Sunday, 27 March 2011

Special Protest Report: Inside Black Bloc

As we march across Piccadilly Circus towards Piccadilly a group of about three to four-hundred anarchists peel in from the right and begin parading in parallel to the TUC march. It’s not clear where they’ve come from and it’s hard to tell how old they are. Clad in all black their faces are covered with a variety of masks, bandanas, scarfs, ski masks and gas masks. Although the majority are men, there are a number of women and – as far as you can tell from body-shape and eyes – they seem to age from around 16-25. The smell of adrenaline and purpose hangs thick in the air.
The anarchist line swoops in engulfing the wide road as we lurch to the left and hear the sound of fire-crackers behind us. With the iconic black and red flags of the CNT held aloft they stride purposefully down Piccadilly. The loud bang of fire-crackers continue to erupt behind us growing ever-closer as we parade past lines of banks interspersed with expensive shops. The beast has found its prey.
Within the blink of an eye a fire-cracker explodes just to our right as the line of anarchists turn on a six-pence and immediately start marching in the opposite direction. We turn to see them swarming round a branch of Santander. A smoke bomb spews forth a green mist and pockets of the group throw themselves at the bank’s windows. The window buckles under a tirade of fists and feet but the flexi-glass doesn’t break. A volley of colourful paint bombs splatter the walls as a stray smoke bomb bounces off the brick and ricochets back into the crowd as it spits out its vibrant haze.
The spectacle is watched by half a dozen policemen across the road. They stand there perfectly still relaying a running commentary into their radios. The anarchist group turns apace and accelerates down Piccadilly and descends on the Ritz. The offensive becomes a blur as the crowd pelts the Ritz with more paint and attempt to gain entry via a side gully. Small clusters break-off and begin throwing stuff at the police as the paparazzi –seemingly from no-where – weave in and out wearing hockey helmets for protection before returning to the hive of the group and disappearing into the sea of black.
The crowd advances down Piccadilly and by now the side roads are lined with riot police. They remain still in line gathering information and relaying updates as the anarchists surge on Starbucks before disappearing into the London streets like dissipating green smoke. We don’t encounter them again until we arrive at Hyde Park – but their kaleidoscopic calling-cards adorn all surrounding walls and virtually every street corner (or police riot van) is daubed with an anarchist ‘A’.
It’s a fascinating experience to witness first-hand the anarchist tactic of black bloc. Black bloc is not an organisation or faction, it is a tactic different anarchist groups use for security and to avoid arrest. Here’s how a website promoting the tactic describes it:
The Black Bloc is a tactic that has been used in demonstrations for years. It is used as a security and safety measure. In it's essential form, each participant of a Black Bloc wears somewhat of a uniform. The idea of wearing this uniform is that if every single person in the Bloc looks relatively alike, it is hard for the police to determine which individual did what. For instance, if a Black Bloc participant throws a brick at a store window and runs into the Bloc, she will easily blend in with everyone else. However, if a person wearing normal street clothes happens to throw a brick and run into the Bloc, chances are that she will have been filmed or photographed and later caught by the police.
The group we witnessed was more than likely a coalition of multifarious anarchist groups united by the mutually beneficial tactic of black bloc. The common uniform gives them the opportunity to blend inconspicuously into the group whilst the geography of the location – flagged as it was by numerous streets on either side – provides an ideal getaway and allows the group to divide into smaller parties and reconstitute elsewhere. With reports of numerous assaults of varying sizes across London it appears the group was an amorphous mass able to split, divide and reform without much effort. Indeed, it’s conspicuous how a number of photos in our photo album show the anarchists in constant communication via mobile phone.

Historically anarchists may seek the abolition of authority but, yesterday at least, it seems they were very well organised.

1 comment:

SasQ said...

"Historically anarchists may seek the abolition of authority but, yesterday at least, it seems they were very well organised."

This is a misguiding statement. You can still have a structure and be organized while still having no authority. That's actually what most anarchists want : a completely equal structure with power and decisions by and for the people.

Chaos is anarchy, but anarchy is not always chaos.

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