[Note: Some links are to PDF files]
I have been doing some reading on the Black Bloc tactic since the G20 in Toronto because I did not know the reason(s) for the vandalism, and I thought I should learn more before forming an opinion. Further, I had heard many politicians and journalists concluding that the tactic was incomprehensible, ineffective, immature, and so forth. Before making conclusions such as these, I prefer to give people the benefit of the doubt and look into the reasons that they articulate for their behaviour.
A number of journalists (including Jon Stewart around 6:30, click here for the video if your are reading from the USA) commented that they were unable to discern the message of the march because there were too many messages. An example comes from the Canadian news site The Mark, where commentator John Stapleton writes in his piece, “The 2010 G20: The Day the Music Died?”
After a week of searching, I have no real idea who the leaders of the protest are or if we can even talk in those terms. There certainly seems to be neither a claim to leadership nor an overall narrative to articulate their goals or an assessment of the results. Few seem interested in assuming this leadership except to speculate on the motives of police and other security officials. In the 1960s, various groups and their leaders in Toronto and especially in the United States wrote books and articles, made public speeches in town halls, and met with media to carefully and meticulously articulate demands to distinguish the differences between sectors and groups. Back then, you knew in detail what the Students for a Democratic Society, the Chicago Seven or “Danny the Red” wanted. The “Weathermen” and the FLQ had visible and very public leadership, and that leadership appeared to have as much access to the mass media as it wanted.
Now we are left with the distinction that anarchists and everybody else want very different things, but I don’t know where to go to obtain the tracts, the manifestos, or the books that would give me more than half a page on the different motives of violent vs. non-violent protest.
Really? After a week of searching Stapleton could not come up with any writing describing the reasons for the protest? Because it took me about 1/2 an hour to find a number of descriptions about why the G20 protests were occurring, and why some people support using the Black Bloc tactic (including an assessment of its results). What I could find included some descriptions of the way the groups are organized, which details why they specifically avoid leadership and hierarchy. It also includes descriptions of why the various affinity groups avoid talking to the mainstream media, preferring instead to use alternative media and the internet to get their messages across. What I found also included some full-length books, available for free download, that detail the history behind the Black Bloc tactic and what those who use the tactic mean to achieve through its use.
(Note: I was only searching for information about groups that support the use of the Black Bloc tactic, so most (though not all) of the links above focus on that. Many other members of the various protest groups either do not support the tactic, or believe the tactic has its place but would not use it themselves. Information about the structure, beliefs, mandates and proposed alternatives from these groups is also easily obtained through a Google search. One place to start is this website, which provided a place to coordinate the various affinity groups, and links to publications detailing the views of some members of the protest groups. Although not all of these groups are anarchist groups, many of them eschew hierarchical leadership and prefer horizontal, decentralized modes of organizing and are also suspicious of the slant taken by mainstream media.)
The main point of Stapleton’s article is that there is no music to accompany the protests, that too was easily found by searching YouTube. I came up with bands like Test Their Logik, testament, the Dead Prez, Keny Arkana. I had never heard of any of them before attempting a search. He might not like the music, but it is hard to argue that it does not exist or that it is not political. Stapleton also complained that there was no concert arranged for the protest. This also turned out to be false (although from what I can gather from the internet the concert never did happen because all of the artists were detained/arrested by the police at the time it was supposed to occur).
So what is going on here? Are these journalists incapable of doing a Google search? Don’t they have research teams to do this work for them if they are too busy? It did take me longer than 1/2 hour to actually read all of the links I posted above, but it did not take long to find them.
I am not going to summarize all of the linked information, but reading the descriptions of those who support the use of the Black Bloc tactic made me rethink the post that I wrote before about “Classism and Reporting on Toronto’s G20.” In that post, I thought that the use of “middle class” to distinguish good protesters from bad protesters was really problematic because of the classist undertones of the description (I still do). After reading the linked information (especially the linked book), I now think that eliciting this kind of reporting might be part of the intent of those using the Black Bloc tactic and perhaps shows that the tactic is somewhat effective from their perspective.