Are Blac Block & Diversity of Tactics Hurting or Helping the Occupy Movement?

Are those who employ Blac Block tactics Hurting or Helping? Photo credit: Black Hour

Ever since the November 2 Oakland General Strike which brought out tens of thousands of people culminating in the shut down of the Port of Oakland, folks within the Occupy Movement have been talking about the usefulness of Blac Bloc style tactics.. In Oakland the debate was full steam and contentious around an issue called ‘diversity of tactics’ . This was the result of the disastrous outcome to a successful General Strike, when a group under the guise of diversity of tactics attempted to take over an abandoned building ran into police who pulled no punches. The end result was broken windows, fires in the streets, local businesses looted and graffiti all over downtown. The damage was courtesy of those who were initially and erroneously labeled ‘The Blac Block’.  Since then many of us have come to learn Blac Block is a tactic not a group or organization. We also know that its not the exclusive domain or tactic of folks who identify themselves as anarchists.

With that in mind, the tactic of breaking windows and kicking up dust to make a point is one that is being fiercely debated within and outside the Occupy Movement.  Some are saying if it wasn’t for the aggressive tactics, people would remain docile.. The movement would be ignore. Others are are emphatically claiming that the aggressive tactics are hurting the movement..  Below are two articles that address this issue…

The first is from veteran journalist and former NY Times columnist Chris Hedges... Its a stinging rebuke of those he says are associated with the ‘Blac Block.. He called it a Cancer of the Occupy Movement. It initially appeared in Truth Dig…

The Black Bloc anarchists, who have been active on the streets in Oakland and other cities, are the cancer of the Occupy movement. The presence of Black Bloc anarchists—so named because they dress in black, obscure their faces, move as a unified mass, seek physical confrontations with police and destroy property—is a gift from heaven to the security and surveillance state. The Occupy encampments in various cities were shut down precisely because they were nonviolent. They were shut down because the state realized the potential of their broad appeal even to those within the systems of power. They were shut down because they articulated a truth about our economic and political system that cut across political and cultural lines. And they were shut down because they were places mothers and fathers with strollers felt safe.

Black Bloc adherents detest those of us on the organized left and seek, quite consciously, to take away our tools of empowerment. They confuse acts of petty vandalism and a repellent cynicism with revolution. The real enemies, they argue, are not the corporate capitalists, but their collaborators among the unions, workers’ movements, radical intellectuals, environmental activists and populist movements such as the Zapatistas. Any group that seeks to rebuild social structures, especially through nonviolent acts of civil disobedience, rather than physically destroy, becomes, in the eyes of Black Bloc anarchists, the enemy. Black Bloc anarchists spend most of their fury not on the architects of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) or globalism, but on those, such as the Zapatistas, who respond to the problem. It is a grotesque inversion of value systems.

Continue reading this article at:  Truth Dig

The next article is a slamming response to Chris Hedges article by Don Gato. Its a titled:  To Be Fair, He is A Journalist: A short Response to Chris Hedges on the Black Bloc …Among the things that stand out is the author correcting the blatant mislabeling Blac Block/ Anarchist etc…Its also noted that in Hedges critique he never once mentioned the over the top brutality delivered by OPD on unarmed peaceful demonstrators..

Here’s some of what Don Gato wrote…

First, we need to clear up some definitional problems. Now, as a journalist, I really don’t expect Hedges to be able to “research,”—it does seem to go against the prime directives of the profession, but let’s be clear: There’s no such thing as “The Black Bloc movement.” The black bloc is a tactic. It’s also not just a tactic used by anarchists, so “black bloc anarchists” is a bit of a misnomer—particularly because Hedges doesn’t know the identities of the people under those sexy, black masks. In fact, it was autonomists in the 80s who came up with the (often quite brilliant) idea in Germany. Protecting themselves against the repression of what Hedges calls “the security and surveillance state,” squatters, protesters, and other rabble rousers would dress in all black, covering up tattoos, their faces, and any other identifying features so they could act against this miserable world and, with some smarts and a sharp style, not get pinched by the pigs. This was true of resisters who were protecting marches (because the state never needs an excuse to incite violence and police are wont to riot and attack people), destroying property, or sometimes just marching en masse. That is, the black bloc has all kinds of uses. And in Oakland, where Hedges seems particularly upset by people actually having the gall to defend themselves against insane violent police thugs instead of just sit there idly by getting beaten, on Move-In Day the bloc looked mostly defensive—shielding themselves and other protesters from flash grenades and police mob violence with make-shift shields (and even one armchair). So, to be clear: The black bloc is a tactic used by lots of people, not just anarchists, and it has all kinds of uses. It’s not a “movement.”

We urge folks to read the article in its entirety as its very insightful at: Facing Reality

Another article of interests that responds to Chris Hedges is one written by Diane Gee its titled: Perspectives on Hedges Cancer in Occupy… She pens the following:

Other than ONE window and one Flag, which mind you, is property damage not violence per se; not one act of violence has been recorded by Occupy or the Black Bloc he wishes to malign that has not been the result of DEFENSIVE maneuvers.  When attacked?  They have thrown a few stones, have tossed back a few tear gas canisters; mostly what these young men and women have done is offer their bodies up as a defense line, and taken the hits so that the weaker are saved: the women, children, old people may run to safety while they defend them with meager trash can shields.

The injuries and unfair arrests, the abuses of law by the Police however, have been widespread, vast, recorded, and yet barely spoken to by the MSM.

Yet?  To Hedges?  These few acts of defiance by angry young men are enough to bring the movement itself to ruination.  Let us not forget that since the beginning of time it is always the elders who cool the heated blood of the youth and try and direct their tactics to a more effective use of their energies.  Old warriors know when to wait.  In some ways, though?  It is good for the powers that be to know, via a small warning shot of a broken window or burned flag, that we are deadly serious.  There has been no wide-scale violence except that done by the Police.  There have been no riots or burning cities.  No 1%er or defender of the 1% have been killed.

What Hedges has done here, presumably without intent, is work to divide Occupy.

Today many of us woke up to seeing a video posted by folks from Anonymous warning those who employ Blac Block to chill out..

Let Us know your thoughts on all this??

11 comments on “Are Blac Block & Diversity of Tactics Hurting or Helping the Occupy Movement?

  1. Hmm. if Hedges never mentions OPD brutality, Gato downplays BBers attempting to incite crowds into direct confrontations with police — the exact thing that Cephus Johnson urged protestors not to do in the Oscar Grant marches in Oakland the previous couple of years. I havent seen so much “defense” against police brutality in the marches i’ve witnessed, more like cowardly tactics like throwing a bottle filled with paint or a dirt clog from the back of a march, then running away. At the very least, the BB tactics seem to lack cohesive or even intelligent strategy

    The point, however, that BB supporters dont want to admit is so-called “diversity of tactics” aka direct violent/vandalism/destruction of property, is a huge turn-off for the majority of the 99% the Occupiers are supposed to be appealing to. When you vandalize City hall, it takes some of the focus away from foreclosures, banks, and corporate greed. Police accountability is an issue in Oakland, but it didnt just become an issue with Occupy. that last part is what the out-of-towners dont seem to realize.

  2. Pingback: Similarities between Occupy Oakland and Stand for Oakland | Love, Health and Advocacy

  3. Since the WTO i felt DOT (diversity of tactics) was double speak for “hit and running” leaving others to bear the brunt of poorly thought out and unprincipled property destruction. I saw many seasoned activists dance around the term in an effort to be inclusive. As is the case with drug addicts in occupy, the presence of DOT was not clarified in clear terms from the beginning, just as a clear “no drug use in camp” policy was not established at Decolonize Occupy Seattle’s 2 encampments. When clarity fails, once trouble rises, then real problems develop that become almost impossible to address.

    I agree with some of what Chris Hedges is saying, but it also displays his relative newness to activism which i have seen in other articles lacking in depth of experienced history. His glaring lack of knowledge and the roots of current activism is something he will be embarassed by someday.

    Many of those in the black bloc are young and some are quite expertly manipulated. One of the most disturbing problems i have had with some DOT people is the dogmatism that refuses to dialog with others. One must pass thru some kind of convoluted system of approval in order to even talk to the holier than thous who are the in crowd of self described “authentic revolutionaries “. In public they wear masks and behave like paramilitaries. In the camp they did not talk to anyone even when spreading their dogmatic literature in camp. On their website, which i subscribed to after my experience watching them take over a march for murdered Indigenous wood carver John T Williams almost a year ago, i posted what i saw happen. I was called a “significant pathological pacifist agitator” which displays the influence of War Churchill, a person i have had issue with since the first draft i read of his book “Pacifism as Pathology”. I dare say it is his smallest, most poorly researched book, yet the impact on those anarchists involved in the WTO was significant. I saw how Zerzan and Churchill shaped a nastiness among young anarchists, some of whom i had been working with for many years, that continues to this day. The mean spiritedness displayed towards those they consider “pacifist whimps” is superficially arrived at divide and conquer denouncement. It slams the door on meaningful communication.

    Then you have anarchists who participate in the black bloc who have contributed in major ways to the humanity of how the Decolonize Occupy camp was maintained. To describe the black bloc as cancer is extreme. I would say the phenomenon is more like bronchitis that with the right care can be possibly cured. It is a huge problem, but i suppose if we are taking on this system that kills more people on the planet right now than any other force, we must find humane ways of addressing the conflict that now is deep and embedded. The domineering, unapproachable style reeks of another jack boot pushing for it’s chance to stomp.

    No matter what the self described “authentic revolutionaries” say, many people have been driven away from occupy due to the hostile mistreatment of others whose ways may differ. I have heard the stories. Writing people off who do not fit into dogma displays dangerous, cultivated cultishness. That will relegate the black bloc to the same irrelevance that has saddled the RCP and other cultist “revolutionary” groups who to this day, annoy the crap out of most activists. No matter how many time people say “black bloc is a tactic, not a group” does not change the fact that those involved work together and have established an identifiable way of moving in the strata of resistance.

    Sadly all too many DOT actions serve the purpose of infiltrators. So why is there no in depth analysis or openness to critique about the true long term impacts of property destruction? Why are any and all unhappy reactions from residents of Oakland who are very upset by the black bloc not heeded, but rather silenced? I am talking about several women of color who have expressed their deep dismay at these behaviors instigated by primarily white male anarchists that leave their community in shambles and push them completely away from occupy. Many men and women of color living in Oakland have told me themselves how upset they are by these developments and that the young people of color who join the black bloc do NOT represent the community or all participants of color in Occupy Oakland. One Black father told me he is sick of cleaning up the mess the black bloc leaves behind and he is part of OO as well. There is a whole level of voices that are NOT heard on Democracy Now! or anywhere else for that matter.

    Another aspect of DOT that has always bothered me is hiding not only who you are, but the whole truth of what happens. In Seattle, there is an effort to silence those who see people throwing rocks, bricks, rebar or paint bombs. Veiled threats have been made if occupiers dare take photos of such actions and too many people are being called snitches behind their backs. If integrity matters at all, it is crucial to confront people rather than spread possible misinformation. Someone could be killed because of stupidity. Not worth it. Believe me, i have had my share of death threats, tho i never called cops because of that. But when i see how the “revolutionaries” behave, i know they aren’t gonna be watching my back.

    The worst nastiness i have seen are online discussion groups. People who claim to be nonviolent are as vicious as those who ardently defend property destruction or fighting the cops. It is very ugly.

    Then there are those who are somewhat taken in by the romanticism of the black bloc who also ostracize those perceived as being nonviolent whimps. The whole structure of how so many people are behaving reminds me of popular, good looking high school bullies who deem who is expendable and all their buddies and gals go along with the program.

    In my experience, most anarchists, including those into DOT, have great respect for the Zapatistas. There are many facets to all groupings of people. It is not possible to completely peg anyone, but sadly, there is a blanket image of the black bloc that fits into much of what Chris Hedges is saying. This really needs to be examined by all who care about Decolonizing Occupy.

    My biggest concern is how some activists can self elevate themselves to escape critique which is very danterous on numerous levels. It skirts around honesty, accountability and participatory solutions. No one person carries all the info. No one person can grab THE handle of what will and won’t work. We all deserve to have input and be included, but respect is essential that is all too often missing in the way those who engage in DOT behave and treat others. Disrespect has become a hallmark of DOT as well as secrecy. It is ultimately self defeating.

    I am a Frontline Grandmother who has been on the streets and deeply involved in struggles for human rights, justice and authentic peace for over 30 years. My life as a silenced activist has given me a longterm outlook on what is happening now. I continue to be silenced. My long years of deep experience has no value to most cause i lack fame and the privilege to publish my extensive writings and documentation. I must say, it really bugs me how relatively new activist like Chris Hedges have such wide voice, but women like me do not and most likely never will.

    The situation with the black bloc is indeed very serious. How we deal with it will decide the course of our current international struggle. We are all so deeply interconnected now. We cannot afford to throw all those involved with the misguided DOT away as cancerous. Rather, we must proceed with deep love, care and intelligence in shaping something that more precisely represents the goals and dreams we all can share in. This is not just the vision of people engaging in more domineering bully behaviors, but the joint efforts of each one of us. Please reconsider what you deem cancerous Chris Hedges, for it may rise out of this current turmoil as key to solution for us all. It is our challenge and our sacred duty to face this with all we know with all our hearts and all the voices still excluded.

  4. I feel that these Blac Bloc or whatever they call themselves ARE the cancer of the movement. These people dont give a damn about the issues of the 99%. They are over focused on the police and their violent tactics, but they dont say that the police are just a medium, a line of defense for the 1%. How is fighting the medium gonna bring about change?

    They dont care about the 1%’s abuses of the 99%. Its obvious based on their fucked up strategy of targetting the police. It’s not about the police, its about the 1% who employ the police! Slavery couldn’t fight against the overseer, but against the slave master!

    These Blac Block have done nothing but strengthen the police they so claim to hate. City funds being diverted to the police overtime duty, yet they hate the police. These Blac Bloc might as well be puppets of the 1%, they are a diversion that takes away from the movement.

    They are hiding behind the movement, pretending that they are for the movement when they are just anarchists. They are scabs that attach to every grassroots movement and destroy it, for anarchy’s sake. An anarchist is not about building anything. #OO better find that out, and work to regain their movement, or many people like me who were for the movement, will continue to go against them. I’m not an anarchist and most people are not anarchists.

    Dont believe the hype, #OO. Im sure they are learning that no movement comes easy. Not everyone is your friend, #OO. #realtalk.

  5. I am of two minds on this:

    1. I think breaking windows and grafitti hurts the small businesses who I would like to think that Occupy Oakland is in support of. If there is too much vandalism, then no on wants to go to dto and that hurts small business more than it hurts big business – and that is who OO is really angry at right?

    2. I think the city and OPD and anti #OO is wrong in making their focus be on Occupy, and I hate the language that they use to describe petty vandalism. Vandalism is not violence. Murder, robbery is violence! There have been shootings and deaths that have happened this past week and the Chief of Police placed blame on the gangs and then put partial blame onto focusing efforts on Occupy Oakland. That is THE most ridiculous thing I have ever heard. They are blaming OO for their incompetence.

    Why not direct your swat team and your tear gas and hire outside police to protect this city against Gang Violence? Is it unlawful? Okay..then why isn’t it unlawful to use it against crowds of people who are just exercising their free speech?

    I think OPD is more in the wrong..because they are supposed to be the law, but I don’t think black bloc or Occupy Oakland should get a pass. Two wrongs don’t make a right.

    The peaceful residents of Oakland does not deserve EITHER of it.

  6. Even back in 1916 the astute knew the true nature of most Oaklanders; indeed the true nature of most amerikkkans…

    “Is the actual condition of the workers in the oppressor and in the oppressed nations the same, from the standpoint of the national question? No, it is not the same.
    (1) Economically, the difference is that sections of the working class in the oppressor nations receive crumbs from the super-profits the bourgeoisie of these nations obtains by extra exploitation of the workers of the oppressed nations.

    Besides, economic statistics show that here a larger percentage of the workers become “straw bosses” than is the case in the oppressed nations, a larger percentage rise to the labor aristocracy. That is a fact. To a certain degree the workers of the oppressor nations are partners of their own bourgeoisie in plundering the workers (and the mass of the population) of the oppressed nations.

    (2) Politically, the difference is that, compared with the workers of the oppressed nations, they occupy a privileged position in many spheres of political life.

    (3) Ideologically, or spiritually, the difference is that they are taught, at school and in life, disdain and contempt for the workers of the oppressed nations.”

    -V.I. Lenin; A Caricature of Marxism and Imperialist Economism: (#5.) Monism And Dualism”.

    1. This is why a majority of Oakland activists, especially activists of color, are [ideologically] beholden to local non-profits in some way, shape, or form.

    2. This is why most amerikkkans are o.k. with oppression and exploitation, so long as it doesn’t happen to them personally. This is why amerikkkans are the target of choice by suicide bombers, do to their sheep-like complicity.

    3. This is why most amerikkkans cringe at property destruction and deviate from their monotheistic spook-worship to give life to inanimate objects when criticizing property destruction. They become animists with every rock thrown and every bank window broken! Lol.

    4. This is why the Black Bloc plays with fire by playing with guerrilla and mass-based tactics vs.a militarized police force. They should either crush the police (scorched earth, no mercy, no prisoners) and seize power,…or stay home.

    Why? Because this is the character of what they are up against when dealing with OPD. They need to study the B.L.A., the Naxals, the Greeks, and the CIA in depth. Until they do, and put this knowledge on display in practice, they are not qualified. Only the qualified should lead.

    Once they take a casualty or two, they will grasp this. Likewise, as more liberals and even some anti-black bloc radicals take a few casualties, they will appreciate the black bloc more, provided that the black bloc moves seriously and swiftly on what I have written,

    5. This is why the State Department and National Endowment for Democracy can fund “pro-democracy” groups like Otpor and, upon hearing this revelation, dumb amerikkkans will believe and declare that exporting amerikkkan-style democracy is o.k., even as they march against u.$ wars abroad or police terrorism domestically in their own city.

    6. This is also why NONE of the critics have a platform, program, or strategy beyond essentially praying to Obama for relief [that will never come] and supporting demokkkrats in the upcoming elections.

    7. This also why most protestors just want to be ‘seen and heard’. Again, most amerikkkans are o.k. with oppression and exploitation, so long as it doesn’t happen to them personally. A recent Pew Poll helps illustrate this:

  7. Pingback: Are Blac Block & Diversity of Tactics Hurting or Helping the Occupy Movement? | WORLD SWAGG

  8. The tactics of protest rest upon unexamined assumptions of middle class ideologists. The repression of protestors will occur axiomatically because the police are a para-military force that can only use force and from within the movement itself there always will be a faction that mirrors this force. In my opinion more is gained by shifting to community currency and boycotting big businesses and consumerism as well as choosing an area to to create a new community-in collaboration with the city of Oakland if feasible, or on their own if not. There is simply no need to replicate and imitate the Romance of protest. Moreover, the historic revolution in Russia was engineered by Western monied interests and so again we can see history repeating in the engineered operations of Occupy-financed by George Soros.

  9. I can tell you as a veteran of the protests of the 70’s,80’s & 90’s, that the police now are meaner & more focused on putting down any resistance of opening of our eyes or attempts to force the eyes open of others. I am nearly 60 years old & a member of occupy dc. We recently tried to slow down a home foreclosure & the us mars halls set upon us like we were all violent criminals, knocking people to the ground, showing firepower, & the violence was unbelievable. I was beaten & thrown down the stairs as if I had committed a crime. When we are talking about diversity of tactics, we have to be open to considering that we are in very different times than we were in during the earlier protests,& what may have worked then, will not work completely for us. I don’t believe it is black bloc that has caused problems, rather, a lack of focus & understanding as to what black bloc really is. Some folks are using it to cover up violent tendencies. We need to talk about focused using of black bloc, not how it is hurting us, because I don’t believe it is.

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