OCCUPY AND BLACK BLOC DEBATE VALUES OF VIOLENCE OR NON-VIOLENCE
By William Boardman Email address removed
In the immediacy of mass protest and non-violent civil disobedience, how can one differentiate between the disruptive violence of Black Bloc anarchists and the disruptive violence of undercover police agent provocateurs?
"The Black Bloc anarchists" are the cancer of the Occupy movement," wrote Chris Hedges in Truthdig, calling them "a gift from heaven to the security and surveillance state."
The Occupy movement, like non-violent protest movements of the past, struggled with this question in advance of the September 17 first anniversary of Occupy Wall Street's occupation of Zuccotti Park in New York City. Over the weekend, there were more than 40 arrests at peaceful protests in Manhattan, where police policy requires officers to refuse to talk to protestors.
Last week, in a packed auditorium at the City University of New York (CUNY), Hedges faced off with Brian Traven of Crimethinc. Ex-Workers Collective, in a two-hour debate carefully managed for civility, with the title: "Occupy Tactics: Violence and Legitimacy in the Occupy Movement and Beyond." The mainstream media ignored this public event in the so-called media capital of the world, as did most other media as well.
The debate poster featured a hooded woman with her face masked in the anarchist style to conceal her identity, in a style similar to a burka. One of the ground rules of the September 12 debate was that reporters and others with cameras could take pictures only of the speakers and not the audience. At least one reporter, who violated that rule to photograph hecklers, was escorted from the hall.
Black Bloc, which its adherents call a tactic, not a group of people, emerges in Germany in the 1980s in response to violent police removal of squatters, among other things. Black Bloc actions were seen in window-breaking and other property damage in protest against the World Trade Organization in Seattle in 1999 as well as in Occupy Oakland in 2011. Black Bloc practitioners wear black clothing, including masks, to conceal their identities and appear as a unified group in larger crowds.