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BLAC K BLOC: From A 55-Year Old Perspective

I went to the anti-war march with my small handy-cam with the sole purpose of video taping police and what they might do to protesters exercising their right to march. I also joined the Black Bloc crowd as an observer, taking lots of video.
I showed up at the park blocks and listened to the speakers and marched with the main crowd until finished. I was greatly disappointed in my fellow liberals/progressives because obviously there was no direct action at all planned. Why have a march unless you back it up with direct action?

I followed the Black Bloc crowd through downtown and waited with them at the Justice Center facing off the goons. I finally called it quits at 8:10 PM, primarily because my handy-cam ran out of power. I gained a whole lot of respect for these young anarchists as I filmed them and the police during the marching and the arrests at the Justice Center.

During the three separate "surges" against us on the sidewalk by the goons I almost felt the same nervous excitement that I felt at Peoples Park in Berkeley during the early seventies. Some of my video didn't come out good because my hand kept shaking. But I stood my ground with the young anarchists, even at the curb, showing my solidarity. I am very proud of you all for not only the restraint you used but the balsy courage each and every one of you showed. You know what it means to engage in direct action, even if my fellow liberals do not.

Video footage needed... 19.Mar.2007 12:19

free human being

If you have any footage of the three surges, please, please, please turn it in to the NW Constitutional Rights Center. 503-295-6400.

It is needed. People were arrested during that time. Any footage is helpful. Don't post it on the internet, contact the Center and let them know you have video. They will appreciate it as the arestees.

yep! 19.Mar.2007 12:32

Gatsby

You got it right, Doug.
While everyone who planned for weeks, made signs and great costumes deserves credit for being there instead of at home watching the F-1 (race), I too see something disturbing.
It is what one might describe as "sunny day" protestors. Or maybe like someone who wants to play war, but not be in one.
I don't see my fellow liberals taking any risk. They're not getting out of their comfort zone. These marches appear to be very nice social outings.
They only want to go so far to stop the war. Certainly don't want to lay down in the street enmasse (in the thousands)and get arrested. That might hurt their career or threaten their possessions. They might even look like a "kook". Heaven forbid they should have their mug shots taken!
But, guess what? Making the cops drag away and arrest thousands or getting hosed down or pepper sprayed enmasse or have the cops wade in and start swinging, would certainly have made a national impact.
And isn't that the point?

marching black 19.Mar.2007 12:49

luketan

Yeah, I was there. It was powerful. I've never felt that way, been so angry that the cops were pushing on us. Screaming! I'm not a screamer, I'm a singer. But yesterday...it felt good to be able to release all that anger. I'm tired of putting up with all that shit. Fuck you and your fucking wars! I still feel strange from it. Everything seemed to reach a standstill, a faceoff. I just sort of fell into it, I'm not with the organizers. Weren't there any contingency plans? Like if all the cops are in one location, everyone disperse and meet up at the next location-- or have everyone just sit down and be silent for a minute. There wasn't even any f i re. I echo the poster's sentiments. Good job everyone for standing up and not backing down! Also- yesterday I learned the strategic benefits of having a bandana and goggles: for the tear gas. But otherwise, there is no reason to hide my face. We are portland! Those fascist don't belong here. We number more than them. They have no right to push us off our streets!


I agree 19.Mar.2007 13:10

Generationbetrayed

You both make very good points. Thats exactly how I feel. I showed up at the gathering around noon. I looked long and hard for the Black bloc for almost two hours and did not see them there. It wasnt until around the time we started marching when I finally saw them. I was relieved. Before they showed up I figured it was just going to be another day of a pointless march around the city with a bunch of liberals. Yes, I give them props for putting together the protest and being creative with signs and costumes. But after being involved with protesting and other activities over the last few years it saddens me that more people dont have the heart and passion that us "radicals" have. The liberals talk about how they want the war to end. They want their sons and daughters to come home. They speak of the atrocities the government has carried out. Yet hardly any of them are willing to do what it takes, to sacrifice, to take risks, to change what they "supposidly" hate so much. Life isnt always about comfort. They need to take a step back and ask themselves how much all of this really matters to them. They have to ask themselves if they want their families and friends to live without oppression. They have to ask whether or not they want their kids growing up in this kind of world. They have to ask themselves how bad they want their families overseas fighting to come home. Then they have to ask themselves how far they are willing to go. If the answer is not all the way, that they wont take the risks needed, then honestly there is no point marching down the streets. They should pull up a chair and watch their country and beliefs and the rest of the world crumble around them. Because that is exactly what is going to happen unless more people find the heart and passion that radicals have. I hear some liberals and yuppies talk a lot of crap about what the younger crowd is doing. Well let me tell you this. The younger more radical crowd are the ones who have to grow up in this world, bring children into this world, and make life for themselves. They are willing to sacrifice for a better way of life for us and those who are yet to come. Confrontation is a part of life and unfortunately, especially right now, there is no more room for apathy and your comfort zone. At the very least, you guys could show support and solidarity with those willing to put their bodies, lives and futures on the line. Not talk them down, speak bad of their actions, collaborate against them with the cops. I can only hope more and more will join us on the streets and be willing to say no, we are not taking this sh*t anymore. We won't back down. People are dying everyday because of this war and government and there are people worrying about being civil and obedient to those who murder and ravage and oppress people and their lands. What a joke.

I think maybe it is time that the revolutionaries took over. To build a movement worth fighting for and to organizing actions that are worth attending. Something that has a chance of making change come. The difference between you liberals and us radicals is this.... we see the walls falling down and we can feel its crushing weight. We know its a matter of when, not if, we lose all of our rights and more people die for wars, profit and power. And we understand that that is unacceptable. One day America is going to wake up when its illusion of the perfect society around them crumbles to the ground, and they will stare with blank eyes wondering how this could have ever happened. I will tell you right now so there are no surprises. Its because not enough people rose up and sacrificed when they needed to the most.

Props to all 19.Mar.2007 14:42

legendline

Thanks everyone for your comments here. I actually heard people at the beginning of the march using "us and them" phrases and implying that the Black Bloc had no crowd support. It is thrilling to hear from others here that they were not part of the Bloc but acted in solidarity with them.

All are right when they say that it is today's youth who have to live with whatever this war leaves us. Which question do you think we'd rather hear from our children- "Mom, what's a war?" Or "Mom, what's a tree?"

I acted as a street medic for the day, having learned from Oct 5 that things can go bad fast. It was my first protest where I got to use my medic skills, and while I still have things to learn I was able to help many people who had been sprayed with pepper spray.

As noted in the discussion below, yes, there is a tactical reason for bandanas over the face and goggles over the eyes to protect from pepper spray (the bandana works best if soaked in applie cider vinegar, LAW or, in a pinch, water). But one thing I learned yesterday is that Portland does not use tear gas. Due to the nature of tear gas's reduced effectivness in rainy weather (gotta love Portland) and some legal factors, Portland does not use it. However, they are rumored to use "smoke bombs" into crowds, with the idea that people will assume it's tear gas and disperse. So spread the word around- there's no tear gas in Portland, and if you hear someone on the street yelling "they're gonna tear gas us!" help them to be quiet, quickly.

Anyone interested in learning more about street tactics, civil disobedience, nonviolent resistance, what to do if arrested, street medic, or any other type of radical information, keep an eye out here on Portland indymedia for further information on Spring Training. Taking place the month of April, a dedicated and diverse group of Portland Radicals has organized trainings in many areas of interest to radicals, with trainers coming in from many different areas. Check back soon for a full calender of events.

standing up 19.Mar.2007 14:45

Canberra the old

When I went to my first Peace march...the one just before this war started, I was happy to march within the lines and was hoping it would all be peaceful. Then I found myself, quite by accident, up on one of the overpasses. No cars were passing by, so I figured the road was blocked for our 'peaceful protest.' Suddenly Rosie's voice boomed out over a loud speaker, "Move or by the authority of the Portland Police you will be subject to arrest"! and the big armored truck with cops hanging off of the sides was pushing towards us. I am an old lady now, not able or willing to run from this kind of authority. "Fuck your authority" became the cry around me and I yelled as loud as anyone. Since then I have met many of the Blac K Blockers, and am impressed by their intelligence and their passion for what is right. People in my age bracket, for the most part, look at them and click their tongues. "They look bad to me." is their thought. Get over it. They are out there in front and they show where the line is between our rights and fascism. They wear face masks not so much to hide their faces as to protect themselves against the chemical weapons our police so willing use against them. I feel each person comes to action with his or her own rules and limitations. Do what you can and what you are willing to stand for, but don't be too quick to make erroneous judgments against the people who stand out in front. I would be proud to have the Blac K Blockers stand with me.

support from the community 19.Mar.2007 18:02

me

i was there with th 'splinter' group outside the justice center.

everytime a group of cars drove past us atleast half of the people were cheering at us, honking and showing peace signs.

that says to me that we had the support of the community

id like to thank everyone who came out, especially the legal observers with the green hats, the food not bombers who brought us delicious food and the medics who helped the people who were assaulted by the portland nazi cops

I just want to add 19.Mar.2007 19:28

digit D_1_6_1_T@yahoo.com

I had gotten to the peace rally about two hours in advance, hoping to see some life in it.
It looked to me like another corporate sponsored activist movement, Saying how bad war is, but not wanting to actually DO anything about it, purposfully misinforming what the driving cause behind war is. where everyone gathers and walks around ohhhing and awing at the wonderfulness of there commercial driven lives. Only recently a residence of the state, I had seen pictures of the black block from you tube and other independent media sources including this one.
I Hadnt seen much in the way of true activism in the face of the tyrannical suppression of our basic rights in the last few years. The police state we are living in must be Dismantled The Black Block throws the unfourtunate truth in the people's collective face's. I stood with the black block untill the end.

These human beings are the ones who are standing up for our rights.
These people are the ones making a difference out there.
These "kids" are the ones breathing life into dead peace marches
When it comes time and they arresting these "Punk kids" as ive heard them called many a time yesterday, where will you be?
and if not with them,
ask yourself, when will you be the one getting arrested or pepper sprayed for speaking your mind.

How much do we value our freedoms?

Black Blocs 19.Mar.2007 21:40

(A)

I was thrilled that the black bloc grew from a tiny 10-15 at the very beginning to a massive group of 250-350 towards the end of the day. Another inspiring aspect was that even when people began to be pepper sprayed and abused by the cops, the crowd grew in size, rather than people fleeing in fear.

We have to understand that walking around in a circle for 4 hours can serve the purpose of informing anyone who sees us, but it also gives many of us a feeling of helplessness to wander around being escorted by the police, the group that we (anarchists, anyway) completely oppose. For us to continue marching after the permitted march serves as a point of reference. Even if protesters remain on the sidewalks, even if we are peaceful (no property destruction or personal attacks) the cops still have a need to impose their own force upon us. They are indeed an oppressive organization.

I was also a medic out helping people who were pepper sprayed, and it was good to see other people out there with keeping people safe in mind. As others have said, tear gas isn't generally a problem in Portland, but if you predict the use of pepper spray, then swimming goggles or some sort of eye protection is a good idea. It hurts much less if its on your skin rather than your eyes.

Anyway, see you in the Streets!

not afraid to show my face 19.Mar.2007 21:45

deak

this comment is not to detract any cudos from the anarchs that were out on march 18th, i was happy to march along side of them and love to work with them... i just want to set the record straight and let people know that the majority of the splinter group had uncovered faces and were of all ages... i think it's super easy for everyone to say that it was the black bloc that led the march, but it was a much larger collective of folks... no one was in charge, we were all equally powerful and angry... the reason i point this out is because i refuse to allow the rest of the pittiful liberals in this town lie to themselves and think that the 800 or so folks that marched and yelled and spray painted were a bunch nameless people... we were your pissed off neighbors, and your fed up waiters, and your mad as hell sons and daughters... we're pissed as hell and not going to take it anymore! i hope to continue to work strongly with the anarchists, socialists, punks, hippies, and whoever else wishes to finally say enough is enough...

in fact, to all those who say that the splinter groups were there to divide people, i say open your eyes: we were the most diverse group there was (i saw all ages, sexes, and colors)... with the exception of one population: lame yuppy expired liberal douche! you're scared of us, and should be... the fat days are over it's time for a bit of redistribution!

wrong impression?? 20.Mar.2007 02:40

Steve

I appreciatted the entire group of protesters who went out and voiced our objections (I included) to this illegal war. The only reason I did not get involved in a splinter group is because I am afraid of giving people in our community the wrong impression. I dont care about what they say on the news, everyone knows that is crap!! What I care about is how my neighbor, all of you included, see my actions. I know that sometimes we need to stand up for our rights and not back off no matter the cost, but the longer this war rages on the more I see myself and those around me settling into a slump of depression over the horrific acts that are taking place in our names!! What can we do to change the complacency of the public and wake them up to the effects of this bloodshed on our communities soul? And in what way besides marching can we affect the governmental innaction? I am looking for answers, but I too know them, and I simply hope this country's once great constitution can be reconstructed out of the ashes of our future!!

Post Main March Demonstrating... Some picky critique... 20.Mar.2007 11:17

Greybeard

I'm older than original poster, in pretty good shape, came to Portland Sunday with some extended family to make a day of it. Main march was enjoyable, energetic, big. But nostalgic sort that I am, I wanted a little more active anti-war action a.k.a April of 1969. I put on black block and went to the Burnside bridge and up to the Justice Center.

The police were it looked to me acting illegally based on recent court decisions. Just a couple of blocks from Burnside they blocked the west sidewalk of 3rd with horses. I'm pretty sure they had no court order, and they can't legally block sidewalks in absence of illegal activity or a legally declared emergency. At the justice center they also allowed people to cross the street who they either presumed or knew were "not demonstrators". I watched two people in street cloths cross from the park and walk right through the police line and continue down the sidewalk on the north side of the building. The same police when approached refused to allow others to cross, including both transients and demonstrators, sending them back to the park on threat of arrest.

With the horse blockade they were of course trying to keep demonstrators from circling around and possibly going back to burnside.

The decision to go to the Justice Center, however it was made, seemed to me to be weak. It was probably made to support the brother with the wagon P.A. who had been arrested. But the cops wanted us out of the shopping district where we were causing a ruckus and offending consumers. The stores think they pay for the cops, and the retail economy helps pay to keep the war going. So if you want ongoing war, you also want happy-camper consumers. You want protesters only "in their place".

The protest at the Justice Center was spirited, but putting myself in the cops shoes, they above all want control. I think it was pretty easy to control us by keeping us stationary in the park.

This brings up a final point I'd like to make. I heard the cops talking among themselves and looking for tactical leaders... basically pointing people out who they identify for scrutiny and presumably arrest if they got the chance. So being a tactical leader is dangerous. At the same time affinity group tactical leadership is vital. I hope the decision to go to the Justice Center was made in a considered way, and not just made by some undercover cop who got word that we should be channeled out of the main shopping district. If you work with your affinity group a little on secure communication, very little needs to said on the spot. A little "leaderless" leadership can go a long way.

anyone who marched with the black bloc 20.Mar.2007 16:57

anti-capitalist marie21_956@yahoo.com

it felt so good to be a part of the splinter march... i would like to meet anyone who is a part of the black bloc or anyone who just supported and kept the march going. i was so happy to be out amongst other like minded people shouting my thoughts. i wish we could do stuff like that all the time, not just a couple times a year.

oh, how i long to smash the state!