In San Francisco's Mission District, the Black Bloc Breaks Windows and Fails to Make An Impact

  • Posted on: 1 October 2012
  • By: worker

<table><tr><td>From the new issue (#111) of Berkeley's 'Slingshot:'

Gentrification is a process where a working class, low-income neighborhood is colonized by the affluent and transformed into a bourgeois area. The 'embourgeosification' of a formerly proletarian quarter often begins when authentically impoverished low-income artists and bohemians move in. Minimum-toil-culture types are drawn to a low-income area by cheap rents, and are also often animated by an authentic antipathy for the larger homogenous corporatized society around us. Their marginal presence is followed by a proliferation of artsy enterprises: high-end galleries, shops, bars and restaurants drawing mainstream prosperous types to shop and consume in an area once thought to be too dark, dirty and (usually) non-white for upper middle class tastes. The gentry come to shop and party, and end up moving in, driving up the cost of rental housing, annexing affordable housing altogether, helping to drive hardcore wage slaves and the poor out of their homes and remaking an area in the image of the gentry's grasping, conspicuously consuming, conformist selves.

Gentrification is all about private property and the primacy of property rights over human needs in a market society. Vandalism of the property of wealthy invaders is an organic automatic response to the threat of dispossession gentrification brings. But sometimes a brick through a window is only a brick in a window. In fact, in most cases a broken window is just a broken window, a mere expression of atomized powerless rage. Context is everything.</td><td><img title="and sometimes a broken window is the fucking revolution!" src=""></td></tr></...
A one-night-only mass vandalism spree that occurred several months ago in San Francisco's rapidly gentrifying Mission District shows how a successful episode of mass property destruction can in fact be a complete failure in terms of authentic subversive social struggle.

On the night of Monday, April 30th, a rally associated with the Occupy movement was held in the Mission District's Dolores Park. As the rally ended, a march departed from the park and headed down 18th street, which is now a hyper-gentrified corridor of expensive restaurants and stores. Marchers vandalized a number of highly appropriate targets and eventually turned onto a particularly loathsome stretch of Valencia Street. Valencia is ground zero in the negative class transformation of the formerly working class Mission and on Valencia, more high-end eateries and stores were paint-bombed and had their windows broken. Expensive cars were also trashed. The Mission District police station was paint-bombed and some of its windows were broken as well. According to the capitalist news media, more than 30 stores and restaurants were vandalized. Only one person was arrested, and this person was quickly released.

This event was an excellent first step.

Unfortunately there was no second step:

The people who did the April 30th action made no subsequent effort to communicate their reasons for indulging in mass vandalism, thus robbing their efforts of all credibility. Evidently they said nothing because they had nothing to say. Their mass vandalism spree could have been a foot in the door for a larger message against the gentrification of the Mission in particular and against capitalist society in general, but nothing more was heard from them. With this lapse into characteristic complacency and silence, in their passivity and juvenile ineptitude the wannabe insurrectionary vandals handed a huge propaganda victory to both the Mission's bourgeois invaders and to the corporate news media, who were able to portray the event as an exercise in self-indulgent adolescent nihilism.

This silence of the lambs also left an opening for the event to be denounced by obnoxious liberalish elements in the local Occupy movement, who were given center stage by the dumb vandals to decry the vandalism in any way they choose. In fact, people I spoke with at random, both around the neighborhood and at Occupy Oakland events at Oscar Grant Plaza surmised that the police themselves were behind the April 30th vandalism action. This seems absurd, but the silence of the vandals and their abject social ineptitude led to this.

In an anti-gentrification fight, time is of the essence in all things. In a larger sense, public high-profile anti-gentrification actions have to begin before the transformation of an area has become irreversible. And in an action like April 30th, the larger objectives that motivated the action's authors -- if indeed they had any motivations beyond providing themselves with entertainment -- have to be communicated while the event is still fresh in people's minds. This would have meant some kind of transparently clear public statement within a few days of April 30th. No such statement was forthcoming.

As I write this, in mid-September, it's been four and a half months since the April 30th nocturnal vandalism spree, and there has been no subsequent noticeable public action against the gentrification of the Mission. The vandalism spree did not lead to any new resistance. Forms that public collective resistance could still take include rowdy demos on Valencia Street during the dinner hour on Friday and Saturday nights to disrupt the pleasures of the table for the bourgies, and big public neighborhood meetings, and sustained picket lines outside of the business offices and home addresses of egregious gentrifiers -- all of these in combination would be best.

An article in the 'New York Times' about the current tech-boom-generated gentrification of San Francisco compares the tech boom of the late 1990's and the tech boom of today, saying,

"…Back then, antigentrification posters appeared in the Mission urging people to vandalize luxury cars parked in the area…few marks of protest have occurred this time…"
('New Tech Boom Brings Jobs But Also Worries,' NYT, June 4)

Barely a month after the April 30th vandalism spree, the event was completely forgotten, and not perceived as a credible threat to the galloping gentrification of one of San Francisco's last remaining working class areas. Indeed, April 30th compares poorly to the much smaller but sustained effort of the Mission Yuppie Eradication Project of the late 1990's. The MYEP, with fewer than a handful of people in a long-term effort, did more to publicize gentrification as a class-conflict issue than did a hoard of one-night-standers in April. A useful critique of the MYEP can be found at: (

In a period of relative social peace, authentic revolutionary extremist action is all about communication. It is about communication to the virtual complete exclusion of all else. If an action or event fails to communicate, then it has failed completely -- and it doesn't matter how much fun it was for the people doing it. Subjectively, radical individuals have to try to communicate an uncompromising subversive message, on as wide a scale as possible, of direct relevance to the mundane everyday life concerns of mainstream working people. By this measure the April 30th Mission District vandalism event was an abject failure. To some degree, it even represented a brief 'colonization' of a real world problem by the 100% American/consumer society/all-entertainment-all-the-time ethos of the Black Bloc.

Black Bloc tactics are solely for the fleeting entertainment of the people who take part in them. They communicate nothing to the world at large. They lead nowhere. They offer nothing to build on. Mainstream working people aren't going to adopt Black Bloc tactics, or join the Black Bloc at protest ghetto events. The lack of credibility and commitment and failure of imagination seen in the April 30th Mission District vandalism spree is a symptom of the fact that a society gets the dissidents that it deserves. A society that proclaims that being entertained is the highest possible form of human aspiration gets a brand of ersatz radicalism that loyally mirrors this.

Max Crosby


Didn't want to be the one to break it to you all...but breaking window, and such act likes these won't accomplish shit, almost as useless as holding up signs and stuff like Occupy must attack these mother fuckers where it hurts...this doesn't scare thema bit, they laugh at this and love when you fight the Police instead of them as they sit nice and bundled in their fancy offices in their facy suits...get it now?...


the trltrt

Dear trltrt,

Where the hell is that poster? You're two days late.

Señor Grumps A Lot

Also, the pizza you delivered was cold.

-- Grister Mumpy

Workin on it right now boss.

The trltrt.

Gracias Amigo.

Señor Moody

I fist wanted to reply... but I don't think I got the superior intelligence to argue with such comment.

I dunno about you, but last time I attacked somebody in a "facy suit" the police were there within minutes. You're a poser and it shows.

yea. we should all just join DGR, I guess.

In South Berkeley the slingshot publishes 111 poorly written newspapers and fails to create anything worth retaining

In fact, even worse, their publications kills as many trees as Derrick Jensen's work does. Ouch!

this article sucks. if you want to put out some grandiose article about why it's important to vandalise shit why don't you? instead you write all this shit about how others failed to do something you could have done. total fail. there's no stage at which gentrification "can't" be reversed. there's plenty of areas around the world where action sprees did lead to further action. who the fuck are you to know what is going to lead to creating a culture of action and what is not?

They have published many, many, many, many issues of their magazine. That means they know how to win the revolution.

i don't think this article is THAT of it are a thoughtful critique...there's for sure some unnecessary insults (calling everyone who participated in a particular action 'dumb' or childish or whatever) and the last part that just straight up says black blocs are never useful at all, even though previously in the article it seemed to imply that a) the bloc on april 30th was a good action (it just needed more follow through) and b) targeted property destruction in and of itself is a valid form of protest.

the useful critique part that i take from it is the need (desire? opinion?) for more clear communication to people outside of a particular militant protest (black bloc or otherwise) as to why it is happening. i'd personally say that this isn't always necessary, as sometimes the medium is the message, but in the case of what could be a sustained campaign to effect a particular sort of change (like stopping or reversing gentrification in a given area), than communicating this as a message, or at least following up and continuing that campaign in some way (examples are given in the article) would make sense.

i'm assuming that the author(s) of this piece take the fact that no additional actions, messages, etc took place after the bloc on april 30th to mean that there was never any actual plan or strategy to try to stop or reverse gentrification in the mission district, which is probably their source of frustration.

although, in all honesty, if you're capable of printing however many hundreds or thousands or whatever copies of a newspaper, you could probably print up a few hundred decent quality anti-gentrification posters and get those out there, too. just sayin.

After reading this I bought 100 more slingshot organizers, that will stop gentrification!

Boring. How is it that people who have completely failed to achieve social revolt are such experts in how to bring it about? STFU already. Put up or shut up.

No kidding. Fuck these people.

"Black Bloc tactics are solely for the fleeting entertainment of the people who take part in them. They communicate nothing to the world at large. They lead nowhere. They offer nothing to build on. Mainstream working people aren't going to adopt Black Bloc tactics, or join the Black Bloc at protest ghetto events."

Seriously, is this Chris Hedges? Is it a coincidence that we're seeing exactly the same line from the police, the corporate media, self-important left journalists, and now yesterday's heroes of the radical (un)intelligentsia?

Something is happening, but you don't know what it is, do you, Mr. Hedges/Keating!

"Seriously, is this Chris Hedges?" You are obsessed with me, aren't you? Think I'm everywhere and behind everything, don't you?

Not who you're replying to, but:

1. I highly doubt that you are Chris Hedges.

2. The phrase "Seriously, is this Chris Hedges?" is more likely a reference to Chris Hedges becoming a symbol/spokesperson for ineffectual leftist critiques of black bloc tactics based on the idea that they alienate "the mainstream", rather than a sincere allegation that Chris Hedges is the sole author of every such critique.

1. I see that sarcasm escapes you.
2. I see that the word "seriously" in the phrase "Seriously, is this Chris Hedges?" can be taken as seriously as anything else on this website -- not at all seriously.

this wasn't black bloc tactics. This was an empty expression of anger and a very well written article over reaching statements aside. Black bloc is active resistence, this is shit I do when I'm drunk. Not kidding either. Difference between you and me, when I wake up in a jail cell spelling of paint I don't want a fucking boot in the air. Jesus. Its the Bay. 7 minutes walking distance they have drive by shootings. Get real kid.

Ah yes, the fact that people did not follow up on what was admittedly a good start proves that the Black Bloc is useless. The author clearly has a personal grudge against people he identifies with the Black Bloc.

And a news flash: Mainstream people will never join a black bloc, nor read Slingshot, nor join a protest, because being mainstream is all about avoiding all of those things.

"When police officers arrested a person suspected of dealing drugs in a house on a narrow street in North Camden last year, residents set upon their cars and freed the prisoner."

Mob rule. That's the way it should be.

Common mainstream person:

-sees a rowdy protest going on, people shouting, maybe tearing things up, maybe not
-asks "what is this all about?"
-is handed a thoughtful and well worded, well thought out flyer explaining what it "is all about"
-still doesn't (or can't?) read the flyer, continues to ask "what is this all about?"

If people can't have something explained to them in a 15 second fashion like they're spoon fed on the news, they don't want to look into it.
It is no fault of our own, it is a problem with this culture.
I've seen this scene play out a thousand times.

your assessment of mainstream people just summed up at least 30 percent of the people here and both the reactions to this article as well as the initial action.

Stupid article except for the astute observation about "obnoxious liberals" in Occupy. Maybe you liked the recent FTP in the Mission better; too bad it negates your basic premise.

True that, and sometimes the writers at Slingshot com across as slightly less "obnoxious" but still more or less liberal themselves. I mean really now, "embourgeosification"? WTF?

"Mainstream working people"
"Protest Ghetto Events"


So it's all about the "communication" eh?

I have been communicated to since I was born:

You must get up at 6am every day. You must commute long distances using fossil fuels. You must slave from 8am-5pm every day for someone else's profit, while your one and only life of possibility slips relentlessly down the drain.

Furthermore: You must dress, act, live, work, travel, dream, eat, think, talk, grow your tomatoes, toss out your trash and conduct your life in a very specific circumscribed way.

Absent following this program, the communication I receive is violence. Total and absolute violence.

And what happens when, in response, I attempt to COMMUNICATE my agenda and my point of view? Violence. Total and absolute violence and an aggressive unwillingness to listen to any point of view other than the proscribed Bataan Death March.

Communication goes both ways.
So far I am only being communicated to most viciously
and the willingness to communicate in the spirit of "Community" is not reciprocated in any way.

When this is view and nature of your community, do not be surprised when the cinder block that you have been dropping on half of humanity comes crashing through your front door.

Cheers y'all

Cedric Price, “…dialogue might be the only excuse for architecture.”, and vandalism also. but, "authentic revolutionary extremist action is all about communication. It is about communication to the virtual complete exclusion of all else" this is not true, and never has been. Abraham Guillen, Carlos Marighella, and Che Guevara have all stressed the importance of "above ground" organizing and propaganda; but none of them would have totally dismissed a collective attack against an "appropriate" target.
"The only way in which the population can make its impression on the immense armada which has gotten stranded around our city center is to wear them out. Destruction is the only way left. “ Habraken- from Colin Ward's collection Vandalism
"Black Bloc tactics are solely for the fleeting entertainment of the people who take part in them." Its not possible to deflate this one denominational criticism, any farther.
Mike Davis with Occupied London "I think that we need to propagandise and fight for the idea of a universal insurrection...Kevin Lynch...thought that anything that involved people and the built environment, including destroying it, was a good thing. If you wanted to generate a theory of participatory architecture or urbanism, vandalism seemed to be the most common and popular form of participating in the built environment by revolting against its dehumanisation..."
"They offer nothing to build on." The people quoted above, focused largely on building, and all saw building on/with the ruins as immediately necessary.
One thing you are right about in this article, is we need more, this isn't enough. And though you tried to be validating in ways, you still threw too much of a "self-indulgent adolescent" fit yourself, in the way that you make a spectacular object of Black Bloc, as if it is a thing and not people at times, and you can just throw your stones at it and smash it away.

The last paragraph is stupid. But I think the first point -- that no one did anything to explain what the April 30th smashy-smashy was about -- is totally correct. There was no communique written, nothing was handed out during the march. Given the fact that a bunch of people wanted to demonstrate what awesome nihilists they were by smashing up minivans and stuff, most people had no clue that this was an attempt to combat gentrification. If one's goal is to encourage more stuff like that among one's neighbors -- the few poor people left in the mission -- then this was an important oversight.

Dear everyone who is bummed that there wasn't a communique for april 30th:

if you spent half as much time writing your own as you do whining, we would have hundreds of communiques by now. Kevin Keating alone could write a book about april 30th in a fraction of the time he has spent whining on listservs and anews. Nobody has authorship over those events. If you think there should be a communique, why didn't you write one?

Oh that's right, its easier to just whine on the internet.

Yeah, I did see a few worthwhile critiques in there...the article really wasn't half as bad as I expected from the title. We do need better communication, but that doesn't prove the action was a failure or justify the abysmal last paragraph.

Here's my question: why must the bloc be held responsible? What about all those intellectuals, who write in papers with dramatic, insurrectionary names like "slingshot"? Where the fuck were you, mr author, over those four months?

Making public statements (even communiques) about why you rioted is very dangerous. These kids already went out and fought for "us", doesn't that count for something? Everyone seems to want a bloc that's orderly and obedient, constantly blaming them for not living up to our expectations, but nobody seems willing to go an inch out of their comfort zone to back them up.


Don't be an ageist uh? I'm almost 30 and I still say "me and the other black bloc kids" or "those fucking occupy kids". You're being defensive.

I'm not. And I'm not condmning these people for this. But in a situation like this, its useless. Fucking lazy too. This isn't engaging the state or vocalizing an intelligent thought. Its just anger. And legitimate anger but fucking useless. No one gets the message on a human level. Its the equivelant of saying fuck you to I'll beat your ass to a biggot andthen walking away without an explanation.

nah, you're the one who defensively explained yourself. I just called out the use of ageist language w/o context (like what you now provided).

now everything is right with the world!

You're right Id rather not be the arrogant dick who says this is the way lazy children who care less about the people who are losing their homes and more about to conforming and perpetuating cultural stereotypes act. If you cared you'd set up a committee, distribute flyers, remind Dockers that the reason their vapid ass is moving in is because of someone elses misfortune. Not break a handful of windows spraypaint slogans that only show cultural divisions with barely a shadow of class division and then post it here to get your brownie points among people indirectly involved. That or suite up and actively try to fight the state to reclaim the neighborhood at 5 in the evening. But as it stands these people are going to face political repression, unjustifiably for a bullshit act. There was nothing worth percieving as political or moral to Will n Grace in this action. I see it, but I'm in the cult so who gives a shit. Bitchy or not I'm still with you. But poor folk in the Mission are still fucked and they'd be fucked either way but maybe not forgotten. Check with the folk up in Portland, see how they do it.

The day we look to Portland to see how they do anything is the day we're all in trouble, unless by "it" you mean "open vegan mini malls" or "put birds on things".

*The spirit of the 90s is alive in Portlaaannnd*

The headline is the best part.

yawn, the problem isn't gentrification. the neighborhood is mixed.

of course, this is probably fake. written by someone who has no fucking clue what they're talking about. someone who couldn't even purchase a clue in college...

why don't some of you fuckers here go volunteer in an ER? I'd rather had people with AIDS bleed all over me and die, than to have to listen to your pathetic first world whining any more.

"the problem isn't gentrification. the neighborhood is mixed"


only yuppies and wanna-be yuppies whine endlessly about gentrification

says some white and/or well off person

Last paragraph is not true.... Seattle 99' extremely poor ppl participated in the black bloc spontaneously

Mainstream working people Mainstream working people Mainstream working people Mainstream working people Mainstream working people Mainstream working people Mainstream working people Mainstream working people Mainstream working people Mainstream working people. Didn't you know the class still only has social democratic consciousness?

whatever bro...

break everything, say nothing.

> break everything, say nothing.

Nothing else needs to be said.

Man I had no idea the Egyptian revolution was against Mubarak because the people in tahrir never posted any communiques to ANews after fighting the cops and smashing police stations!

This guy says the same fucking thing over and over. Where does he get the energy?

Some folks at Slingshot and the Long Haul infoshop had problems putting female bodies people with guns on the cover of one of the issues. Not necessarily all but most are soft ass anarcho-liberals. Does the author of this live in the mission and talk to the everyday folks on the block?

If not, fuck you! And fuck Kevin Keating too for good measure

Come on, Keating IS DEFINITELY the author of this article. It has all the tell-tale signs. It uses the same insults he does over and over and over. He links to his own projects, always the page from infoshop. This guy is pathetic.

"...Does the author of this live in the mission and talk to the everyday folks on the block?"

Answer: yes.

From the author of the piece.


Seriously guys, don't blame the Slingshot Collective on this one. They've been pretty starved for good material recently, and they're less inclined to be picky about what they publish. This issue definitely isn't their best (possibly one of their worst, actually), but it isn't really that awful to begin with. This ain't another hedgegate.

This is really a worthless article.
So you're mad because people who engaged in an attack didn't properly (in your opinion) communicate to the "working-class" why they attacked? Ok. your opinion is fine but your bad mouthing the efforts of comrades for adhering to your leftist formula for what is supposed to happen after an attack is pathetic.

i have good manners, so i'm going to nicely ask you TO PLEASE GET A FUCKING LIFE SOCIOPATH.

What you got against sociopaths fool?!
Some of us have better moral compasses than the ones they hand you in skool!


i just don't give a shit about anything anymore.

take it easy

...but take it


"In San Francisco's Mission District, the Black Bloc Breaks Windows and Fails to Make An Impact"

Yeah, I think we've known this for about 30 years now.

But I'm sure the BB are thinking to themsleves: "Just one more broken window and we'll all be free!!"

Can somebody be pro-Black Bloc tactics/property destruction and be concerned about people who actually do Black Bloc tactics ?

Some really aggressive people doing black bloc and not fully being against capitalism/property. Really angry democrats bashing windows, etc.

ok fine yes i could also be pro-black bloc and not want time traveling terminators or the pope to join in, look at me posting ideas on the internet oh yeah

What working class? You mean the mass pool of unskilled laborers? or the almost non-existent American industrial workers?
I've seen more radicals coming out of the "ghetto" then I have in years. Black bloc speaks to the uncontrollables. The thugs who want more than a life spent in and out of cages. Those looking for a sexier rebellion. People who can't fucking take it anymore.
Fucking up business as usual is never a bad thing.
I don't think communicating a message is a bad thing, but who the fuck are they supposed to be communicating to? A profiteering business owner? A propertarian prole?
Revolt is spreading. Smashy smashy is a catalyst for radicalization.

Blac Bloc is obviously neo-dada street theater.


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