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Black Bloc: the culture of coercion and poor strategy at mass actions needs an overhaul
by A B
Monday Nov 7th, 2011 7:13 PM
As someone who has often defended black bloc tactics since I first encountered it at the Seattle WTO in 1999, I find myself searching for a greater critique, discussion and engagement around strategy and what really is the best approach to contributing to an effective movement that brings significant social, economic, and environmental change to this world. I have come to the conclusion that the typical narrative of the black bloc that has prevailed at mass actions in the U.S. has proven to be counter productive.
This is not a new debate. Ever since these tactics were utilized (breaking windows at Starbuck’s) at the Seattle WTO in 1999, there was a tremendous rift between the so called “good and bad” activists. Even the recently produced (and absolutely unwatchable) film “Battle of Seattle” played this up. Black bloc anarchists are always portrayed as meat head spoiled kids with little analysis of what they are doing. I know this is not the case. I have worked with a number of very thoughtful and engaged activists who sometimes utilize these tactics and I know that that some are sensitive, intelligent people from diverse walks of life. Many have devoted their lives to the cause and I have tremendous, deep respect for them. Others, however, I find to be transient, cliquish, and sexist, rarely participating in longer term community strategies, hopping from protest to protest wearing a “more radical than thou” shroud of arrogance. But this is just my experience, not everyone’s.

I think there needs to be a discussion of “strategy” as opposed to “tactics”. While many are absolutely against the idea of any kind of property destruction, I think that the real issue in regards to the feeling around what happened on the evening of November 2nd are actually due to a lack of strategy. There are many things that were amazing about the general strike: closing down of the ports by 100,000 people, taking over the city from police who were noticeably absent the entire day, and coming together en masse for a common cause. It was incredibly empowering, and the world was watching. Every major news outlet had its eyes on Oakland. Because of that, activists and community organizers should always keep in mind the larger story that is being told. Also, understanding the role of the corporate media in this kind of event, it seems obvious that they are chomping at the bit to get footage of a smashed window, or vandalized storefront. The cameras waited, and due to a lack of political discipline, they got exactly what makes them money.

There is something about the culture of black bloc tactics that seems to go into default mode whenever there is a mass action. Firstly, if a massive protest is advertised as “non-violent”, doesn’t it make sense to allow space for that? It seems there is this consistent need by black block anarchists to be coercive with their tactics, by bringing property destruction to these events without any kind of agreement from others who are participating. There are many problems with this. Some people can not get arrested (3 strikes law, immigration status, or compromise of professional licensing (ie if you are medical care provider)) Other issues that warrant consideration are people who may have had traumatic experiences around violence or the police (or both). People with health issues (mental or physical) may also not be able to participate in these kind of activities. That said, everyone deserves the opportunity to participate in a peaceful protest if that is what is promoted. That is not what happened on Wednesday. Windows were smashed at a Whole Foods and numerous banks while thousands of people marched were vandalized in a city (Oakland) that is itself on the verge of bankruptcy, with no major banking headquarters. Clorox is the only major corporation based in Oakland and it was not targeted…at all. Of the 100 or so arrested for utilizing these tactics or getting caught in the fray, only 30% were actually from Oakland, the rest were from outside the city or from out of state. It’s safe to say, from a direct action perspective utilizing property destruction, Oakland is an extremely poor target. This illustrates my point that there was a lack of strategy and a certain level of coercion involved in bringing these tactics to the general strike. Why didn’t the black bloc target downtown SF, the headquarters of Wells Fargo and a major financial center? Why not target a wealthy community like Belvedere (one of the wealthiest towns in America)? Why Oakland, a community crippled by poverty and violence?

The use of property destruction around the general strike was terrible strategy as we are now seeing with the footage that has been broadcast across the globe. The narrative by the corporate press is now “the general strike was violent” and the power of the day is eclipsed. That evening there was an attempted foreclosed building takeover where an organization that provided services to the homeless was once located. It was a great target, except it was two blocks from the Occupy Site. Why did activists choose this site knowing it would bring a heavy police presence to Occupy Oakland? Was there consideration given to the impact this would have. The events that followed left a sour taste for everyone as local small businesses were smashed and vandalized.

Some have made parallels with the Occupy Movement to the Civil Right’s Movement. I don’t know about those direct parallels, but I do know that the Civil Right’s Movement had a similar debate. Malcolm X, the black panther party, leaders like Stokely Carmichael who were deeply involved with the Civil Right’s Movement in the deep south with Dr. King, made the compelling argument that people deserved to practice self defense. It’s important to note, that even with this division, you never saw coercion by the more radical members towards peaceful protesters. That is, you never saw the black panther party or followers of Malcom X practicing property destruction (or brandishing guns) at the marches that Dr. King or SNCC were organizing. In fact the black panther party (and black Muslims) were more focused on developing social programs in community outreach and having a public display of arms against police harassment. It wasn’t until the Weather Underground’s bombing campaign against the U.S. government(and its breaking off from SDS) that you see this tactic being significantly used. Even then, activists didn’t merge tactics of mass actions with property destruction. They kept them strategically separate. There was tremendous political discipline in that period of social unrest. That’s not to say property destruction did not occur at mass actions, but there was an awareness among organizers to give space for peaceful protest and property destruction in a different time and space continuum. An example of this is in the "Days of Rage" that the Weather Underground and more radical elements of SDS tried to organize (unsuccessfully I might add). Could you imagine how different the narrative would be if there were black bloc tactics during the march to Montgomery? History would be very different, and I could pretty much guess the media would have told it in the way they always have....violent protesters create a riot!

I know that black bloc tactics were originally developed in Germany as effective resistance to police brutality. In 1980, German Police forcefully evicted the Free Republic of Wendland, an anti-nuclear protest camp in Gorleben, Wendland. This attack on 5,000 peaceful protesters led many former pacifists to reconsider their tactics. By December 1980 the Berlin City Government organized an escalating cycle of mass arrests, followed by other local authorities across West Germany. The squatters reacted by opening new squats, as the old ones were evicted. Following the mass arrest of squatters in Freiburg, demonstrations were held in their support in many German cities. The day was dubbed Black Friday following a demonstration in Berlin at which between 15,000 to 20,000 people took to the streets and destroyed an expensive shopping area. It was during this protest that the black bloc tactic of anonymity (with black mask and clothing) was adopted. The German media labeled them der schwarze Block ("the black block"). The use of the tactic spread to the Netherlands and throughout Europe and was quite successful in the 80’s. The black block is still used today in Germany, but it is worth noting, that activists refer to them as "riot tourists" who come from the suburbs to the city when there is a protest, then hop back on the train and return home, leaving the communities that they "protested" in to clean up the mess.

There are several issues to consider when thinking about the transferability of black bloc tactics to the U.S. in 2011 but the main question I have is have these tactics of property destruction been successful in the U.S. to this point and if not why not? Can anyone argue that they have had the kind of impact they had in Europe in the last 10 years, as they have been consistently utilized in protest after protest since the Seattle WTO? I would argue that the success of black bloc tactics at mass protests in the U.S. in this period (1999-2011) has been a zero sum game. I think that there are several reasons why that is. 1. Black bloc is easily infiltrated by agent provocateurs. 2. The media narrative shifts focus to these tactics away from the message of the movement too easily. 3. There has been a consistent lack of discipline of targets of property destruction, with small businesses, and community resources being targeted (in poor communities like Oakland), rather than corporate interests in wealthy communities (like, say NYC). Also, there is not currently a vibrant radical culture in the U.S. which can help every day people gain a vocabulary for this kind of resistance to actually bring 20,000 people out onto the street to resist in this way. It always remains a small fringe of people. . Also, in the US, because all of our major media outlets are corporate owned (in Europe many are non profits or state owned), there is an automatic tendency for journalists to capture the spectacle of violence which makes for great television. Also, you haven’t seen the success of the black bloc replicated really, since the mid-80’s (before the corporate hegemony and globalization that we see today) though it is continuously used again and again.

In the U.S., part of the lack of success of black bloc tactics is the culture of coercion by anarchists practicing this tactic in mass actions. As someone who has participated in organizing for demonstrations, it feels as if the point of bringing property destruction to non violent organized events has been to convince everyone that THIS is the way to protest, rather than recognizing, that many people do not want to be associated with these tactics for very very valid reasons. There is a general lack of boundaries and respect on this front to people who may not be able to get arrested, or who have had traumatic experiences with the police.

I also want to comment on anarchist culture and how it can often be self-defeating. There is often a high romanticizing of political violence and “riot porn” within anarchist circles , with countless videos that romanticize the tactic to a Hollywood like reality. Here’s just one example: http://www.crimethinc.com/blog/2011/11/06/oakland-general-strike-footage/. There are many gender/ power dynamics attached to the use of violence in groups which I’ll save for another writing, but the masculine centric culture of black bloc anarchists has to be stated. How welcoming is this tactic and the culture attached to it to people who may not identify as male, or white? As a queer woman, I often feel alienated being around “riot” energy and it makes me just want to avoid it…the opposite of participate. http://riotporn.blogspot.com/ is a popular site where riots, regardless of their political affiliation or purpose, are romanticized around the globe. I point this out, because it greatly illustrates the erotic fetishism of the tactic, the masculine nature of black bloc culture and how these tactics are often romanticized with a fraternity like zeal with little or no regard for the actual strategy utilized. It deserves a critique. With this masculine centered eroticism of property destruction, there also appears to be a general sense of entitlement around ownership of a protest event.

The “noise” volume of property destruction will always trump a non violent peaceful protest in the eyes of not only the media, but also fellow participants and those watching on the outside, no matter how large the numbers. That is a fact. The question is, then, is there any room for property destruction in a movement? I would argue yes. There are many examples in U.S. history of property destruction being done somewhat successfully. The Earth Liberation Front was successful at destroying a wild horse slaughter house that the local community in Oregon had spent years trying to close down. With a simple act of property destruction, the struggle was over, and the slaughter house never re-opened. The Weather Underground went on a fairly successful and extensive bombing campaign against the US. Government in protest of the Vietnam war for almost 15 years. These are large scale examples of clandestine groups that have practiced property destruction somewhat successfully, but who have also paid the price with imprisonment, assasination or needing to go underground for an extended period of time. Here is another more small scale example of a great use of property destruction:

The Ronald Reagan statue which has been promoted in the main stream media as a “beacon” of liberty on the west coast like the Statue of Liberty, was brilliantly re-sculpted to be leaning left. http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2011/11/07/vandals-leave-reagan-statue-leaning-left/

I think the underlying strategy that the black bloc needs to consider is allowing time and space for peaceful protest to occur. When property destruction is brought to a mass action without consensus or understanding of the participants, it is coercive, and undemocratic. There are also a number of factors that must be considered. When practicing these tactics it’s important to ask these questions in relation to strategy: Is this the best use of resources? Is this an appropriate target? Is there a better target? Is this a good location or just a convenient location? Is this a good time to do this? How will this effect other allies who are involved? How can the media spin this against the movement and how can we effectively spin it back around? I hope the conversation on this topic can continue, and that respect and intelligence prevail. For the first time in a number of years, I have hope that change can actually occur, and that visionary people with good hearts will prevail.

Comments  (Hide Comments)

by Headset
Monday Nov 7th, 2011 6:21 PM
Thank you so much for this thoughtful analysis, A B. Many have been making similar points since last Wednesday, but this is one of the very best and does a great job of putting it all in context.

I have been involved in these debates at least since Seattle, and have defended diversity of tactics many times. But not now. It is just so out of step with the Occupy movement and the mass participation that is within our grasp. It is all con with no pro right now. We need more teachers and doctors, and fewer scary people in masks. The two are really mutually exclusive to a large extent right now.

I don't expect everyone to agree with me, but I strongly feel that Black Bloc tactics should be completely off the table during the OWS movement. Even with time and place separation. If anyone smashes a single window anywhere in Oakland while Occupy Oakland is happening, OO is going to get blamed for it.

Please, everyone, think of the bigger picture and just chill out. Wednesday was beautiful. It won't happen again if people keep breaking things.
by Bruno
Monday Nov 7th, 2011 7:27 PM
Another thank you for this article. Like I said, one of the smartest I have read on this site. There is a time and place for black bloc tactics, but the way they were carried out during the general strike were premature and downright disrespectful. The small clique responsible may have ideology, but they do not have the experience or respect in the community to expect people to stand behind them. Because of this their actions carried almost no political meaning or power, they were simply individual expressions of anger. These cowardly acts manipulated the largely disapproving masses to meet their own ends, and in essence stole the spotlight. This will only make those that may have supported, or at least not condemned these tactics, either shy away or outright disrespect them.

On a purely personal note, something about a group of largely young, privlelaged (I say this having known many in this scene) white men using Oakland to act out their own fantasies in a unilateral and pseudo-authoritarian manner makes me shiver.
by deanosor
( deanosor [at] mailup.net ) Tuesday Nov 8th, 2011 6:02 AM
but there is so much factually wrong and wrong-headed about this article, that i am cosiderign whether criticism of the Bloc's tactics is just another attmept by pacifists to chill out militancy in the same way pacifists violently attempt to stop activists and play into the press's attempt to pit good protester against bad protester.

I am going to critique this piece line by line to show how bad it is. Good pieces criticizing Black Bloc property destruction (people dressed in black bloc do more (at times) than break windows) strategy,. This is not one of them.
Here is the piece: My critique will be interspersed.

As someone who has often defended black bloc tactics since I first encountered it at the Seattle WTO in 1999, I find myself searching for a greater critique, discussion and engagement around strategy and what really is the best approach to contributing to an effective movement that brings significant social, economic, and environmental change to this world. I have come to the conclusion that the typical narrative of the black bloc

The Black Bloc in general does not want create a new narrative. The wnat to destroy oppression and exploitation.

This is not a new debate. Ever since these tactics were utilized (breaking windows at Starbuck’s) at the Seattle WTO in 1999, there was a tremendous rift between the so called “good and bad” activists. Even the recently produced (and absolutely unwatchable) film “Battle of Seattle” played this up. Black bloc anarchists are always portrayed as meat head spoiled kids with little analysis of what they are doing. I know this is not the case. I have worked with a number of very thoughtful and engaged activists who sometimes utilize these tactics and I know that that some are sensitive, intelligent people from diverse walks of life. Many have devoted their lives to the cause and I have tremendous, deep respect for them. Others, however, I find to be transient, cliquish, and sexist, rarely participating in longer term community strategies, hopping from protest to protest wearing a “more radical than thou” shroud of arrogance. But this is just my experience, not everyone’s.

I think there needs to be a discussion of “strategy” as opposed to “tactics”. While many are absolutely against the idea of any kind of property destruction, I think that the real issue in regards to the feeling around what happened on the evening of November 2nd are actually due to a lack of strategy. There are many things that were amazing about the general strike: closing down of the ports by 100,000 people, taking over the city from police who were noticeably absent the entire day, and coming together en masse for a common cause. It was incredibly empowering, and the world was watching. Every major news outlet had its eyes on Oakland. Because of that, activists and community organizers should always keep in mind the larger story that is being told. Also, understanding the role of the corporate media in this kind of event, it seems obvious that they are chomping at the bit to get footage of a smashed window, or vandalized storefront. The cameras waited, and due to a lack of political discipline, they got exactly what makes them money.

There is something about the culture of black bloc tactics that seems to go into default mode whenever there is a mass action. Firstly, if a massive protest is advertised as “non-violent”, doesn’t it make sense to allow space for that? It seems there is this consistent need by black block anarchists to be coercive with their tactics, by bringing property destruction to these events without any kind of agreement from others who are participating. There are many problems with this. Some people can not get arrested (3 strikes law, immigration status, or compromise of professional licensing (ie if you are medical care provider)) Other issues that warrant consideration are people who may have had traumatic experiences around violence or the police (or both). People with health issues (mental or physical) may also not be able to participate in these kind of activities. That said, everyone deserves the opportunity to participate in a peaceful protest if that is what is promoted. That is not what happened on Wednesday. Windows were smashed at a Whole Foods

The march to Whole Foods etc. was not billed as non-violent. In fact reading the rhetorical style etc. i and many others knew that this where the militant action would occur. No one owns an action. Even on days when non-violence is billed at other times does not mean that that this is everybody's agenda. Good people can disagree on whether a certain tactic should be used..

and numerous banks while thousands of people marched were vandalized in a city (Oakland) that is itself on the verge of bankruptcy, with no major banking headquarters.

Iam always for going after Hs but banks are everywhere. Hitting a bank in OAKLAND does not hit Oakland. (As if a city had feelings anyway.)

Clorox is the only major corporation based in Oakland and it was not targeted…at all. Of the 100 or so arrested for utilizing these tactics or getting caught in the fray, only 30% were actually from Oakland, the rest were from outside the city or from out of state.

Now you're beginning to sound like Bull Connor, the sheriff in Birmingham, Alabama, talking about the civil rights movement, "them outside agitatuhs". Demonstrations are not isolated to those who live in the paticular city. Oakland is one of the centers of the region. Many people have connections that an address given to the cops doesn't show. And shouldn't we welcome people who are willing to travel for social justice rather than put them down? MLK was from Atlanta, Gandhi was born in South Africa, etc. etc.

It’s safe to say, from a direct action perspective utilizing property destruction, Oakland is an extremely poor target. This illustrates my point that there was a lack of strategy and a certain level of coercion involved in bringing these tactics to the general strike. Why didn’t the black bloc target downtown SF, the headquarters of Wells Fargo and a major financial center? Why not target a wealthy community like Belvedere (one of the wealthiest towns in America)? Why Oakland, a community crippled by poverty and violence?

Oakland is a thriving town with a thriving port. I know very few Oaklanders who would say it "crippled [an especially bad choice of word] by poverty and violence." This happened separately but on the day of the OAKLAND general strike. San Francisco has been hit in the past and will be in the future i am sure. Belvedere or other very rich places are hard to get to from Oakland.

The use of property destruction around the general strike was terrible strategy as we are now seeing with the footage that has been broadcast across the globe. The narrative by the corporate press is now “the general strike was violent” and the power of the day is eclipsed.

Are you going to change tacts because of what the corporate press says?

That evening there was an attempted foreclosed building takeover where an organization that provided services to the homeless was once located. It was a great target, except it was two blocks from the Occupy Site.

The point whether good or bad was to have it near the Occupation-- to have an indoor space for the occupation. If it had been successful, people would be complimenting the group that did it, on their foresight.

Why did activists choose this site knowing it would bring a heavy police presence to Occupy Oakland? Was there consideration given to the impact this would have. The events that followed left a sour taste for everyone as local small businesses were smashed and vandalized.--

This I agree with you: Small businesses especially ones which support(ed) the occupation should not have been vandalized. And i support those who cleaned up the supporters businesses. I don't support those who cleaned up the banks or Whole Foods.

Some have made parallels with the Occupy Movement to the Civil Right’s Movement. I don’t know about those direct parallels, but I do know that the Civil Right’s Movement had a similar debate. Malcolm X, the black panther party, leaders like Stokely Carmichael who were deeply involved with the Civil Right’s Movement in the deep south with Dr. King, made the compelling argument that people deserved to practice self defense. It’s important to note, that even with this division, you never saw coercion by the more radical members towards peaceful protesters.

It is not coercion to do a demonstration on the same day.

That is, you never saw the black panther party or followers of Malcom X practicing property destruction (or brandishing guns) at the marches that Dr. King or SNCC were organizing.

SNCC changed as time went on. The term "Black Power" was invented by them. They helped organize some of the rebellions in the North (called riots by the mainstream media).

In fact the black panther party (and black Muslims) were more focused on developing social programs in community outreach and having a public display of arms against police harassment. It wasn’t until the Weather Underground’s bombing campaign against the U.S. government(and its breaking off from SDS) that you see this tactic being significantly used. Even then, activists didn’t merge tactics of mass actions with property destruction. They kept them strategically separate. There was tremendous political discipline in that period of social unrest. That’s not to say property destruction did not occur at mass actions, but there was an awareness among organizers to give space for peaceful protest and property destruction in a different time and space continuum.

I first joined the movement in Washington DC when people in the middle of an anti-war march broke away and broke the windows of the FBI building. This happened a lot in the early 70's. The actions organized by the Weather Underground were more isolated and generally either symbolic or a failure. Look up MAYDAY 1971 in Washington DC whose slogan was "If the government won't stop the war, we'll stop the government" where people merged non-violent tactics, with property destruction in an attempt to shut down Washington. That was much more important than antics of the Weather Underground or the destruction of a statue.

An example of this is in the "Days of Rage" that the Weather Underground and more radical elements of SDS tried to organize (unsuccessfully I might add). Could you imagine how different the narrative would be if there were black bloc tactics during the march to Montgomery? History would be very different, and I could pretty much guess the media would have told it in the way they always have....violent protesters create a riot!

I know that black bloc tactics were originally developed in Germany as effective resistance to police brutality. In 1980, German Police forcefully evicted the Free Republic of Wendland, an anti-nuclear protest camp in Gorleben, Wendland. This attack on 5,000 peaceful protesters led many former pacifists to reconsider their tactics. By December 1980 the Berlin City Government organized an escalating cycle of mass arrests, followed by other local authorities across West Germany. The squatters reacted by opening new squats, as the old ones were evicted. Following the mass arrest of squatters in Freiburg, demonstrations were held in their support in many German cities. The day was dubbed Black Friday following a demonstration in Berlin at which between 15,000 to 20,000 people took to the streets and destroyed an expensive shopping area. It was during this protest that the black bloc tactic of anonymity (with black mask and clothing) was adopted. The German media labeled them der schwarze Block ("the black block"). The use of the tactic spread to the Netherlands and throughout Europe and was quite successful in the 80’s. The black block is still used today in Germany, but it is worth noting, that activists refer to them as "riot tourists" who come from the suburbs to the city when there is a protest, then hop back on the train and return home, leaving the communities that they "protested" in to clean up the mess.

There are several issues to consider when thinking about the transferability of black bloc tactics to the U.S. in 2011 but the main question I have is have these tactics of property destruction been successful in the U.S. to this point and if not why not?
People would not have talked as much about Seattle if it wasn't for the property destruction at big corporate stores.

Can anyone argue that they have had the kind of impact they had in Europe in the last 10 years, as they have been consistently utilized in protest after protest since the Seattle WTO? I would argue that the success of black bloc tactics at mass protests in the U.S. in this period (1999-2011) has been a zero sum game. I think that there are several reasons why that is. 1. Black bloc is easily infiltrated by agent provocateurs.

This is true, but how much of this really happened versus an imaginary narrative by pacifists and others to discredit property destruction and militant self and community defense.

2. The media narrative shifts focus to these tactics away from the message of the movement too easily. 3. There has been a consistent lack of discipline of targets of property destruction, with small businesses, and community resources being targeted (in poor communities like Oakland), rather than corporate interests in wealthy communities (like, say NYC). There have been blakc blocs in New York City many times.

Also, there is not currently a vibrant radical culture in the U.S. which can help every day people gain a vocabulary for this kind of resistance to actually bring 20,000 people out onto the street to resist in this way. It always remains a small fringe of people. . Also, in the US, because all of our major media outlets are corporate owned (in Europe many are non profits or state owned), there is an automatic tendency for journalists to capture the spectacle of violence which makes for great television. Also, you haven’t seen the success of the black bloc replicated really, since the mid-80’s (before the corporate hegemony and globalization that we see today) though it is continuously used again and again.

In the U.S., part of the lack of success of black bloc tactics is the culture of coercion by anarchists practicing this tactic in mass actions. As someone who has participated in organizing for demonstrations, it feels as if the point of bringing property destruction to non violent organized events has been to convince everyone that THIS is the way to protest, rather than recognizing, that many people do not want to be associated with these tactics for very very valid reasons.

The Black Blockers and similar people invented the term "diversity of tactics". Do you think the would have said that if they wanted everybody to agree with them? Starhawk, a pacifist, has complained about other pacifists who worry about what others do, rather than doing their own non-violent actions.

There is a general lack of boundaries and respect on this front to people who may not be able to get arrested, or who have had traumatic experiences with the police.

The police are the ones who generally break those boundaries, not militant demonstrators.

I also want to comment on anarchist culture and how it can often be self-defeating. There is often a high romanticizing of political violence and “riot porn” within anarchist circles , with countless videos that romanticize the tactic to a Hollywood like reality. Here’s just one example: http://www.crimethinc.com/blog/2011/11/06/oakland-general-strike-footage/. There are many gender/ power dynamics attached to the use of violence in groups which I’ll save for another writing, but the masculine centric culture of black bloc anarchists has to be stated. How welcoming is this tactic and the culture attached to it to people who may not identify as male, or white? As a queer woman, I often feel alienated being around “riot” energy and it makes me just want to avoid it…the opposite of participate. http://riotporn.blogspot.com/ is a popular site where riots, regardless of their political affiliation or purpose, are romanticized around the globe. I point this out, because it greatly illustrates the erotic fetishism of the tactic, the masculine nature of black bloc culture and how these tactics are often romanticized with a fraternity like zeal with little or no regard for the actual strategy utilized. It deserves a critique. With this masculine centered eroticism of property destruction, there also appears to be a general sense of entitlement around ownership of a protest event.

This is a very interesting topic and people in their various incarnations need to talk about it. i know of women who find fighting back empowering and those who find it a form of machismo.

The “noise” volume of property destruction will always trump a non violent peaceful protest in the eyes of not only the media, but also fellow participants and those watching on the outside, no matter how large the numbers. That is a fact. The question is, then, is there any room for property destruction in a movement? I would argue yes. There are many examples in U.S. history of property destruction being done somewhat successfully. The Earth Liberation Front was successful at destroying a wild horse slaughter house that the local community in Oregon had spent years trying to close down. With a simple act of property destruction, the struggle was over, and the slaughter house never re-opened.

The Weather Underground went on a fairly successful and extensive bombing campaign against the US. Government in protest of the Vietnam war for almost 15 years. These are large scale examples of clandestine groups that have practiced property destruction somewhat successfully, but who have also paid the price with imprisonment, assasination or needing to go underground for an extended period of time. Here is another more small scale example of a great use of property destruction:

The Ronald Reagan statue which has been promoted in the main stream media as a “beacon” of liberty on the west coast like the Statue of Liberty, was brilliantly re-sculpted to be leaning left. http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2011/11/07/vandals-leave-reagan-statue-leaning-left/

The isolated substitutionalism, and vanguardism of the Weather folks are not good examples of successful anything. I will take a bad black bloc over anything the Weather did.

I think the underlying strategy that the black bloc needs to consider is allowing time and space for peaceful protest to occur. When property destruction is brought to a mass action without consensus or understanding of the participants, it is coercive, and undemocratic.

I would agree, but you haven't explained or have been refuted on where this occurred.

There are also a number of factors that must be considered. When practicing these tactics it’s important to ask these questions in relation to strategy: Is this the best use of resources? Is this an appropriate target? Is there a better target? Is this a good location or just a convenient location? Is this a good time to do this? How will this effect other allies who are involved? How can the media spin this against the movement and how can we effectively spin it back around? I hope the conversation on this topic can continue, and that respect and intelligence prevail.

All good questions. I hope my critique has helped in the process of answering them for the here and now and i welcome other opinions. Please email me what you write, as sometimes discussion gets lost.

One thing that was not talked about in this piece is the role of militarized peace police in creating the media drama of good protestro/bad protestor.

For the first time in a number of years, I have hope that change can actually occur, and that visionary people with good hearts will prevail.

Amen.

by from London
Tuesday Nov 8th, 2011 6:12 AM
The crimethinc video shows plenty of nice footage of the march and does not validate one over the other but seems to suggest that they coexist. Targets in the video seem valid and part of the situation that Oakland is currently in.

People that are more vulnerable for the repression of the state (because of e.g. immigration status) know very well when they put themselves at risk and will avoid getting caught up. They have a good head on their shoulders and don't need to be infantilized. A protest of this size and spread out over several blocks allows safer spaces and spots where the situation is more heated. In a time where also a march is an act of disobedience from the very start, I hope that everyone comes with friends, their buddies, and discuss their vulnerabilities beforehand. Plenty of entirely calm and peaceful marches have met lately with repression. There's no guarantee.

The author seems to have been around for a while but still feels the need to win the approval of the corporate media.

And there will be a large presence of queer women again at the demo this Wednesday the 9th in London and wearing black as they did here on March 26.
by reader
Tuesday Nov 8th, 2011 11:23 AM
>>One thing that was not talked about in this piece is the role of militarized peace police in creating the media drama of good protestro/bad protestor.

Try to imagine it from their point of view -- Sierra Club, middle age, kids in middle school, voted for Obama, but they know the system is broken, and they have had zero experience or exposure to anything except what they've seen on the news of people marching with signs.

Calling them "peace police" is just as bad as calling someone "vandal" for spray-painting -- it's an ugly label that you feel you can use because they seem like robots trying to take out what scares them by tackling them in the streets and you don't like it.

Labels are what divide us. This movement needs to find a way to allow everyone in and still get the job done. Rather than a peace group focused on taking down the anarchists, they should be focused on taking out the local MSM press who are distorting the situation, but because of personal emotional feelings and misunderstandings and poor divisive communication -- like assigning labels to us -- the movement is fracturing in the wrong ways. The corporations win when we create a war within our movement.

Don't let it happen. Open up the dialog, accept blame and admit errors and sort it out. When you see yourself using a label, take it back; when you see others using them, call them out on it respectfully.
by Prison Labor
Tuesday Nov 8th, 2011 12:10 PM
Whole Foods expands its profit margins by using prisoner slave labor.

http://www.minyanville.com/dailyfeed/2011/05/25/is-whole-foods-prison-tilapia/
by Essentialist actually
Tuesday Nov 8th, 2011 12:17 PM
Your argument gives the lie to to your own identity claims. You wield the label "queer" like a sledgehammer, ignoring the fact that queer denotes a blurring of essential identities, and a refusal of fixed boundaries. Claiming that black bloc violence is inherently masculine is about as queer as claiming that penises and vaginas are "meant" for each other. This doesn't prove that the black bloc was a good thing on November 2, but I do hope you check yourself from drawing on essentialist, homophobic and sexist arguments.

A good counter-point: http://rosadefuego.tumblr.com/post/12318618551/an-open-letter-to-the-black-bloc-brigades-occupy
It's called having a media strategy rather than giving Fox news what they want. Or, I guess we are all living in a political and social vacuum? Name a major political movement (with a level of success) that has not used any kind of media strategy? Yeah...there are none.
by deanosor
( deanosor [at] mailup.net ) Tuesday Nov 8th, 2011 7:00 PM
equate some anarchist street actions with Nazi activities. People can disagree whether certain activities are good and bad, but to claim people think who they are for the good of the movement with mass murderers is just plain shameful. You should apologize.
by (A)
Tuesday Nov 8th, 2011 7:22 PM
dude you gotta be fuckin kidding me. they think they're for the good of the movement???? these people who were beating on their fellow protesters like dogs think they're doing it for the good of the movement? they think they're helping the movement, that has gained the momentum it has by eliciting public sympathy, by engaging in vandalism that would repulse the average observer?? pull your head out of your ass. they hijacked the protest, plain and simple.

and in my example, the black-bloc is comparable to the nazis in that both would have a similar detrimental effect on the public's perception of the movement. the point was that in one case there's hardly any question as to whether people would physically intervene, so that defeats the "protest police" arguments. i stand by it.
by Konsider
Tuesday Nov 8th, 2011 9:32 PM
A black bloc is not a group or organization but a tactic, which is something allot of people don't understand. Further, a black bloc doesn't necessarily consist of anarchists and didn't begin in Seattle. Actually black blocs began in the late '70s and early '80s from within the squatters movement in Europe.

The Black bloc is primarily a way to avoid identification which has nothing necessarily to do with breaking windows--although when this does occur the black bloc acts as a way to avoid police scrutiny--but it can also include things like demonstrating without a permit, misleading the authorities, assisting in the escape of people arrested by the police, administering first aid to persons affected by tear gas in areas where protesters are barred from entering, building barricades and other forms of resistance.

US media stereotyping did indeed become prevalent in Seattle with their focus on businesses such as Urban Outfitters, American Apparel, Adidas Stores, Starbucks and various banking establishments who had their windows busted.
You must be mistaken. You must be thinking of the blue bloc, the police, or their junior auxiliary ,the thugs who vamped on people outside of Whole Foods, sometimes called the peace police.

by A participant
Wednesday Nov 9th, 2011 1:08 AM
Most of the critics here aren't trying to chill out militancy. Many of us are pro direct action and dont want a symbolic protest movement. The movement had been smartly militant up until the "building takeover" the night of the general strike. At that point some very bad judgement set in and people decided to have a pointless fight with the police. Absolutely nothing was gained and damage to the movement was done in a lot of people's opinions.
Some of us here are angry and asking for a more substantive response to what happened from the participants. It's a reasonable request, yet a week later the responses have been frustratingly sparse and devoid of responding to the actual criticism. That is making us angrier at our alleged comrades and sowing further division. Perhaps you can do something to change this.
by deanosor
( deanosor [at] mailup.net ) Wednesday Nov 9th, 2011 6:42 AM
I hear your questions and concerns. I hope people can have a civil conversations about strategy, tactics, and where does the Occupy movement go from here. It's hard when people are equating anarchists with Nazis, and threatening to remove people's masks.

If you wnat to email me, we can communicate further.
by RWF
Wednesday Nov 9th, 2011 11:04 AM
for example, Poor magazine asked for Occupy Oakland to endorse a march centered around support for the indigenous and the undocumented and their social needs

someone asked, "will there be any violence"

leaving aside, for the moment, the notion that property destruction is not violence, the woman who asked for the endorsement said, definitely not, we are going to have families and undocumented people on the march, and the last thing they need is a confrontation with the police

so, wouldn't it be a good idea to respect that?