The Call to Action
A Black Bloc can't be formed without, well, people. In the weeks and days before a major action, somebody will start out a call for a "Black Bloc of One" to be formed, asking that anarchist
s, workers of the world
s, and more gather at a certain place and time, separate from where the main event of the day is being held. They then do a feeder march
(a march not permitted by the city) to join the main march.
Despite the name and the reputation, people participating in the Black Bloc don't have to wear all black, though many do. Red is also frequently used as an identifier. But, it doesn't matter in the end. Recently there have been calls for people participating in the Bloc to wear normal clothing
, so that they aren't singled out
by the police. Of course, Bloc participants also wear bandanna
s. These serve a two-fold purpose. First, they hide the wearer's identity
from the media
, police, etc. Second, when soaked in water
, apple vinegar
, or just worn, they offer your nose
from pepper spray
and tear gas
. Bloc members will also wear construction goggles
or swimming goggles
to protect their eyes.
The fastest way to find a Bloc is to look for the flags. They will be all-red
, black and red separated by a diagonal line, black and green
seperated by a diagonal line (I've only seen this once, and was told that this flag stands for green anarchist
), and I'm sure there's a few more out there. American flag
s being waved upside-down or with things written on them are also a good sign that you've found a Bloc.
Other Ways to Find The Bloc
If there are a large number of officers walking up the sidewalk and following one group, you've found a Bloc. If there are lots of action medic
s (they will have the red cross
on their clothes) and legal observer
green hats or red armband
s, depending on the organization), you've found a Bloc. If you see the anarchist A
, you've found a Bloc.
A Bloc will travel as one tight
group, with banners attached to PVC pipe
s on each side of the group (these are used as protection from police clubs). If they want to have fun, they will attempt to turn off of the main march route as one. This act, known as a breakaway
, is a sight to see
, but will often result in the police at the scene forcibly
pushing the group back.
If nothing else, these people are creative
. Everything from the usual "Whose Streets? Our Streets!
" and "Tell me what democracy looks like? (This is what democracy looks like
!)" to "2, 4, 6, 8, fuck the police state
" and "Bombs are dropping, while you're shopping
." Usually, one person will scream
the chant once, so that everyone can hear it. Then, everyone joins in. If the police are using violence, they (and everyone else) will repeatedly chant "Shame
!" or "Peaceful Protest
!". "41 Shots
" is a favorite at New York City
Civil Disobedience, Flag Burning, etc
When a breakaway is successful, then it is a victory. Those who made it will continue unhindered to the end of the march (through a route of their own creation), and will often be tailed by police. When everyone is gathered again, there will be a meeting, at which time they will decide to do something. This something could be a feeder march to a target of opportunity
, or it could mean that civil disobedience
is about to take place.
They may choose, if someone has the flags and the lighters, to burn an american flag. When this happens, they will link arms and form a tight circle, to prevent so-called flag rescuer
s (often plainclothes
police) from preventing the burning of the flag. In the center of the circle, someone will light the flag on fire, and raise it. After that, well... those who were in Washington Square Park
know what happened. For those who don't, out comes the pepper spray, billy club
s, flex cuff
s, arrests, etc. Another Bloc tactic involves a bunch of members rushing out to someone being arrested, surrounding the police officer, and "unarresting" the individual (i.e. pulling him/her out).
Media and The Bloc
When it comes to journalist
s and the Black Bloc, it's a double-edged sword
. The Bloc wants to bring attention
to what they're doing, but at the same time wants to protect the identity
of the individuals that make up the Bloc. It is common courtesy
to not take photograph
s or video
of Bloc members who aren't wearing masks, though at times this is unavoidable. At the least, one should blur out faces, especially if the people in the photo are committing civil disobedience.
I was in New York City on March 22, 2003
, and had the luck
to not only find the Black Bloc early in the day, but to be able to follow them around. For context, I was there as a journalist, with my badass Sony VX2000
videocamera. After I failed to get through the successful breakaway (the police closed off the intersection by the time I got there), I followed two medics and a legal rep until we ran into a group that was running away from the cops. I followed this group all the way to Washington Square, and was literally pulled into the inner circle
I mentioned so that I could get the flag burning on tape. It was, to say the least, an experience
. While I admit that it was one of the greatest rush
es I've ever had, I was also scared shitless
ed for my life
, especially when things turned nasty
. While I may not agree with all of the principles that a Black Bloc is based on, I respect
what they do and who they are. I met and hung out with some good people on that day, and saw them go toe-to-toe with New Yorks' Finest
without blinking an eye
. I will always keep my footage from that day safe
, as a testament
to the actions they took and the bravery they showed.
This writeup is dedicated to anyone who let me have some water, held my camera so I could tie my shoes, unwrapped a MiniDV tape so I could reload, or anything else helpful on M22, as well as the guy who was warning the photographers to not take photos of faces, but saw me and said "Oh, don't worry, you're cool." Rock on.