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A question for the Black Bloc.

Mayday black bloc, what was the point?
I just want to start out by saying that I feel/have felt immense love for my sisters and brothers in the bloc. This is not an attack in any way. But after attending the recent May Day protest, I had some questions for the PDX bloc (i only visit occasionally so i don't see all the marches, I don't have the context). Let me just summarize my thoughts on mayday, anniversary of h(A)ymarket. I show up, among the rest I find the bloc moderate size, certainly not large. I am bad at numbers perception so I won't put out a number to later be challenged. Everybody marches, some yell a few things like "kill pigs", or similarly militant rhetoric but everyone stays off the sidewalks. We march the route, no deviation. We reach the end, everyone starts deblocking and heading home. What was the purpose of the bloc at that march? We came, we marched (with a permit no less), we followed all rules and regulations, and then finished the march and went home. For me it did not feel empowering in anyway, I felt an energy from fellow blockers that was very serious and angry, almost like "we are the elite vanguard." It was a vibe I would expect from the commies, a serious "must give all to the revolution" type mentality. Not much love being spread around. No time for fun and games. And that would be somewhat understandable if the bloc were engaged in something remotely confrontational/radical/anything, but no. Where was the spontaneity, where were the joyful anarchists, the rage filled anarchists? All I felt was a stale anger, a loathing, pent up but in keeping with the structures of society not released at any inappropriate time. It felt as if the bloc had once been a good idea and since then it has drawn people yet no one has come with inspiration to add to the change of tactics. It has stagnated. You show up, wear black, attract all the police of the protest to you so that anything vaguely illegal becomes 200 times harder to get away with, get video taped from all angles, and then conform to the march route and set behaviors in a way that the bloc is indistinguishable (in behavior) from the rest of the march. Why wear black then? Its like the romanticism of the bloc in seattle is enough to keep people doing it. and really while im not opposed to it, burning flags and troop effigies also just doesn't impress me none. Police have us beat as it is. They know what's up because they've seen it a million times before, and our tactics haven't changed with the times and we have been CONTAINED! and people just seemed pretty ok with that. Maybe I am missing the point. I am just hungry for creativity, and joy, and action and may day was boring and reaffirming of every social structure that I thought we anarchists were supposed to be breaking down. So maybe the bloc isn't for me? maybe i just want different things than the average bloc member. Any thoughts?

My perspective 05.May.2007 08:16


The Mayday march to me was a display of the class struggles past and present. I saw Haymarket memorials, and direct actionistas. I saw Zapata and Che memorials, and the revolutionary ideas that are starting to form from that tradition solidify into insurgent desires that the red, white, and blue crowd couldn't pacify.

In the weeks prior to the march the organizers stated that they believed the black bloc would cause harm to undocumented peoples that participated in the march. In the Black Bloc call out it was stated that just the appearance of the black bloc would divert attention away from others, and on to us. While in other cities the marchers were beat down and arrested for marching, here -- despite the hundreds of cops and cameras -- arrests were very minimal and the immigrant rights community got to march without worrying about the bumble bees monitering there every move.

You mention a romantacism of Seattle, but isn't that same romatacicm what you are espousing here? (ie. Why wasn't there spontanious direct action?) That type of action takes a lot of preperation by affinity groups ahead of the march.

Those that wanted more action at the protest were left with the incredibly hard task of planning the action so as to accomplish something (more than getting arrested), and keeping are undocumented comrades free from the clutches of the state. Personally I decided to let my desires out of me before and after the march away from the battalions of police.

I also wondered 05.May.2007 08:32

another bloc-er

why there wasn't anything "going down," but also came to the conclusion that it was risky for the people with the main march. See, the thing about activists is that they care about other people- that's why we want freedom for all. And in caring about others, I think it was a good decision to show up, divert attention from those with lower arrestability, and then NOT get ourselves arrested pointlessly.

Besides, in my mind, the funniest part of all were the few hundred cops all around (a WAY larger presence than M18 or O5) who didn't get to use all that pepper spray they were packing. Perhaps doing this a few times will desensitize the police a bit and the next action will be easier. The police were so bored they had to resort to following random groups of "white" people (check out the post on the medic-trailing, that's priceless, it should be submitted as part of some report when the police look at overtime expenditures). Which, at the least, kept them from following those who may not have the "right" papers to be here.

The Black Bloc does what it can. Being arrested at every event doesn't help anyone's cause. Caring about others and promoting unity, does. So, although we've previously alienated (well, okay, they alienated themselves) certain "organizers" in the PDX community, we still have some who appreciate our presence because we didn't bring untoward violence and arrests into their march of not-so-secure people.
Here's looking forward to next time!

Look a little deeper 05.May.2007 12:06

an old timer

The bloc's presence takes all of the heat off of the immigrants because it's a cop magnet. The bloc was decoy that day. I think it worked very well. Also people were respecting a request that no illegal shenanigans be employed during this march to protect the immigrants. Which I thought was a very intelligent counter to the accusations that local anarchists are no more than backstabbing troublemakers with rock star complexes.
There are still many ways to use a black bloc tactic, just not the same way it was used before. Police tactics have adapted and changed now(it has been 10 fucking years!). So now we must adapt and change to exploit their new weaknesses.

Furthermore, I didn't see any strategic targets or any other propaganda opportunities outside of what was employed that day. Fucking shit up just for the hell of it is foolish and a waste of community time and resources. When planning out actions think of all the resources that must go into it that come from outside yourself and weigh whether the benefit is worth it or not. Community resources and patience are limited. Smarter not harder people!

Besides all that, where the fuck was your affinity group and why didn't you bring your own brilliant plan?! (rhetorical question of course) Black bloc is a tactical dress code. You are supposed to bring your own affinity group and well thought out plans. Then your spokesperson discreetly communicates support needs(if any) to the rest of the trusted affinity groups. Then the rest is improvising support.

you show up in black to oppose and negate something 05.May.2007 12:16

love and joy wear other colors

There's a significant difference between

* an event defined by the enemy -- for example, the World Trade Organization biannual meeting -- which is inherently a legitimate target for any sort of direct action whatsoever, with no permission or coordination necessary from any other protesting group or tendency,


* an event defined by somebody who is not your enemy -- like a bunch of semi-radical latino open-border activists -- whom you're there in solidarity with rather than in opposition to, without whom you would have no reason to be in that particular park or marching on those particular blocks, and who would be gravely disappointed if the FSU Crew decided to Fuck a bunch of Shit Up for them.

If there had been burning dumpsters and looted corporate stores on the Park Blocks that afternoon, the only conclusion anybody could draw would be that anarchists had decided to attack the march itself. There was no other target uniquely localized in that particular place and time.

It was a good day 05.May.2007 16:19

agent provocateer

Hey Rosy said it was a great march. It made all the local news channel and we didn't end up with mass arrest of illegal immigrants as a side effect.

Regarding the Point 05.May.2007 17:08


I take no offense at the question. Actually, it's good to ask this once in awhile, and often there is much to be learned from our answers. In this case, though, I saw the bloc differently than you did. There were a lot of people in this march who may or may not have been undocumented, and were taking a great risk to be there at all. There was a respectful request made for the bloc to behave in a manner that did not put our comrades from the South in danger. (This was much different than the usual liberal lamentations about "ruining our march," or "making us look bad on TV." This was a sincere, thoughful, respectful request made from comrades to comrades.)

By the way, I think there are different reasons why people bloc up. I am guessing that some do it to be part of... "the scene." It looks cool. It's a role to take on, for fun or adventure. Other people do it because it symbolizes something important for them. It symbolizes resistance, solidarity, comaraderie, a revolutionary mindset, a refusal to give up our identities and fall in line. Some people do it to protect their own identities from the predatory police state (and make no mistake, they ARE surveilling you), while others do it in solidarity with those who really need to protect their identities. The more of us who do it, the harder it is for the police state to identify any one particular person. I don't think people necessarily bloc up just to FSU, as the saying goes. In fact, I think that's kind of a rare thing. Most people who want to engage in direct action will do so at more strategically effective times than somewhere like this. And, if you really want to get away for some DA, it's well known that we blend in better, and can move about easier, if we do not travel in bloc. So yes, another reason to bloc up is to serve as decoy, "cop magnet," as someone said above.

Sometimes, I bloc up and sometimes I do not. I did not for this march, but for others I have. When I do, it is to express my solidarity with the global uprising, the growing resistance that is being nurtured in our hearts all over the world. It scares Them. And it should.

It's about solidarity. 06.May.2007 08:55


It's about coming as one people, not as individuals. Commies aren't the only one's willing to give all for the revolution. Some people were there because May day is typically an anarchist 'holi'day, some were there to support the new link that's been made in the name of solidarity. And how could anyone have showed up at that rally without seeing an enemy, without seeing a target? The INS, the senate, the police who carry out the raids, the news which purposely ignores the struggle of all oppressed people; hell, even good ole' Starf*cks, who are right now oppressing the families of so many mayday attendees in Mexico and beyond. It was a great day for sharing information. So many people asked good questions about the history of mayday and haymarket, about the block, and how we (the "block") felt it all ties in to indigenous struggles. I answered them as best I could, and we had no confrontation with our fellow demonstrators. Not one person was detained and extradited because of the March, and that is a thing to be happy about.

i agree 07.May.2007 17:23


i'd agree with all the comments in response to the questions posed, and also would like to add that a bloc is visible and easily identifiable. i think sometimes in marches when anarchists don't bloc up people don't realize we are there and who we are. most people don't know what a black or red/black flag means. but many people have heard of the black bloc anarchists. so people go, "oh look, those people who call themselves anarchists are here, they support us. i wonder what they are all about..." so it gives a visibility and striking presence at the event for anarchists. i think that black blocs should be the norm for when anarchists go to demos, just for this reason alone. bring flyers with info about what anarchism is. show that there are anarchists there, and demand the right for the black bloc to participate in protests without being attacked. that way when the bloc does go to a march to FSU, they won't be attacked just for showing up.

so, there's lots of good reasons other than FSU to bloc up. but it is also fine with me if it is not your thing to bloc up.


Not anonymous. Michael b.

I was there to show solidarity with people who are bearing the brunt of America's racism. I was not there to endanger people. I was not there to feel good. I beleve that a diversity of tactics is nessicary to create positive change.

I publicly support direct action. I publicly support all kinds of actions for social justice.

I do not support mindless adherance to feel good activism.

I know and honor the joy and dignity that comes from challenging fear, and priveledge.

I do not support going to protests with out a reason for bieng there. I do not support the insistance that the only time our "bloc" is meaningfull is when we attack our allies with the same vigor as our enemies. Deep down I feel that our actions, and even our militarism should be used to build solidarity, and support cohesive action.

Hell I am not going to dignify your behavior with a political response. Using politics as a vehicle to promote personal issues is well... fucked up. It needs to be addressed as what it is a personal behavior, and not some abstract analysis of yours, or some gangs "politics."

This chauvanist posture of "I'm right regardless of any common truth" is a poison to our growth as a radical community. I don't know if this is just ignorance, or if this is some kind of reasoned strategy. I do not care, because the effect is the same: strength through division.

Weither it's national chauvanism, racial chauvanism, male chauvanism, or just plain old fasioned chauvanism, it's still wrong.

It is exactly the kind of poison that has turned us agaist each other so many times before.

It's moral capitalism at it's core. How could anyone feel "rightious" going to the event to fuck with immigrants?

If you wanted to organize somthing else what was stopping you? Hell the opposite. Many folks would have probably supported some other kind of action.

And if you wanted to "do somthing" militant where the fuck were you?

Hell if you "did somthing" other than recklessly endanger people, and turn folks against each other, I'd be the first in line to support you. If you are an activist and do organize events then seriously, rant's like this just make wonder me "why?" If you're not organizing for solidarity, or a stronger more focused radical community, what the hell are you organizing for? To make some gang look good? To what end? Is the bloc a gang with no greater purpose than to fuck shit up? If so then you can count me out. When I risk my ass it will count for, and mean something. It sure as hell ain't gonna be to make some clique or gang feel good about themselves.

As it is if you continue to act like a threat, I'll treat you as a threat, Regardless of what you call yourself. The measure of a persons character is not thier gang, or thier position in some group. The measure of a persons character is how they act.

Our enemies are often united to great effect. Our most meaningfull sucesses have come from working together for common good. Yet here we are once again watching another act, of the same old flipping show. "Oh please tell me about all the other bad groups!" "Oh did you say they're scary vanguardists! Oh my!"

Sorry dude, but you can just turn that drama off.

Our most meaningfull sucesses have come from working together for common good. Why the hell should we entertain another person who's main goal in life seems to be to make anyone outside their gang seem like the fucking enemy.

Again. Call me what you will. I am not a provacotuer.

in common struggle,
Michael b.

um, michael 08.May.2007 08:34


Which person are you responding to, and what are you angry about exactly?