imc indymedia

Los Angeles Indymedia : Activist News

white themeblack themered themetheme help
About Us Contact Us Calendar Publish RSS
latest news
best of news




A-Infos Radio

Indymedia On Air

Dope-X-Resistance-LA List


IMC Network:

Original Cities africa: ambazonia canarias estrecho / madiaq kenya nigeria south africa canada: hamilton london, ontario maritimes montreal ontario ottawa quebec thunder bay vancouver victoria windsor winnipeg east asia: burma jakarta japan korea manila qc europe: abruzzo alacant andorra antwerpen armenia athens austria barcelona belarus belgium belgrade bristol brussels bulgaria calabria croatia cyprus emilia-romagna estrecho / madiaq euskal herria galiza germany grenoble hungary ireland istanbul italy la plana liege liguria lille linksunten lombardia london madrid malta marseille nantes napoli netherlands nice northern england norway oost-vlaanderen paris/Île-de-france patras piemonte poland portugal roma romania russia saint-petersburg scotland sverige switzerland thessaloniki torun toscana toulouse ukraine united kingdom valencia latin america: argentina bolivia chiapas chile chile sur cmi brasil colombia ecuador mexico peru puerto rico qollasuyu rosario santiago tijuana uruguay valparaiso venezuela venezuela oceania: adelaide aotearoa brisbane burma darwin jakarta manila melbourne perth qc sydney south asia: india mumbai united states: arizona arkansas asheville atlanta austin baltimore big muddy binghamton boston buffalo charlottesville chicago cleveland colorado columbus dc hawaii houston hudson mohawk kansas city la madison maine miami michigan milwaukee minneapolis/st. paul new hampshire new jersey new mexico new orleans north carolina north texas nyc oklahoma philadelphia pittsburgh portland richmond rochester rogue valley saint louis san diego san francisco san francisco bay area santa barbara santa cruz, ca sarasota seattle tampa bay tennessee urbana-champaign vermont western mass worcester west asia: armenia beirut israel palestine process: fbi/legal updates mailing lists process & imc docs tech volunteer projects: print radio satellite tv video regions: oceania united states topics: biotech

Surviving Cities africa: canada: quebec east asia: japan europe: athens barcelona belgium bristol brussels cyprus germany grenoble ireland istanbul lille linksunten nantes netherlands norway portugal united kingdom latin america: argentina cmi brasil rosario oceania: aotearoa united states: austin big muddy binghamton boston chicago columbus la michigan nyc portland rochester saint louis san diego san francisco bay area santa cruz, ca tennessee urbana-champaign worcester west asia: palestine process: fbi/legal updates process & imc docs projects: radio satellite tv
printable version - js reader version - view hidden posts - tags and related articles

Letter from Inside the Black Bloc

by mary black---( via S.F.) Sunday, Jul. 06, 2003 at 5:05 AM

Communique from the Black Bloc. July 4, 2003 Happy Independence Day America. When will we be free?

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, 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 students, some work for the government. Some don't have full-time jobs, but instead spend most of their time working for a 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.

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 "communiqué" 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 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 '01, two protesters were shot dead at an anti-globalization demonstration in Venezuela 2000, 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.

Report this post as:

Listed below are the 10 latest comments of 22 posted about this article.
These comments are anonymously submitted by the website visitors.
cry freedom one Sunday, Jul. 06, 2003 at 5:12 AM
What a coward! Dagny Sunday, Jul. 06, 2003 at 5:29 AM
black bloc .... rtf Sunday, Jul. 06, 2003 at 5:54 AM
We are a black bloc of ONE. Sy$teMF@iLuRe Sunday, Jul. 06, 2003 at 6:22 AM
The real problem with Black Bloc Bush Admirer Sunday, Jul. 06, 2003 at 9:59 AM
Yep fresca Sunday, Jul. 06, 2003 at 1:00 PM
Millions? crazygal Sunday, Jul. 06, 2003 at 6:11 PM
Reply to crazygal Bush Admirer Sunday, Jul. 06, 2003 at 7:46 PM
Several Millions fresca Sunday, Jul. 06, 2003 at 9:31 PM
anarchy is... cuzin it Sunday, Jul. 06, 2003 at 11:06 PM
What? Dagny Monday, Jul. 07, 2003 at 12:05 AM
well fresca Monday, Jul. 07, 2003 at 3:55 AM
Corporations Aren't People... Soylent green Is ... :) FluxRostrum Monday, Jul. 07, 2003 at 5:07 AM
Did I say that? Dagny Monday, Jul. 07, 2003 at 5:55 AM
black bloc protects freedom <> Tuesday, Jul. 08, 2003 at 8:16 AM
Gov't Post Brian OConnor Tuesday, Jul. 08, 2003 at 1:25 PM
Govt' Post Gov't Post Tuesday, Jul. 08, 2003 at 1:40 PM
the giant is awakening nobodys fool Thursday, Jul. 10, 2003 at 4:53 AM

Local News

Change Links September 2018 posted S02 10:22PM

More Scandals Rock Southern California Nuke Plant San Onofre A30 11:09PM

Site Outage Friday A30 3:49PM

Change Links August 2018 A14 1:56AM

Setback for Developer of SC Farm Land A12 11:09PM

More problems at Shutdown San Onofre Nuke J29 10:40PM

Change Links 2018 July posted J09 8:27PM

More Pix: "Families Belong Together," Pasadena J02 7:16PM

"Families Belong Together" March, Pasadena J02 7:08PM

Short Report on the Families Belong Together Protest in Los Angeles J30 11:26PM

Summer 2018 National Immigrant Solidarity Network News Alert! J11 6:58AM

Watch the Debate: Excluded Candidates for Governor of California M31 5:20AM

Change Links June 2018 posted M28 7:41AM

The Montrose Peace Vigil at 12 Years M22 8:01PM

Unity Archive Project M21 9:42AM

Dianne Feinstein's Promotion of War, Secret Animal Abuse, Military Profiteering, Censorshi M17 10:22PM

CA Senate Bill 1303 would require an independent coroner rather than being part of police M10 9:08PM

Three years after OC snitch scandal, no charges filed against sheriffs deputies M10 8:57PM

California police agencies violate Brown Act (open meetings) M02 8:31PM

Insane Company Wants To Send Nuke Plant Waste To New Mexico A29 11:47PM

Change Links May 2018 A27 8:40AM

Worker-Owned Car Wash on Vermont Closed A27 5:37AM


lausd whistle blower A11 6:58AM

Website Upgrade A10 10:02AM

Help KCET and UCLA identify 60s-70s Chicano images A04 8:02PM

UCLA Luskin: Casting Youth Justice in a Different Light A02 6:58PM

Change Links April 2018 A01 6:27PM

More Local News...

Other/Breaking News

Paraphysique de psychosomatique S22 6:58AM

Chuck Grassley: Women Abusing, Animal Murdering, Illegal War Supporting Criminal S22 2:58AM

Finance Capitalism and the Digital Economy S21 4:45PM

Muselières syndicales, muselières patronales S21 7:19AM

Jeff Bezos, Amazon, The Washington Post, Whole Foods, Etc S21 2:50AM

Why Choose Nut Milk Over Cows' Milk S21 1:01AM

Antrhopocène, le grand effondrement S19 9:53AM

Abolir l'économie S18 11:18AM

The Dictatorship of Corporations S17 5:26PM

18 Lethal Consequences Of Hunting S17 3:13PM

Paraphysique de l'outplacement déontologue S15 6:51AM

Shopping du bashing S14 8:42AM

After Lehman Brothers, Experts Say Global Financial Crisis Can Happen Again S13 8:28PM

“Animaniacs in Concert!” Starring Voice Legend Rob Paulsen S12 9:30PM

Probabilités de fin d'humanité S12 6:49AM

Florida Area of Migrant Farmworkers Denied Right to Construct Health Clinic near NaplesCIW S11 2:57AM

Steer clear of work morality! S09 12:10PM

The Shortwave Report 09/07/18 Listen Globally! S06 11:23PM

August 2018 Honduras Coup update S06 12:28PM

Brett Kavanaugh Filled The 5th Circuit With Execution Judges S06 6:14AM

Augusta Georgia Woman Gets 5 Year Prison Sentence for Writing About Russians Crime Acts S05 8:29AM

Paraphysique de contextualité S05 8:29AM

Crisis Regulation in Global Capitalism S03 3:39PM

Ex-voto de réification S03 10:24AM

Please Oppose Warmonger, Execution and Torture Supporting Bush Operative Brett Kavanaugh A31 10:45PM

Paraphysique d'exploitation occultation A31 10:24PM

Ryan Zinke Is Charging Taxpayers For A Trophy Hunters' Council A31 2:10PM

Is the Financial Crash 2.0 Coming? A31 10:07AM

More Breaking News...
© 2000-2018 Los Angeles Independent Media Center. Unless otherwise stated by the author, all content is free for non-commercial reuse, reprint, and rebroadcast, on the net and elsewhere. Opinions are those of the contributors and are not necessarily endorsed by the Los Angeles Independent Media Center. Running sf-active v0.9.4 Disclaimer | Privacy