming collective put into circulation a document titled "Stop the Encirclement of the Black Bloc". Here it is:
"The Black Bloc is no bullshit. It should not be trivially associated with vandalism and irrational devastation. It is an informal network of affinity groups, mostly - but not exclusively - anarchist ones, and it extends all over North America and continental Europe. They've been active for years, elaborate strategies and tactics and are willing to transform them in relation to contexts, alliances and aims. It should be clear that so far the Black Bloc hasn't manifested itself in Italy. As the recent history of the movement proves, the Black Bloc are not static and can adopt different tactis and seek "cross-fertilization" like they did in Quebec City during the anti-FTAA mobilisation. In those days they acted in full respect of the town and its inhabitants, and concentrated all efforts in tearing down the "Wall of Shame". They even chose to use symbols and practices devised by the white overalls (pads, shields, position holding etc.) and co-operated with other affinity groups in the street.
In Gothenburg the Black Bloc talked with the white overalls and decided to take action in a common frame including more peaceful protesters. Troubles started when the vast majority of spokespersons and coordinators were "preventively" arrested during the thursday night raid. The morning after, the cops cut in half the demo and isolated a section of it, which was labelled as "Black Bloc". These demonstrators could only defend themselves by throwing stones, and a few shop windows were broken [...] The peak of police violence was reached at an apparently peaceful moment: on friday night, when the cops surrounded a park where hundreds of youth had organized a rave party. They attacked the ravers, which tried to resist unbecomingly [well, you can't always be stylish], then the police fired. Certainly the rave was not organized by the Black Bloc. Black Blocsters are political activists, we may disagree with their praxis and theory, but we don't deem them as brainless Pavlov dogs foaming at the sight of truncheons. Moreover, they are more fanciful than people think: a few months ago Black Blocsters split off a demo in Buffalo, entered a destitute neighborhood and picked up garbage. When journalists asked what the fuck they were doing, they answered: "You wrote that we would trash the town, we decided to pick up the trash!".
We're witnessing a very serious attempt at criminalizing this section of the movement. We refuse to save our ass to the detriment of the Black Bloc, we regarde them as a fully legitimate part of the movement and refuse any distinction between "good protesters" and "bad protesters". White Overalls of Bologna / Wu Ming" -
My opinion is not even an opinion, for it is fully supported by testimonies and video documentation: last friday six or seven infiltrated carabinieri channeled and directed the (just, albeit blind) anger of hundreds of anarchist kids who should have known better. The same thing may have taken place saturday. Reluctantly, we decided to keep people with clubs or stones out of our demo. We certainly rejected several real provocators who called us "cops" and probably were cops themselves. Most likely we happened to beat up the occasional wrong guy, who knows? If that happened we're very sorry, but we had to defend our affinity group and prevent infiltrations and aggressions. A Black Blocster told my fellow comrade Wu Ming 5: "You like to give orders, uh? You communist!". Well, that hurts. I can assure you that we DO NOT like to give orders. Instead of starting a witch hunt, we should keep in mind that not all anarchists are black blocsters and not all black blocsters are cops in disguise. On the other hand, it is necessary to re-think a tactic that can be infiltrated and deviated so easily. This is up to the people who adopt that tactic, but it also concerns those who suffer the consequences of such permeability.
Roberto a.k.a. Wu Ming 1 crime novel author, member of Ya Basta! www.wumingfoundation.com
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