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Padded Bloc FAQ for Miami FTAA summit

FAQ on the proposed Padded Bloc for Miami. Nov. 20th-21st stop the FTAA
What is the padded bloc?
The padded bloc is a contingent of people planning on attending the Nov. 20-21st demonstrations against the FTAA in Miami Florida. Participants in the PB intend to utilize padding and other forms of protection to protect ourselves from what we feel is the high likelihood of police violence. This bloc exists to protest the FTAA summit.

What will it look like?
The PB will be a self enclosed contingent, protected on all sides, with a solid perimeter. The size of the contingent will be proportionate to the number of participants.

What roles will there be in the contingent?
The major roles that have been identified (there are a lot of possibilities) by pog are: These are VERY short descriptions and the exact responsibilities and roles should be determined by your group.

Shield-Padded: These folks will utilize shields and padding to protect the contingent.

Shield-Padded Support: These folks would be the primary support people for those with padding/shields

Legal Support: These are not arrestable folks. A lot of groups might want to have someone they trust doing legal support work such as: communicating with the overall legal support network, holding onto things for those in the contingent legal support forms/money/ids .

Medic: There will be some medics in the contingent, but it is critical that groups organize medic support. With such a large group there is a large need for both street and affinity group medics. Everyone is encouraged to take part in a medic training. We also encourage folks to discuss medic support with any local medic groups near you. The best scenario would be one where affinity groups have someone doing affinity group level medical support AND have experienced street medics from their area coming with them.

Engineering: tba

Communications: To compile and disseminate information from a variety of sources to those within (and possibly outside of) the contingent. The specifics of Comm. is still being worked out between groups

Is there any way to help the contingent without being in it?
YES! We encourage folks who dont want to be in the contingent to come and support it to the maximum extent possible. Helping form an initial buffer near the contingent, providing on the ground support like medical/food water, cheerleading, and having lighthearted creative actions nearby will help out a lot.

What does the contingent plan to do?
The actions of the PB will be solely determined by the participants. No specific plan of action will be decided on before the contingent is assembled by POG or any other groups. We do encourage participants to develop preferences and consider what type of scenarios they envision before Miami. This will greatly aid in the speed of decision making on the ground.

What type of decision making process will the contingent use?
The contingent will attempt to utilize a modified consensus process. We're asking people to organize themselves into groups of 5 per role (5 shield/padding, etc), with 1 person as a representative for each group of 5. If you have more then 5 people, you could still split yourselves into 5s, and then group yourselves into a cluster. When decision need to be made about the actions of the contingent representatives will gather inside the contingent to discuss and decide.

Will I have to take part in actions I dont agree with?
No, the point of consensus process is that it allows everyone to be heard, and creates an environment conducive to the group reaching a common understanding that (hopefully everyone) can live with for whatever decision is being made. It is possible that on the day of the contingent we will be unable to agree on one plan of action or that there are so many participants that it doesnt make sense to all march together. In that case the group may split into more then one group to pursue more then one objective. While its hoped participants will remain in solidarity with, and support to the maximum extent possible, the actions of those in Miami this does not mean you should feel pressure to take part in actions you do not morally support.

Are there any guidelines for the contingent?
There are some consensed upon guidelines-points for the contingent along with a number of possible guidelines being considered by participating groups. Those planning on taking part agree in the PB need to agree to abide by these guidelines for the safety of all. The purpose of the guidelines isnt to impose any moral judgments on participants, rather it is to create an environment that allows for all participants to take action in an environment where they can trust the bounds of actions others will take. Some actions, more then others, have direct negative consequences for this type of contingent. One of the goals of the Padded Bloc is to stay together (versus a zone system or large demonstration where folks can simply move to a different area if some people take actions they feel put them at risk)

The guidelines-points that were consensed upon (by representatives of 15 groups) so far are:

We will strive to maintain the shield perimeter.
We will seek to make our actions work in tandem with the permitted events. We will not endanger the permitted march.
The PB will make and carry out an action plan internally. Other protest groups will not have a direct role in what we decide to do.
No guns, knives, drugs, or other dangerous weapons/contraband. Duh!
No offensive projectiles: Nothing thrown with the intent to harm people.*
We will stick to our strategic goals and will not be drawn into personal grudges against the police.
We will respect a diversity of tactics by protesters not inside (and not associated with) the Padded Bloc.
PB participants must adhere to these guidelines only so long as the PB remains intact.

*one of the reasons for this wording is that participants had concerns about restricting responses in the event of police attack with projectiles (tear gas, etc) in which case the only guidelines is that people should not try to hurt anyone when getting rid of those projectiles.

Will there be any meetings to plan the padded bloc?
Chicago will be hosting another regional consulta the second week in October to plan for Miami. Its likely this gathering will include extensive discussion about the Padded Bloc and center around issues unresolved at the Pittsburgh consulta. There will also be additional consultas in Colorado (during the transform Columbus day actions) and possibly in San Francisco. There is a proposal to have a padded bloc spokes-council (giant meeting of the representatives of participating groups) on Nov. 19th in Miami. Whether this happens will depend on how necessary people feel it is and whether a suitable space can be acquired. The majority of planning and organizing should occur within participating groups and clusters. POG will try its best to facilitate communication between groups and will try to maintain up to date information on this website.

Who is organizing it?
The original call to action for the PB was sent out by POG (the authors of this FAQ-- although we didnt develop the content ourselves--it is a collaboration of ideas from numerous groups). After internal and external discussion we decided on three things:

we wanted to utilize direct action in protest of the ftaa meetings in Miami
we wanted to do this in a way that kept participants as safe as possible
we felt that the possibility of police violence was extremely high

At this point we started discussing the possibility of utilizing padding and shields to protect ourselves in Miami. After much debate and discussion we publicly announced our intention to do this and put out a call to action for other groups and individuals to take part. Since then we have continued outreaching to other groups and individuals about participation. The PB has now grown far beyond POG with the involvement of multiple groups in many cities. The goal of POG is to help organize some logistical needs of the contingent that will aid all participants without holding any more decision making power then any other groups (proportionate to the number of participants). We see our groups role as one of a centralized place of information and a focal point to facilitate new folks getting involved (through actions such as hosting this f.a.q). YOU can help organize it by getting a group (no matter how small) to take part. Ideally, small groups around the country will get together and organize themselves into larger clusters to operate inside the Padded Bloc.

Is the PB linked to the Ya Basta movement?
No. Many people in North America associate those utilizing padding and shield tactics with the Ya Basta movement. This makes sense since the Italian Ya Basta group has utilized padding and shield tactics in a lot of high profile demonstrations. Neither POG nor those groups involved in the PB are part of the now defunct Ya Basta! movement. By taking part in the PB no one is tying themselves to any particular political ideology.

How can I participate in the Padded Bloc?
So you want to take part in the Padded Bloc, awesome! If so, we recommend you do a few things:

Look over the proposed guidelines for contingent and think about whether you could take agree to them. If yes, continue to number 2.
Contact pog and ask to be added to the PB update list.
Read the bodyhammer guide for tips on shields and padding.
Outreach locally and try to get together a affinity group that can take part in the contingent.
Figure out what type of roles those in your group want to have in Miami.
Attend, if possible, the consultas to talk to other groups taking part in the contingent, and participate in the discussions about the contingents logistics.
Come to Miami! And help stop the FTAA.