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Padded Bloc FAQ for Miami

Basic information on the planned Padded Bloc in Miami, including frequently asked questions.
Basic information on the planned Padded Bloc in Miami, including frequently asked questions.

Taken from POG's website.

Padded Bloc Meet-up Point:

Where the contingent is meeting to assemble hasn't yet been determined. Discussions are ongoing among participating groups and it's hoped an announcement can be made soon. One of the only things finalized at this point is that Nov. 20th will be the main day of action and the day the PB will assemble (it's likely that other actions will be taking place on the 19th which many people-including those taking part in later PB events will take part in).

The updated PB FAQ sent out by POG

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. Those participating in the contingent 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 assist efforts to derail the FTAA summit.

What will it look like?
The PB will attempt to 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. While it will look very similar to other demonstations there will be more empty space within it. Picture a square with a thick solid border of people with less densely grouped people inside.

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

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 non-arrestable folks stationed away from the main protests. 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: More mobile folks who can help.

Communications: To compile and disseminate information from a variety of sources to those within (and outside of) the contingent.

Is there any way to help the contingent without being in it?
YES! We encourage folks who don't want to be inside the contingent to come and support it to the maximum extent possible. Helping form an initial buffer near the contingent, marching with us, providing on the ground support like medical/food water, cheerleading, and having lighthearted creative actions nearby will help us out a lot. We envision the PB as one small piece of a much larger effort by groups in Miami. We would love to have a joint assembly and/or march, etc with everyone (puppets, radical cheerleaders, traditional civil disobedience folks, etc) at which point groups could go there separate ways in varying clusters. If you're part of a group who would like to coordinate actions please get in touch.

The Look of the PB: San Francisco groups may put a call out for artistic imagery that could be put on shields in Miami. The PB is a super opportunity to get our message out visually. Groups will have ready-made billboards just screaming for imagery that displays our positive collective vision in contrast with that of the powers that be. There is also currently a call out for people to adopt a festive and carnivalesqe (gliter, great masks, etc) attire inside the PB or alongside it.

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. Discussion is ongoing among groups about what the best course of action is- this will continue at the consultas up unitll the day itself. The spokescouncil on the 19th may end up choosing a preferred course of action. We encourage anyone attending the FTAA protests to develop preferences and consider what type of scenarios they envision before we're out on the streets of 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 hopes to utilize a modified consensus process. We're asking people to organize themselves into groups/AG's 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. This will only be when critical decisions need to be made.

Will I have to take part in actions I don't 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 that the contingent we will be unable to agree on one plan of action or that there are so many participants that it doesn't make sense to all march together or there aren't enough participants to take any type of action. In those case the group may split into more then one group to pursue more then one objective or it may disperse into other groups. 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.

Who is organizing it?
The original call to action for the PB was sent out by POG (the authors of this FAQ-- although we didn't develop the content ourselves--it is a collaboration of ideas from numerous groups). After internal and external discussion we decided on three things:

1: we wanted to utilize direct action in protest of the ftaa meetings in Miami
2: we wanted to do this in a way that kept participants as safe as possible
3: 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. The top priority of POG was/is protesting the meetings themselves and that has been the assumptive focus (both inside of POG and within most PB participents). Since then we have continued outreaching to other groups and individuals about participation. The idea of a PB in Miami has grown far beyond POG with the involvement of multiple groups in many cities. The goal of POG is to help facilitate some logistical needs of the contingent that will aid all participants without holding any more decision making power then any other group. Due to our initiation of the call and the resources available to us we see our groups role as one of a place of logistical information and a focal point to facilitate new folks getting involved (through actions such as hosting the PB 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 as part of or alongside the Padded Bloc.

Padded Bloc Logistics:

Implicit Assumptions when organizing:
1: The PB should be able to operate independently, without help from Miami organizers or other groups. Obviously different types and levels of coordination and communication are advantageous.
2: A specific plan of action will not be decided on until the day of the protests, on the ground in Miami.
3: The action plan will be a consensus decision by PB participants once the contingent is assembled.
4: If numbers allow or preferences differ, the contingent may divide or it may not exist.
5: All of this planning is in flux, it is constantly changing in response to conditions.

Are there any guidelines for the contingent?
There are some consensed upon guidelines-points for the contingent. Those planning on taking part in the PB need to agree to abide by these guidelines for the safety of all. The purpose of the guidelines isn't 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.

The guidelines-points of unity that were consensed upon at the Pittsburgh consulta, Denver consulta (with some standasides to be addressed later), Chicago consulta, and San Franscisco consulta are:

1: The shield perimeter will be maintained
2: We will seek to make our actions work in tandem with the permitted events.
3: 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
4: No guns, knives, drugs, or other dangerous weapons/contraband.
5: No offensive projectiles: Nothing thrown with the intent to harm people*
6: We will stick to our political goals and will not be drawn into personal grudges against the police
7: We will respect a diversity of tactics by protesters not inside or part of the Padded Bloc.
8: 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 agreement was that people should avoid actions that seek to hurt people when getting rid of those projectiles.

Will there be any meetings to plan the padded bloc?
There have already been FTAA consultas in Louisville, Pittsburgh, Arcadia, Denver, Chicago, and San Fransico that involved PB planning, as well as a number of statewide/local meetings.

Upcoming meetings/events
1: Lansing Michigan is holding a weekend of FTAA forums October 25-26th. This will include educational forums as well as discussions about networking, tactics and mobilizations for Miami, non-violence and self defense, what to expect there, what has come out of the pittsburgh and chicago consultas and much more. Contact:  dmitch@riseup.net

2: Gainesville, FL spolescouncil: The consulta will gather a diverse range of people who plan to actively resist the eighth ministerial meeting of the Free Trade Area of the Americas. The consulta is open to new and experienced, Florida/southeast region and national or international people alike. We invite all serious, focused anti-capitalist/anti-imperialist/anti-authoritarians to join with us to organize and fight the FTAA and its state and corporate sponsors' agenda of pillage-for-profit.  http://www.infoshop.org/inews/stories.php?story=03/10/08/4738442

3: Yale, New Haven, CT: Northeast FTAA Consulta Nov 2nd- network, train, plan, and strategize for the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) Ministerial in Miami (Nov 17 to 21). We can shut it down! Spokescouncil is on Nov. 2nd but there are a ton more events and coolness throughout the Oct 31st-Nov 2nd festival. http:// www.gpjo.org/yale.htm.

4: It's been decided in principle to try and hold a Padded Bloc spokecouncil Nov. 19th in Miami. More info on this TBA!

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 upcoming consultas and meetings 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.

Is the PB linked to the Ya Basta movement?
No. Many people in North America associate those utilizing padding and shield tactics with the now defunct Ya Basta movement. The Italian Ya Basta group utilized padding and shield tactics in a lot of high profile demonstrations. Neither POG nor those groups involved in the PB are part of, or associated with, Italian Ya Basta.

Isn't it possible that there won't be a Padded Bloc?
YES, and that is another contingency groups should prepare for.

There might be no way to assemble, the logistics for groups might be too daunting, there might not be enough groups willing to do PB, etc. If this all falls apart and the PB doesn't happen the worst that will mean is Miami will be more similar to most of the other marches we've all been at and we will have wasted a certain amount of time/energy/resources (not all mind you, some non-pog Affinity groups participating in the PB have proposed a similar organizing effort for the RNC if the uniqueness of the Miami situation prevents such a contingent, etc). Without a PB we believe the safety, protection, communication, and decision making process of this framework will be diminished, but we'll still have numbers and there will still be the need to oppose the FTAA. The PB is also no longer the only announced DA plan so we will be able to join other efforts and the clusters we've developed will allow us a much better chance of taking bold, creative, and inspirational actions. No matter what happens a lot of us feel pre-Miami has been a positive step forward in the style of organizing for mass demos and that many of these benefits will be long lasting.
Shut down the FTAA...and then what? 23.Oct.2003 14:49

Not a medic

I want to ask some questions of the Padded Bloc.

First, in June when the first proposals were raised for a Padded Bloc, someone wrote, "...disrupting the lives of local residents already hostile to us..." (June 24,2003 Indy Media Portland). What has been the discussion in the various consultas about the explicit racism in that statement? What have been the attempts to do organizing in Miami and southern Florida with the existing communities, most of whom have little reason to support the FTAA? How much on-the-ground organizing is going on in the ghettos and barrios of Miami? Is anyone in the Padded Bloc doing it?

Second, why so much time spent on a one day tactic (the paddedness) and so little spent on what organizing can be done the days before and the years after the day of confrontation? What steps will be taken if the FTAA is not shut down (and telling me that it will be revived for the Republican National Convention is not a good answer)? How will this contribute to the shutting down of capitalism, which operates on a 24/7/365 basis?

Third, what relationship is the Padded Bloc stuff taking to the over-all anti-FTAA organizing? For instance, here in Portland, Cross Borders Labor Organization Committee (CBLOC for those who are big on acronyms) is gathering folks together to go to Miami. They, along with others, organized 1,500 people in a march in solidarity with the protests in Cancun. Is there are working relationship with some of the broader coalitions and contingents in Miami, or just a kinda 'well we're really gonna try to stop the FTAA and they're not' attitude?

Fourth, after the Italian police destroyed the myth of the impossibility of infiltration of the Black Bloc by creating their own 'black blocs' during the protests in Genoa in July,2001, what measures will you be taking to prevent this? While keeping cops out of meetings is always a good idea, do you have any plan to deal with a police-led padded contingent? What would you do if a section of the Padded Bloc took off and attacked other protestors and trashed small businesses, as happened in Genoa?

Fifth, how do you deal with organizers and activists, such as myself, who have principled disagreements with you? Do i have to get five people to vouch for me before we can have a debate (it wouldn't be too hard here in Portland, but i object to that whole notion. These questions stand on their own, whether i have been to one action or organized scores)? When and where will you respond?

Good luck in Miami. And say hello to the medics.

.... 24.Oct.2003 10:37


I started to respond to what you wrote, but stopped myself.

I would like to think that you wrote what you did in the spirit of constructive criticism and critique, but I have my doubts.

People actually participating in the PB are addressing the points that you raised. I think some of the answers to your questions should be publicized and some are probably points better dealt within internally. There has been a decent amount of discussion within affinity groups about some of the things you raise and others you don't (issues of size and privilage when using such a tactic, etc)

I would like to point out the first thing that convinced me not to address the majority of your points on this forum-
""First, in June when the first proposals were raised for a Padded Bloc, someone wrote, "...disrupting the lives of local residents already hostile to us..." (June 24,2003 Indy Media Portland). ""

You have completely taken that statement out of context to make it appear something it is not. Go back and read the call to action. What they argued for were actions that focued on the meetings and not the general populace. At that time different groups were arguing the movement should attempt to shutdown all of Miami or trash everything, have a massive black bloc. The PB folks said we should focus the direct action on the meetings themselves versus things that would impact the locals who already are hostile to the movement. Those communities are already being invaded by thousands of executive and rich business folks who don't care about there concerns or lives.

The "us" isn't the Padded Bloc it's the anti-ftaa movement over all. Duh!

Perhaps if there were a response, there might be a discussion 29.Oct.2003 12:05

Not a medic

This is a delayed response, but some comments should not go unchallenged.

When groups make mass postings on Indy Media nationally, then they should expect some questions or even disagreements. It makes little sense to plea for assistance (as a post later in the day by the Padded Bloc for help in Colorado does), and then to decline to participate in an open debate.

My questions would have validity whether I was the newest member of the anti-globalization movement on the continent or someone in Portland who has participated in and organized for it at all levels.

Criticisms do not have to be gentle to be constructive. When Fred Hampton of the Black Panthers criticized the Weatherman action in Days of Rage as being "Custeristic", that was constructive, since he made it before the event in the hopes of stopping some of their mis-directed militancy and saving some of their cadre from unnecessary jail time. My criticisms were not gentle. Others will have to decide whether they were constructive.

One of the strengths of Indy Media is that it is anonymous. One of the weaknesses (perhaps fatal) of Indy Media is that it is anonymous. Anyone in Portland who is interested or has even the mildest of excuses can find out who I am by putting a request to Black Cross Health Collective for a meeting with me. Or by showing up at actions and talking to the medics. I cannot respond further to someone who can't even find the strength to post a pseudonym, much less attempt to deal with my questions.

As for the first point of my responses, when I stated that it was racist for the initial Padded Bloc statement to claim that the local residents were hostile to the anti-globalization movement, the anonymous response only adds to my supposition. Why would people in Miami be hostile to the anti-globalization movement? The bulk of Miami is African-American as well as of Puerto Rican, Cuban, Haitian and Mexican origin (go look at the census), with many working-class white folks. The experience of the anti-globalization movement internationally as well as in Portland, has been that in those cases where the media has not had an opportunity to propagandize at length, and even in cases where it has done some damage (notably Seattle), people are either neutral or favorably disposed towards the movement.

It is silly to think that people oppose us from the start.

So to say that the residents of Miami were hostile towards the anti-globalization movement is a)untrue and b)racist. I did not mention that this was hostility towards the Padded Bloc. I suspect that many of the residents of Miami will just chuckle at the "P.B." Even though they will not be chuckling at people who are mistaking a tactic for a strategy.

As always, though I can be reached through Black Cross, they take no responsibility for my positions.