#DisruptJ20 #BlackBloc: Who Are These Protesters In Black And Why Are They Smashing Things?

An article by MSM DCist. Note that the number of arrests was far higher at the end of the day as the 90 people that were arrested at the moment the article was written.  We would also like to advice you to read How Nonviolence Protects the State, a book written by Peter Gelderloos. The book isn’t especially about the blacl bloc tactic but is a must read about nonviolence.

Police have arrested more than 90 people so far today in D.C., many of them masked, black-clad hooligans who videos show swarming the streets carrying anarchist flags and smashing bank and Starbucks windows. They also may be responsible for setting a limousine on fire.

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Originally publisehd by DCist  Edited (introduction and videos) by Enough is Enough

For those who have been consuming cable news regularly during a major protest anytime in the last 20 years, the phrase “black bloc” probably rings a bell, but despite the relative prevalence of vandalism by ninjas at major demonstrations, what the term means is not necessarily common knowledge.

In recent years, conservative pundits have tried to paint the mystery people in black at various times as representatives of the Occupy movement, supporters of Barack Obama, minions of liberal billionaire George Soros, and opponents of Donald Trump, and mainstream publications are occasionally wont to refer to a “Black Bloc,” as if there was a registered 501(c)(3) dedicated to assaulting newspaper boxes.

YouTube playlist with videos about the black bloc:

The Sean Hannitys of the world are right in the sense that anarchists oppose Trump, but as protests at a string Republican and Democratic national conventions have shown—not to mention a litany of anti-financial summit gatherings and localized demonstrations against police brutality—anarchists stand apart from their fellow marchers both in tactics and in beliefs.

That’s because anarchists actually oppose hierarchical government and private property in all their forms, and they don’t care that property damage doesn’t play well in polite society. Look hard enough at any big presidential convention protest and you’re likely to see a sign along the lines of “No One For President.”

Video: #DisruptJ20 DC: Black Bloc attacking police line to break out of a kettle

So the black bloc—what is it? Black bloc is a tactic that anarchists use to make it difficult for police to identify them at protests. This article places the origin of the black bloc as a response to police repression in the Berlin squatter movement of the early 1980s. The tactic’s most prominent moment in the spotlight in the U.S. was the World Trade Organization summit protests in Seattle in 1999, during which anarchists outmatched the underprepared police department and sowed chaos in the streets for days. This was a bellwether moment of the anti-globalization movement (sorry, Donald, the anarchists were into it before you were) and spurred major parallel developments in anti-protest police tactics over the next decade.

The logic behind anarchists breaking things at protests is pretty straightforward. We live in a society that rewards violence, at the very least, with attention. About two blocks away from the scenes of shattering glass in Franklin Square, a large group of protesters peacefully listened to speakers, chanted, and made art; there was almost no media on the scene.

Video: #DisruptJ20 Limo on fire in DC

This is a longstanding gripe of organizers trying to get people to pay attention to their issues: If you march through a poor neighborhood against gun violence, maybe a few local blogs will write about it. If a group of people smashes some bank windows and fights the police, particularly in the middle of a major media event, it’s wall-to-wall coverage.

Anarchists do other stuff, like squat buildings, plant gardens, organize bike coops, and have debates over esoteric points of political philosophy. But no one supervising an article budget at the Wall Street Journal gets worked up about stuff like that.

I spoke to a New York City anarchist named Thadeaus about this. He explained:

The national media is focused on spectacle, and that’s what sells paper or clicks or advertisements, the idea of something spectacular. The idea of things getting broken, riots in the streets, people dressed up like ninjas doing crazy things—that’s interesting to the national media, whereas things like free food programs or free stores or support networks for survivors of domestic abuse. That’s not really headline-grabbing.

On the other hand, the moment a bunch of masked thrill-seekers pull hammers out of their backpacks for some performative felony-committing, they have the attention of the media writ large. From an anarchist perspective, the bulk of violence committed on a day-to-day basis, be it in wars, or in shootouts over drug territory, is meant to further capitalism and/or preserve nation-states, so there is certainly some potent symbolism in damaging property purely to express one’s opposition to capitalism. And of course the attention generally fades away once the arrests have been tallied and the first court appearances have been made.

Video: #DisruptJ20 Black Bloc activists smashed windows of Bank of America, a limo and Starbucks.

On the other hand, the moment a bunch of masked thrill-seekers pull hammers out of their backpacks for some performative felony-committing, they have the attention of the media writ large. From an anarchist perspective, the bulk of violence committed on a day-to-day basis, be it in wars, or in shootouts over drug territory, is meant to further capitalism and/or preserve nation-states, so there is certainly some potent symbolism in damaging property purely to express one’s opposition to capitalism. And of course the attention generally fades away once the arrests have been tallied and the first court appearances have been made.

Thadeaus said that generally black bloc participants are aware of the media dynamic they’re participating in.

“I think there are a minority of people who engage in black bloc who aren’t particularly conscious of the role that they’re playing in the spectacle that they’re creating for the media,” he said. “And there are people who try to resist that co-optation and becoming part of a media narrative, who are there for other reasons. [They] feel empowered to act in solidarity and act out their rage and encourage and empower other people to do the same thing.”

Video: #DC: Black Block started marching towards #DisruptJ20 Blockades

Even Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference’s deliberative nonviolence, a far cry from the wanton approach of a black bloc, depended on the spectacle of violence for success. Organizers with SCLC and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee famously carried out voter drives and boycotts, which are not exactly what a front-page editor would call “sexy” (journalists are weird). But the enduring images of the struggle, thanks to the attention of national newspapers and TV networks, were the beatings of the Freedom Rides and Selma, the gnashing of Bull Connor’s dogs—situations that activists set up to expose in the most dramatic terms the violence of the state and supporters of segregation.

Thadeaus said he doesn’t necessarily see smashing windows in D.C. as the best way to go about protesting this inauguration. He didn’t make it this year, but recalled how, during the first inauguration of George W. Bush, he and a group of fellow anarchists almost blocked the parade route. “We got so close, and we psyched ourselves out of trying to do it.”

Don’t get it twisted, though. He is no protest marshall (these are the people hired by big organizations to try to keep people from acting out at demonstrations):

I’m not somebody who thinks smashing every window is the way to go. Maybe that’s a kind of wimpy black bloc perspective. I’ve seen black blocs where people commandeered construction vehicles and turned them on the police, and where they threw molotov cocktails at cops—very aggressive tactics.Sometimes such tactics are called for and appropriate and warranted, and other times they’re not. I think deciding what’s appropriate and tactically warranted is a tough call, but it’s important.

Video DC: White Nationalist Richard Spencer getting punched during #DisruptJ20 protests on this video

About Enough is Enough!

Its time to revolt!
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One Response to #DisruptJ20 #BlackBloc: Who Are These Protesters In Black And Why Are They Smashing Things?

  1. Pingback: #Disrupt2017: Thoughts on #Trump, #DisruptJ20, #WomensMarch & Fascists Around the Globe | Enough is Enough!

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