Union City, Georgia: A Few Notes on the Black Bloc
<table><tr><td>From <a href="http://atlanta.indymedia.org/local/one-position-black-bloc-union-city-an... Indymedia</a>
<em>On December 28, 2011 organizers and activists coordinated a rally outside of the Union City City Hall to protest the killing of 19 year-old Ariston Waiters. Shortly following the rally, a spontaneous anti-police march began it's way up the short street. Roughly 60 people, including youth and adults who live in the Union City area, participated in this march. A black bloc of ~25-30 was also present.</em>
<em>At some point, participants in the black bloc vandalized some property of the Union City Justice Center, and the City Jail, as well as writing graffiti on the mailbox in front of the post office. It is these last few gestures which have created both joy and outcry online and elsewhere.</em></td><td><img title="I vote for joy!" src="http://anarchistnews.org/files/pictures/2012/rainbowzebras.jpg"></td></t...
<em>Although no justification is required for symbolically defacing instruments of oppression -- be it a jail or a concentration camp -- what follows is just a few things to consider about the black bloc in general, and some potential motivations for some of the participants of those actions.</em>
<em>This piece does not hope to speak for anyone and, it can be certain, does not represent the intentions or feelings of all of the participants in the black bloc or elsewhere. This is only a perspective of one individual who has participated in black blocs in the past. The black bloc is not a "legitimate political actor" and, therefore, has no real unifying ideological set to express: it is simply a tactic that anyone can pick up and use.</em>
<strong>"WHAT IS A 'BLACK BLOC', ANYWAY?"</strong>
The black bloc is a tactic used to obscure the identity of it's participants, whereby individuals wear black clothing and masks. There are many types of blocs and they serve multiple purposes. For instance, a youth organization might march en bloc during a large mobilization in order to ensure the safety of the children. The general ambition of the black bloc is to anonymize participation in activity that may result in political repression.
What with the NDAA, the PATRIOT ACT, and the ever-increasing budget for surveillance, it's not hard to imagine why someone wouldn't want their face plastered on the front page of the newspaper for being at an anti-war march. Even worse, police are known to use heavy surveillance at mobilizations in an attempt to build portfolios on activists.
<strong>"WHERE DOES THE BLACK BLOC COME FROM?"</strong>
The black bloc is a tactic used all over the world but its origins are attributed to the German Autonomen. During anti-nuclear and pro-choice demonstrations, the black bloc developed as a tool to allow more militant demonstrators to help resist repression. This often involved erecting barricades, wielding shields, or de-arresting protestors.
In Seattle 1999, at the anti-WTO protests, the black bloc gained the attention of the whole world. This time, rather then a defensive tool, the black bloc was used as a type of strike-force, shattering the delusions (and windows) of the world's richest 1%.
<strong>"IS THE BLACK BLOC ALWAYS SO VIOLENT?"</strong>
No. In fact, many black bloc-ers are non-violent in principle. You can often see participants in the black bloc acting as street medics or live-streamers. They are simply dressed en bloc to protect their anonymity from police repression: when everybody looks the same, it's hard to say who did what. It is also often the case the black bloc-ers do not support property damage but that they hate police violence even more and dress in solidarity with the bloc so as to add to the general invisibility of wearing black.
With that said, most black bloc-ers do not believe that property damage is "violent"- per se, but that capitalism itself is violent.
<strong>"AREN'T THEY JUST OUTSIDERS COMING TO RUIN OUR DEMONSTRATIONS?"</strong>
Although some participants in the black bloc may be from another town, what does it mean to be an "outsider" in today's world? Let us never mind the fact that most of us don't know our neighbors and spend most of our time shuffling around for school and work thus rendering the idea of "community" mostly abstract. I think most people understand "community" to mean something along the lines of
"a group of people, geographically or culturally bound, which has a common-interest in its own preservation and well-being" and so it's from that definition that I will offer critique.
Fighting oppression in our own communities is a honorable and often-strategic venture. It can be satisfying in the short-term and productive in the long-term. Geographically-bound communities can help us to satisfy our material needs and cultural communities can empower us to act confidently and intelligently. It is for all of these reasons that capitalism and domination have intentionally ruptured the capacity of communities to function.
In light of that, many would be quick to insist that re-building community is a necessary step to combating oppression. I would agree.
It is not from a hatred of community that this critique is propelled, but for a love of freedom.
Any rebel can tell you that the first thing the police, managers/bosses, and would-be leaders do is divide a movement. "Good protestor/Bad protestor" dynamics are erected to keep the non-violent demonstrators from adopting diverse tactical skills and to marginalize the "violent" ones who's passionate analysis and ideology commits them to fighting exploitation by any means. This isn't accidental. During the 60's and 70's, the FBI's "Counter-Intelligence Program" (COINTELPRO) had laid the groundwork for repressing social movements. The driving force of their strategy was to divide the movement and perhaps their most effective tactics for enacting that, aside from killing leaders, was playing pacifist-types and self-defense-types against each others insecurities. We cannot allow this to happen.
The "inside/outside" dynamic is exactly the same. Although it makes perfect sense for locals to most meaningfully take on struggles that occurred in their geographic community, this should not prevent "outsiders" from acting on their own terms against domination as well. With issues like police violence and capitalism, the terrain of domination is global. There is nowhere on this planet where people are not having their lives destroyed by capitalism and its police. We should not monopolize or privatize the legitimacy or agency to fight against these social relationships. Doing so only empowers the powerful.
<strong>NOWADAYS, AREN'T WE ALL OUTSIDERS?</strong>
In today's austerity economy, we are all outsiders. If the agency to initiate struggles against budget cuts was monopolized by the students at a given school or the librarians at a given library, then we would be weaker with each new year! As everything is subordinated to the budget, fewer and fewer are able to access needed-resources: schools, libraries, hospitals, and even jobs are composed of less and less people at worse and worse standards.
Those who oppose the "outside agitator" would find themselves with less comrades this year then last, and less next year then this year....
We must retain the legitimacy and agency to strike from the outside: in an era where the bosses are laying half of the staff off and the Regents are instituting new cuts and fee hikes, the only winning strategy involves participation and intitiative from all spheres of life, not just those that fit into easily-identifiable borders and boundaries ("local/outsider", "documented/undocumented", "legal/illegal", "violent/non-violent").
Wasn't it the initiative of Occupy Oakland demonstrators to shut down the port, as well as countless banks, on Nov. 2, 2011 that had the entire world watching in awe?
In the late 1800's, when mine workers in Tennessee sabotaged and liberated black inmates in the town's prisons, was that "outside intervention" being that they, themselves, weren't locked in a cell?
<strong>"SO WHAT DOES THIS HAVE TO DO WITH 30 WHITE MALES FROM ATLANTA GOING DOWN TO A BLACK NEIGHBORHOOD AND SMASHING WINDOWS?"</strong>
Although many in that night's black bloc were female-bodied, and many were ethnic and non-white, this type of question reinforces the "inside/outside" dynamic mentioned above.
<strong>"BUT WEREN'T THEY REPRESENTING THE DEATH OF A BLACK MAN!!?"</strong>
In our political system, representation is the name of the game. Because, after all, nobody is capable of acting on their own will, right?
It is possible for people to act for their own reasons, with their own bodies. Not everything is an attempt to act "for" someone else. It is the highest colonialism for some to run to fight "on behalf" of the oppressed - to be a "voice for the voiceless" - rather then helping those "voiceless" to scream.
Smashing windows out of a fucking jail might not have been the most strategic tactic, but it wasn't wrong. It might not have been organized, but it was inspiring to many. The community leaders and event organizers, with their scripts and management-skills, may not have liked it: but nobody's gonna forget hearing the local youth urge that black bloc to "bring the gasoline" so they could burn the jail to the ground.
<em>Perhaps next time they'll be the ones who come prepared.</em>