Masked Militants March in Anti-Pipeline Protest

From Warrior Publications - by Zig Zag, Warrior Publications, January 15, 2013

As many as 1,000 people gathered in downtown Vancouver on Monday, Jan 14, 2013, to protest the Enbridge hearings. Organized by Rising Tide and a coalition of community groups, the demonstration occurred on the first evening of hearings held by the National Energy Board’s joint review panel in the city. Citing security reasons, the panel hearings are closed to the public and only those who have registered to make submissions are allowed entry.

The initial rally point was at Victory Square, a dimly lit park in downtown Vancouver. The weather was cold and rainy, at times snowing. Many of the speakers were Indigenous people, including an opening statement and prayer by local Coast Salish people, as well as some participants in the recent Idle No More rallies.

It was at this time that I noticed a group of perhaps 25 people dressed in all-black clothing and wearing masks. The Vancouver police attending the rally point also seemed to notice them at this time, for soon there were an equal number of cops standing in groups around the black-clad protesters. These were members of the ‘Public Safety Unit’ (PSU), used by Vancouver police for crowd control.

After several speeches and drum songs, the rally moved onto Cambie Street and began moving west on Hastings, towards the Sheraton Wall Centre, a hotel complex in downtown Vancouver where the Enbridge hearings were occurring. At this point, people had been gathered for nearly 1.5 hours.

As the demonstration began moving, the black bloc was covered on the sides and rear by the PSU cops, including two who held a video camera and attempted to film the militants. The banners carried by the bloc participants were held high enough to neutralize most of the video recording, and at times a black flag was draped in front of the lens. The banners were also used to keep the cops out of the bloc itself.

The march covered many city blocks, with sections chanting different slogans at times, while at the front mostly Native women led the way with drumming and singing. When it finally reached the Sheraton, it flowed into the central plaza inside the hotel complex. The black bloc moved directly in front of the lobby doors, where more cops from the PSU were deployed (in a line blocking the entrance). Initially there were perhaps 30 cops, but this number swelled to as many as 40-50.

While the crowd chanted slogans such as “No Pipelines on Stolen Native Land,” the black bloc maintained their position in front of the lobby. They held their banners up to obstruct the view of a large section of the PSU cops, while occasionally hurling insults at them (such as “Fuck the Police”).

Adjacent to the bloc and extending the line of the protesters across the lobby entrance were Natives, who stood with their backs to the police while drumming and singing.

After the rally had occupied this space for 30 minutes or so, it was announced that we were at the wrong building, so the mob moved through the plaza to another one. There were no cops here at all, and it was pretty obvious that this was the “wrong” building. After ten minutes, we moved back to the original lobby, where the PSU remained in position. The black bloc also resumed its original position directly in front of the police.

More speeches were made, many by Natives, along with more drumming and singing. After another 45 minutes or so, the black bloc took down their banners and moved in a single file into the crowd, where it dispersed and participants removed their outer layer of black clothing. According to one participant, they did this because the crowd was beginning to get smaller and would provide less concealment as more time passed.

Black Bloc methods and tactics

Contrary to the claims of some, these militants were not “agents provocateurs,” nor did they attempt to instigate any attacks on police or property. In fact, they conducted themselves as a defensive force. At the rally point in the park and during the march through the streets, they attracted the attention of police and drew a number of them away from other protesters. At the hotel lobby, they positioned themselves in front of the police and established a line between the cops and other protesters.

This is not to say that the black bloc are not capable of attacking police or property, however. It is clear from the response of the police that the bloc is the only contingent in the protest they consider to have a defensive-offensive capability, which is why they congregate their forces around any assembled bloc. The black bloc tactic has also shown itself capable of carrying out considerable property destruction and street fighting with police, including protests against the World Trade Organization in Seattle 1999, the 2001 Quebec City protests against the Summit of the Americas, and more recently the Toronto G20 of 2010.

The term black bloc first emerged in West Germany during the early 1980s and referred to the practise of militant autonomists dressing in all-black clothing as a means of countering police surveillance & repression. They marched together in blocs to defend mobilizations against police attacks, and to also attack corporate property.

Generally, black blocs are comprised of radicals who see no hope in reforming the capitalist system. Many advocate an anarchist society that is based on autonomy and decentralization, with no centralized authority (such as a state government). In other words, they share a similar method of self-organization that many traditional Indigenous societies are based on.

Many people accept the police and corporate media accounts of black blocs as mindless hooligans and thugs, while some continue to perpetuate conspiracy theories that they are comprised of undercover cops, sent in to start riots in order to undermine “peaceful” protests.

In the only documented case of undercover cops attempting to infiltrate a rally, which occurred during protests in Montebello, Quebec, in 2007, it was masked militants who first identified them. Later, the Quebec provincial police admitted that the three were in fact cops.

In reality, the black bloc are comprised of committed radicals who work on many different projects, such as bookstores, soup kitchens, community gardens, social centres, etc. They also organize protests and solidarity campaigns, frequently with Indigenous peoples (in Canada).

In the context of non-Native settler social movements in this country, the black bloc displays a fighting spirit that is otherwise sorely lacking. Their uncompromising and confrontational attitude is a far clearer manifestation of resistance than the standard passive protests that routinely occur in North America, and which often serve to disarm people psychologically and reaffirm the illusion of the “democratic” state.

Nor are the militant methods of the black bloc so far removed from those used by militant Natives. During the Oka Crisis of 1990, the image of the warrior as a masked and uniformed fighter came to symbolize Indigenous resistance, along with the Mohawk Warrior flag. Ever since then, it has been common to see Native warriors wearing masks, and frequently in combat uniforms, at blockades and occupations.

As socio-economic conditions continue to decline, and as Native peoples continue to mobilize to defend their lands and people in the face of state repression, there is a lot that can be learned from the black bloc, who have accumulated over 3 decades of experience in direct actions and overcoming increasingly repressive police tactics. These include the necessity of wearing proper disguise when committing “illegal” activities (due to the presence of cameras), being able to disperse and escape police cordons, detecting and avoiding police containment (‘kettles’), defending against chemical agents (such as tear gas and pepper spray), etc.

For more info on the black bloc:

Can’t Stop Kaos

A brief intro to the history and practise of the infamous Black Bloc, from its origins among the German autonomists to its development in N. America.

10 Points on the Black Bloc

A pamphlet based on a public talk given by Harsha Wallia of No One Is Illegal.

Black Bloc Papers

The Black Bloc Papers: An Anthology of Primary Texts From The North American Anarchist Black Bloc 1999-2001 The Battle of Seattle (N30) Through Quebec City (A20)

A large collection of Black Bloc communiques, reports, and analysis. Published by the Green Mountain Anarchist Collective.



Great, another USELESS action using OUTDATED tactics that accomplished absolutely NOTHING!

Ha, just kidding. Love yall and rock on!

great article. loving warrior publications

"After the rally had occupied this space for 30 minutes or so, it was announced that we were at the wrong building," and this is why we're winning

...nah, now I'm just trollin'.

It actually is awesome to hear that in spite of the canadian state threatening 10 years for those that bloc up, people are still giving the big fuck you

... wait so if there's an action in BC all of the trolls just sort of turn like... not all that trolly?

A lot of the trolls don't really give a shit about stuff north of the 49th.

Also, most of the criticism you could make for this rally doesn't have much to do with anarchist organizing. We just showed up and held some space for a bit, made the pigs twitch. There was some consensus in the bloc not to pointlessly start shit, although a few of the cops tried to.

I realy don't understand some anarchists fetitization with "holding space" or even what that means and why I should care. Fuck I just sat in traffic for for an hour on I-5. Does that count as "holding space"?

I thought holding space generally implied having control over it. If you're sitting in traffic against your true volition, you sure as hell don't control it.

"Fuck I just sat in traffic for for an hour on I-5."

A scene from "Anarchist As Average American, Nothing More/Nothing Less"

I just wanted to say that something about the whole new layout has turned me off, at least that's what I believe. I used to frequent @news at least once a day, but now hardly make it on even once a week. It may be for other reasons that I have stopped coming by so often, but I couldn't help but notice the coincidence. Perhaps if you look at your statistics concerning visitors you might see that others have done the same. Just wanted to point that out.

As far as I know this isn't the new permanent layout that was talked about, this is just temporary.

We were so close to the revolution but now there is a new format and people aren't coming to the site anymore and the glorious days are further away than ever before.

I have dreamed a dream, but now that dream is gone from me.

If you guys believe so much in your message then why cover your faces? I'm not trying to be a troll, I'm genuinely curious Why the cowardice?

The anonymous poster asks about anonymity.

Covering faces is a tactical decision, not cowardice. When up against an enemy that can destroy you, you have to be smart. I do wonder though, if you're not trying to troll, why would you use the word cowardice?

Sorry if I came across as a troll, I'm genuinely curious. It just seems cowardly to cover your faces, commit acts of property damage, and then use crowds of peaceful demonstrators as sheilds against the police. I don't want to sound like a liberal, but if you want to fight oppression why reenforce oppressive power structures by enacting male power fantasies threw street violence? I'm really curious?

I think in the old days people used to bring pistols and grenades to demos so things are actually more peaceful than they used to be.

anonymity is an oppressive structure... male power fantasies... yeah, sorry, you DO sound like a liberal- a confused one if that.

But you aren't *actually* curious. If you were you'd be half as condescending and twice as willing to read.


Cops take pictures!

Peaceful protests have sometimes led to house raids, as in the infamous example of POM Wonderful. Years ago, that compnay tested on animals, leading to protests at executive's homes.
Activsts drove to the targets, the protests were peaceful. None the less, license plate numbers were recorded, leading to house raids. The raids blew back and POM had to stop testing on animals after the ALF got involved and Whole Foods threatened a boycott, but that's another story.

Face pictures can also be dangerous. In the US, activists started masking up after police used pictures taken during the Rodney King riots to identify and arrest the guys that beat up a white truck driver. That showed the ability of cops with cameras to bring about later arrests. Masks and identical sets of clothing take away that ability. In addition, masks worn with dark sunglasses will make facial recognition cameras useless if the pigs ever get those working.

Also watch for pigs photographing shoes-and throw out shoes after anything "important." Take lots of pictures of cops, they cover badges but rarely faces. That's how we exposed JTTF asshole Vincent Antignano and forced him out of "policing" protest in DC.

People who vandalize property are not fighting oppression, they are protesting it. Covering faces is one way to avoid being taken hostage by the corporate police state. Is it "brave" (i.e. not cowardly) to deliberately get oneself thrown in prison? Or is it just stupid.

Are you trying to say that it is cowardly to get arrested for what you believe in? Were Gandhi, MLK, and Chavez "cowards" for getting arrested for their cause? I'm not saying that the above figures should be fetishized or praised uncritically, but it seems entirely inaccurate to describe them as cowards. If the bloc is simply "protesting" oppression as opposed to "fighting" it, what makes it any different then the folks parading around with protest signs? Doesn't that make the bloc guilty of the very thing that it attempts to criticize? I'm seriously not try to troll, but why all the male aggression? Why are anarchists so critical of everyone else, yet such hypocrites in their personal lives?

Nobody said it was cowardly to get arrested for something you believe in, just stupid to walk into the arms of the law. Disappearing into a crowd is hardly using "peaceful demonstrators" as shields.

Also, "male power fantasies threw street violence" and "male aggression" really? Is all use of force considered "male aggression"? Confrontations in the street are not just boys fun, believe me.

And lastly, "Why are anarchists so critical of everyone else, yet such hypocrites in their personal lives?" gee, generalize much?

Thanks for the response. I think honest debate is important and value your opinion. I've read enough Bell Hooks to know a thing or two about how male power manifests itself, even in so called progressive social movements. Male power often manifests even amongst lower class men in order to compensate for their lack of power in other aspects of their lives (resentment for their alienation in the workplace or in the economic sphere) so they enact their power fantasies through street violence and political militancy. Militancy on behalf of young male activists is also a result of sexual frustration and resentment. I've seen it time and time again young men (sometimes with the best intentions) provoking police and trashing property without regards towards the most vulnerable around them: women, children, poc, and immigrants, who unfortunately (but convenient for the male provocateurs) are the ones to face the brunt of repression by the police. I'm mean these questions with the most comradely way possible, but how is perpetuating patriarchy and white supremacy in any way fall in line with progressive principles? How is acting as irresponsible cowards by destroying small businesses and using immigrants as human shields progressing the movement in any positive way? No anarchist has yet to give me straight answer on this. What are you trying to hide?

I'm not arguing for total non-violence and I'm certainly no pacifist. I fail to see how the Peter Gelderloos book is relevant to the conversation as I am not arguing against violence, nor am I uncritical of systemic violence (though I find it tragically ironic that you would choose a book by a white man to refute my points about male power and the black bloc). I'm not interested in arguing over the hypothetical or generalizations, I'm interested in challenging political tendencies and tactics as they actually exist in the present. You can give examples of past revolutionaries from far away lands all you want, but that has no bearing on the black bloc here and now, as it actually exists, or it's implications on present social movements.

In typical patriarchal fashion you have failed to answer even a single question I have asked of you. Why is OK for anarchists to act as cowards by covering their faces? How does bringing down repression against women and immigrant children helping progressive movements? How are men, by acting out their sexual frustrations upon small businesses, challenging patriarchy or protesting systemic oppression? I feel I have been attempting dialog in good faith, so why all the hostilities?

Here's an excellent critique of the so called "black bloc" anarchists by some of the movements finest.

that critique has been refuted many times last year when it first appeared.

Thanks for the link. VERY informative. It's funny I have yet to hear a single anarchist respond this article. Their silence should tell you all you need to know: the black bloc as a tactic is indefensible and it's proponents/participants are irresponsible.

Dear god, you've never heard an anarchist respond to that? Here's your chance!

And there is a SLEW more where that came from. Those are just the two that I remember after having the damned ordeal jackhammered into my skull for weeks on end.

Well you can make all the blog posts and youtube videos in the world, but at the end of the day the proof is in the pudding. Black bloc anarchists hijacked the occupy movement and now it is virtually dead. That should be the nail in the coffin as far as the black bloc debate goes. If the black bloc is so effective then shouldn't the occupy movement be flourishing? If smashing windows of small local businesses was advancing your cause, then we would be living in an anarchist utopia by now. But we are not living in an anarchist utopia and the occupy movement has fallen into the dustbin of history--and for what? So a few boys could to get their jollies off in the street and prove how tough they are by breaking some windows (while ironically hiding behind bandannas and peaceful protesters like cowards). We should judge tactics based on their results and the black bloc has only resulted in the alienation of the mainstream and lead to heightened repression against LBGTQ, POC, women, children and immigrants. I really mean this with the best of intentions I'm not trying to troll.

look. your trolling is boring, transparent, and unfunny. just stop while you're ahead.

To be fair this troll is is actually pretty funny and creative. They had me fooled for a while, until the "black bloc attacks women from behind" bit I was thoroughly convinced it was for real.

IGTT: 9/10

If you didn't get this was a troll immediately when he said "I am trying not to sound liberal" than you need to rethink your digital commenting strategy. I give this troll a 10 though, laughed the whole way through, good job!

you do realize that the black bloc tactic is not just done by straight white men right?

Nah, that all changed after 911.



"you do realize that the black bloc tactic is not just done by straight white men right?"

Then why are you referred to as the "manarchists"? The word "man" is in the name. If you don't want people to think you are all white men then dropping the "manarchist" label would be a start. Also not behaving like white men would also go a long ways towards losing that reputation.

you are the dumbest person ever.

I see you boys have stooped to grade school level name calling. Instead of answering my questions you resort to personal attacks and even have the nerve to call my intelligence into question. Here I thought I could have a good faith discussion with some black blocers and finally get some answers to some of my questions but instead I get hurled with insults. I see you've brought some of that male aggression off the streets and onto the internet.

fuck off

Yes because more insults will make your arguments more sound.

yawn....boring troll continues trolling

For something that is so "boring" you all seem to be getting pretty worked up. Did I strike a nerve? Or are you just angry that someone is finally calling you boys out? Men hate it when their authority is challenged, which explains some of the responses on this thread. Check yourselves!


When the powerless go up against the powerful, they don't have the luxury of being out in the open about it, at least not when it comes to physical confrontations. Resistance is for the most part either clandestine or doomed, historically. Don't be surprised when your analysis of the blac bloc as sexually frustrated, cowardly, mesogonistic white males is met with hostility! I see little good faith in that. The black bloc is formed of all shades and stripes, and womyn and queers are often its fiercest advocates and participants!

Anarchists have had to deal with a great amount of frustration and repression, least of all from feminists! Have "good faith" that people have been at this for a while, and their goals are probably not far from yours, if you despise patriarchy and systematic oppression. But where the rubber meets the road, with actually "challenging patriarchy" and "systematic oppression" (I'll pretend that you didn't use the word 'protesting', since we all know that has done little that is tangible in all its days), you will have to ask an insurrectionist.

I hope that's sincere enough an answer. It's difficult not to make childish jokes while writing a comment on the internet!

It's hard to have "good faith" with people who use immigrant children as human shields against the police, attack disabled women from behind at anarchist conferences, and burn down banks with people inside (like they did in Greece). These are the types of actions the so called black bloc anarchists carry out on a regular basis. So excuse me for objecting to violence and murder against women, children, and workers. It's hard to believe that any progressive would defend those actions, yet here I am trying to add some sanity to this debate.

I think maybe you are uneducated and that's why you believe the things you do, so I apologize if you don't understand my arguments or if the words I use are above your reading comprehension. But it's never to late to learn and maybe after you have read more on the topic, move out of your parents house, and gained more experience in the streets you will understand how your opinion on the black bloc is wrong.

it is painfully obvious that the term patriarchy is just another way of talking about one of the many forms of power that people have or do not have. The point about resentment is precisely on point. Peeps victimize themselves because they want power; it was exactly as Nietzsche said. Having courageous people doing things is better than those that simply lack the virtue; and making oneself lack the virtue, through checking yourself-however the other tells you to-is simply pandering to the needs of others, adhering to the vice of pity. My recommendation therefore is to develop the skill of courage; if you don't want it, fuck off.

You've been given many straight answers on here. If you fail to understand them, that's your problem. Your obsession with gender and race makes you come at this discussion in a very peculiar way. Protesting, property damage, black bloc etc have no correleation with a specific gender or race.

No correlation at all? And the punk scene ain't full of bros either?

Inflicting an economic price IS fighting

Many times in war, it is necessary to either destroy property used for attack, or to force the
expediture and diversion of resources to repair damage. Smashing construction equipment along the route of the Keystone XL might be called "vandalism" but it is fighting in exactly the same way that an airstrike or artillery barrage on an enemy's warehouse full of tanks is fighting.

This, of course, is tactical warfare in the field. Infliction of losses on banks and stockbrokers who fund oppression, by comparison, is strategic warfare aimed at denying an enemy the use of those resources. Suppose executives of construction companies renting equipment to Transcanada's contractors get their homes smashed up. That would cause many rental firms to shut their doors to those contractors, making bulldozers and equipment for laying pipe much harder to get than they otherwise would be. That slows construction, buying time to finish off the Keystone XL by other means. There have even been privately funded projects of destruction cancelled when losses to "vandalism" plus security expenses exceeded all possible profits. Department stores that stopped sellling fur in London after a series of devastating ALF strikes come to mind here.

There is also the defense application of militant direct action. Suppose Monsanto files a SLAPP lawsuit against a farmer who goes on TV to talk about just how dangerous GMOS really are. If lobbyists and law firms representing Monsanto staert getting their offices and senior executive's homes trashed, Monsanto would soon find legal representation and lobbyists harder to get and much more expensive to hire. Next time around, they would forget all about filing another SLAPP suit!

In concept all of this is no different than airstrikes on Gerrman heavy water plants in WWII that may have denied the Nazis posession of the atomic bomb. The basic doctrine of "Deep Strike" applies for us just as much as it does for the armed forces of our enemies. In both cases, the goal is to still the Enemy's sword arm by getting him in a chokehold and squeezing with everything you'ge got!

Best critique of the black bloc I have ever seen. I dare any anarchist to refute it.

Good god I cringed. That was pretty horrible. Where the hell did you even find this?

You cringe because you know it's true.

we cringe because it is horrible.

you know, i was like "hey, this isn't bad..." and then hit the part where "thinking outside the box" became "use credit unions and spread awareness."

and then i cringed a lot.

it was horrible the entire time.

If his arguments weren't awful enough, he had to also talk in rhyme. This guy has to be literally the most annoying liberal of all time

wow, good find.

Wow, so I make a casual comment that most trolls don't care about shit that happens in "Canada" and apparently somebody took that as a personal challenge? Must have spent a good 3 to 5 hours of precious youth rehashing all the textbook black-bloc "critiques" of the last 10 years?

Are you proud of yourself? At least everybody gets to practice their rhetoric ...

Are most trolls dudes?

Does a bear shit on the pope's hat in the woods?

we're talking about the Black block tactic . The folks with the shields at occupy Oakland, that stopped more people from being harmed by the projectiles shot by police at crowds of undefended protestors. I was much safer behind the black block and masked up street medics than next Gandhian activists who only were organized to take pictures when I got my head bashed in by the cops for making a speech in Eureka.
Occupy was evicted by police force. Black Block was a tactic used to resist police force in occupy, but without the participation of more and more of the population, winning the street permanently was not possible.

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