It was June, 1980, that german police forcefully evicted a squat in Gorleben, that over 5000 peaceful protesters called home. This lead to a demonstration in Berlin, later known as “Black Friday”, one of the first successful examples, and the namesake of the now world famous “Black Bloc Tactic”. This involves protestors dressing all in black, covering their faces with a diverse mix of scarves, hoods and sunglasses. Therefore allowing them to act directly and anonymously without facing prosecution from oppressive state regimes or far right agitators weeks later, when other comrades are out of sight.
What it seems, is too often forgotten by both the mainstream Media, who are far to quick to label any protest malicious the moment a hood is pulled, and protestors, who are often far to eager to pull their hood without cause, is this; Black Bloc is a protest tactic and should be treated as such. It is not a default dress code for Anarchists or AntiFascists at every event. Unless engaging in an action where your identity could incriminate you, do not bloc up.
Now don’t get me wrong, Black Bloc has its time and place, but your local family friendly “more cycle-paths” protest probably isn’t it, (not to take away from the very real and pressing issue of a lack of cycle-paths in inner cities).
Black Bloc can be extremely intimidating to locals of the community where you are protesting, while also giving Law enforcement an excuse to break up otherwise peaceful protests, and the state an excuse to ban face coverings all together. These are not positive outcomes for anyone, and do more damage to the Anti Authoritarians and Antifascists than they do good, only adding to the stigma already attached with the radical left movement.
In fact covering your face often leads to police identifying you as a trouble maker early on in protests, leaving you very little freedom for direct action, throughout a demonstration, and more likely to be arrested in group formations.
Black Bloc is also not an excuse to act irresponsibly or unnecessarily violently. Violence is always a last resort, a necessary evil when all else fails, not the go-to behaviour when the mask comes on. Now while theres nothing wrong with the occasional airborne pepsi can, theres little to be gained from the mindless carnage of city centres, especially in communities you are not a part of. Violent black blocs have a distinct purpose. They should not be glorified or fetishised, and to do so would be disrespectful to generations of Anti-Authoritarian and Anti-Fascist struggle.
Now more than ever, Antifascist must challenge the unfair prosecution-without-trial the Media has handed them, showing they are not the violent thugs of far right movements, but members of all communities, genders, ethnicities and nationalities, a radical voice of the people, fighting back against an unfair and oppressive system.
When used correctly the Black Bloc is an extremely effective tactic, allowing masses of protestors to engage in direct action, without fear of the far right or law enforcers identifying them.
No doubt Black Bloc is sometimes necessary, but more important than ever, is to know when its not.