Black bloc

Black bloc

A black bloc is made up largely of anarchists or autonomists, anti-capitalist individuals or groups that gather for protests, demonstrations, or other event involving class struggle, anti-capitalism, anti-facism, or anti-globalization. Black clothing and masks are used to avoid being identified by authorities, and to theoretically appear as one large mass, promote solidarity and create a clear revolutionary presence.

Black blocs gained significant media attention when a black bloc caused damage to property of GAP, Starbucks, Old Navy, and other retail locations in downtown Seattle during the 1999 anti-WTO demonstrations. [ACME Collective, "A communique from one section of the black bloc of N30 in Seattle".]


The tradition of black blocking grew out of the autonomen movements in Germany in the 1980s; Autonomen wore black during militant action in the process of squat defenses, and during solidarity-demonstrations for the Red Army Faction. One explanation for the Autonomen's clothing choice is that black was the color of the leather jackets that squatters wore for warmth and to deflect blows from police batons, whereas ski masks were practical ways to filter out tear gas and to protect one's identity. They were dubbed by the German media as "der schwarze Block". The tradition was first seen in the United States of America during protests against the Gulf War in Iraq in February 1991 where it was initiated by Love and Rage, a North American revolutionary anarchist organization. Black as a color has historically been associated with anarchism, dating back to the black flags which accompanied bread riots at the time leading up to the Paris Commune.

Today, groups such as the WOMBLES and Wild Greens advocate participating in black bloc activity, and have similar agendas. Groups that have engaged in similar forms of action include Radical Anti-Capitalist Blocs, Anti-Racist Action, and Anti-Fascist Action. During the 2003 G8 summit in Evian, militant demonstrators rejected the name "Black Bloc" and chose instead to be called the "Anthracite Bloc" or the "Charcoal Bloc."


Tactics of a black bloc are vandalism, rioting and street fighting, demonstrating without a permit, misleading the authorities, assisting in the escape of perpetrators arrested by the police, administering first aid to persons affected by tear gas in areas where protesters are barred from entering, building barricades, and attacking police. Although black blocing is usually connected with some form of direct action, some black blocs also participate in wholly symbolic action, as well as actions that fall entirely within traditional definitions of nonviolent protest. Property destruction carried out by black blocs tends to have symbolic significance: common targets include banks, institutional buildings, outlets for multinational corporations, gasoline stations, video-surveillance cameras, and private property.


There is a perception, especially among the mainstream news media, that the "Black Bloc" is an international organization of some kind. [CNN referred to "some 2,000 militants known as the 'black block ["sic"] '. [ "G8 protest organizers condemn violence"] . CNN. June 3, 2007.] However, it is actually nothing more than a tactic used by a subset of demonstrators.K, 2001, "being black block" in "On Fire: the battle of Genoa and the anti-capitalist movement", p. 31, One Off Press.] There may be several black blocs within a particular protest, with different aims and tactics. As an ad hoc group, they share no universally common set of principles or beliefs; however, black blocs that have formed in the past have been made up largely of anarchists or autonomists, but can include many other anti-capitalist groups. Like all affinity groups, they are based on common trust between those involved, and usually share a common goal such as blocking delegates from entering a trade meeting, and a mutual understanding of shared tactics.

Because the black bloc tactic involves anonymity, black bloc practitioners are often suspected of being government provocateurs. In August 2007, Quebec police admitted that "their officers disguised themselves as demonstrators." However, they were easily recognized by the genuine protesters as cops, as they were still wearing their police-issue footwear. [ [ Quebec police admit they went undercover at Montebello protest ] ]

See also

* Anti-globalization movement
* Union flying squad
* Anarchist Black Cross


External links

* [ Zmag articles on Nonviolence, Trashing and Movement Strategy]
* [ Infoshop: Black Blocs for Dummies]
* " [ Blocs, Black and Otherwise] " by CrimethInc.
* [ Bashing the Black Bloc?]

News items

* [ "Bon Cop, Bad Cop" August 22, 2007]
* [ "Radical Youth in DC: Return of the Black Bloc" Matthew Provonsha (CounterPunch January 2007)]
* [ Washington Post account of a confrontation between a black bloc and "Protest Warriors" (2005)]
* [ BBC: Italy G8 'brutality' trial opens (October 2005)]
* [ Gallery of Block Bloc in Germany]
* [ You Tube video of Black Bloc at 2005 US Presidential Inauguration]
* [ You Tube video of Black Bloc at WTO and theories behind involvement] .

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