Black Block

Black Blocs – “The Black Peril”?

It may be very difficult to not notice them during rallies. Hooded, dressed in black, they are hundreds, sometimes more, to parade during important local or more international political events.

A black bloc is a name given to groups of protesters who wear black clothing, scarves, sunglasses, ski masks, motorcycle helmets with padding, or other face-concealing and face-protecting items. The clothing is used to conceal marchers’ identities, and hinder criminal prosecution, by making it difficult to distinguish between participants. It is also used to protect their faces and eyes from items, such as pepper-spray, which are often used by law enforcement during protests or civil unrest. The tactic allows the group to appear as one large unified mass.

Black bloc has become a generic term for ultraradical, highly mobilised leftwing groups often associated with anti-capitalism, anti-globalisation, anti-fascism and anarchism.

The black bloc is not a group or organisation, it’s something that happens on marches or actions. It’s not pre-planned: it relies on people turning up with the same ideas and clothes. That is why there is a “uniform”: people who want to take direct action and resist containment arrive on the day in black and identify people with the same ideas this way.

In the legal sense, those who damage property or fight the police have committed crimes, so yes they are criminals. But in everyday language, a criminal is someone who lives by criminal means…

The tactic was developed in the 1980s in the European autonomist movement’s protests against squatter evictions, nuclear power and restrictions on abortion, as well as other influences. Black blocs gained broader media attention outside Europe during the 1999 Seattle WTO protests, when a black bloc damaged property of Gap, Starbucks, Old Navy, and other multinational retail locations in downtown Seattle.

  • Why they made a strong appearance on May 1st this year in France?

On Tuesday, on May Day in Paris, clashes burst and damages were committed at the trade-union parade of May 1st. The parade which started at 3pm came to a sudden end, blocked by about “1 200 black blocks” according to the police.

Thousands of Parisians typically take part in the annual parade, held to mark International Workers’ Day, held on May 1 and observed around the world. The rallies date back to the 1880s, when the day was adopted by Socialists and Communists of the Second International as labor movements were campaigning for better conditions such as eight hour workdays and trade unions.
Today, trade unions, socialists and human rights campaigners continue to mark the day with protests and rallies.
This year’s French rallies come on the 50th anniversary of protests in Paris in May 1968, which were some of the most violent in the French capital’s history. Students occupied buildings in the Sorbonne and general strikes brought the country to a standstill throughout the month and nearly toppled the government of Charles de Gaulle.

Their appearance at Tuesday’s demonstration complicates life for Macron’s centrist government. It has faced a wave of public sector strikes, the occupation of universities by students opposed to changes to admission procedures and calls for a concerted national protest to mark the 50th anniversary of the May 1968 uprising.

On 1 May 1987, demonstrators in Berlin-Kreuzberg were confronted by West German police.After this, thousands of people attacked the police with rocks, bottles and Molotov cocktails. The riots at the May Day in Kreuzberg became famous after the police had to completely pull out of the “SO 36” neighborhood in Kreuzberg for several hours, and rioters looted shops together with residents.

Recently, in the United States, scorned by critics on both the left and right and hunted by police, the black bloc is bringing its radical tactics to the massive protest movement sparked by the presidency of Donald Trump.

The latest event, the G20 summit in Hamburg last July, was noted due to numerous riots in the demonstration: clashes with the police, destruction (bank machines, cars) and looting, all accompanied by graffiti, for example: “Free hugs for black blocks”

  • Behind the mask

Embodying principles of the ” new anarchists “, black blocks work without hierarchy. It is a limited grouping of people, during the “time” of a rally. Before the event, the black block does not exist; after the event, it does not exist anymore.There may be more than one bloc at a protest with different aims and tactics. Their tactics are being spread by the militant networks and the punk music, to the United States and in Canada at the beginning of 1990s and to other countries after.

This tactics appeared in West Germany by 1980, in the middle of the counterculture of the squats who wanted to live and to get organized outside the State and outside the Capitalism. Ces Autonomen (“autonomous”) mobilized against nuclear power and the neo-Nazi movement and they defended squattings threatened with eviction such as the squat of Hafenstraße, in Hamburg. Today still, the anticapitalist rally of May 1st in Berlin contains an important number of Black Block groupings.

“These Autonomen distinguished themselves as autonomous from the nation-state, since the nation-state was seen as irrelevant. They wanted to destroy nation-states and build power from below: grassroots popular power. Some people called these movements “anarchist,” but at that time the movements themselves did not really refer to themselves as anarchist.” George Katsiaficas.

As i participated in the past (during my life at the university) in some left-wing rallies, I made some researches regarding this movement. Black Bloc is not an organized group of people, but a technique of demonstration. The purpose is to dress in black and to begin to use some sort of violence against the police and the multinationals and then may undress and merge in a crowd to disappear. Very difficult to identify, these protesters show a very big solidarity between them to run away from police or prevent a questioning by the forces. They say they battle police brutality, corporate greed, immigration bans and erosion of civil liberties.

Black blocs groupings are different according to places and times in terms of composition of class, sex and origin. We can find Black Block groupings of anarchists, communists, ecologists, feminists and queers, angry social democrats or even angry students, unemployed or inactive people or even people having a modest job, etc. Having said that, a slogan of the black block specifies their action: “stronger solidarity between them”

But for those who understand the anarchist political logic, no need for explanations: the target is the message. The Black Blocks are therefore one of the expressions of the “era of riots” or “age of riots”, marked by a crisis of political legitimacy, austerity and militarization of the police. In this context, “riot is the language of the voiceless,” to quote Martin Luther King. However, the Black Bloc is not the antechamber of terrorism. As for Islamists, black bloc activists do not share their values; some black bloc participants have even joined the Kurds to fight the Islamic State.

Subtitles can be generated automatically

*Sources: The Conversation, France Tv Info, CNN, the Guardian, Wikipedia

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