Black Bloc

Violence or nonviolence: where do you draw the line?


On Feb 6, America author and Occupy activist Chris Hedges wrote a piece for titled “The Cancer in Occupy.” In it he criticized the violent actions of Black Bloc operatives within the movement, saying they are the greatest threat to the future of Occupy. The article has generated a heated debate online about non-violence, political strategy and protest in America, and has garnered a response by Anarchist thinker Dr. Zakk Flash.

Read both articles and weigh-in.

The Cancer in Occupy by Chris Hedges

The Black Bloc anarchists, who have been active on the streets in Oakland and other cities, are the cancer of the Occupy movement. The presence of Black Bloc anarchists—so named because they dress in black, obscure their faces, move as a unified mass, seek physical confrontations with police and destroy property—is a gift from heaven to the security and surveillance state. The Occupy encampments in various cities were shut down precisely because they were nonviolent. They were shut down because the state realized the potential of their broad appeal even to those within the systems of power. They were shut down because they articulated a truth about our economic and political system that cut across political and cultural lines. And they were shut down because they were places mothers and fathers with strollers felt safe.


Hedging Our Bets on the Black Bloc by Dr. Zakk Flash

Chris Hedges has written some of the most insightful analysis of the U.S. war machine in recent years. His 2009 book “The Empire of Illusion” was an exploration of how exhibition has eclipsed truth and meaningful connection in American society. His acknowledgment of the ease in which one can buy into such spectacles is a small part of why it was so odd to read his article on Truthdig attacking both anarchists and black bloc tactics entitled “The Cancer in Occupy.”


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102 comments on the article “Black Bloc”

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The Civil Rights movement of the '60's achieved success through
the implementation of disciplined non-violence.

One can argue that we all have a right to defend ourselves,
but we must draw a distinction between self defense and mindless vandalism.

Chris Hedges was correct when he said..
> "The Black Bloc’s thought-terminating cliché of “diversity of tactics” in the end opens the way for hundreds or thousands of peaceful marchers to be discredited by a handful of hooligans. The state could not be happier. It is a safe bet that among Black Bloc groups in cities such as Oakland are agents provocateurs spurring them on to more mayhem. But with or without police infiltration the Black Bloc is serving the interests of the 1 percent. These anarchists represent no one but themselves. Those in Oakland, although most are white and many are not from the city, arrogantly dismiss Oakland’s African-American leaders, who, along with other local community organizers, should be determining the forms of resistance."

If OWS is going to be successful, we must exercise self discipline, and act, rather than simply Thompson-'Fear and Loathing On The Campaign Trail '72'...

> " WIth the lone exception of the Vietnam Veterans Against the War, the
> demonstrators in Miami were a useless mob of ignorant, chicken-shit ego-junkies whose only
> accomplishment was to embarrass the whole tradition of public protest. They were hopelessly
> disorganized, they had no real purpose in being there, and about half of them were so wasted on
> grass, wine, and downers that they couldn't say for sure whether they were raising hell in Miami
> or San Diego."
> " The Vets made their camp in a far corner of the Park, then sealed it off with a network perimeter
> guards and checkpoints that made it virtually impossible to enter that area unless you knew somebody
> inside. There was an ominous sense of dignity about everything the VVAW did in Miami. They rarely
> even hinted at violence, but their very presence was menacing - on a level that the Yippies, Zippies,
> and SDS street crazies never even approached, despite all their yelling and trashing."

Violence serves as fodder for the interests of the 1 percent, and it will prevent OWS from gaining
further needed public support.


Anyone who disguises there face, throws newspaper bins into windows, burns flags or acts like Black Bloc does deserves the rubber bullets, fire hoses and mace. IF they are proud of what they do then don't wear the masks. Be willing to accept your fate at the barricades.


"Be willing to accept your fate at the barricades." says someone who has never been on the receiving end of police violence or even behind a barricade. Fight injustice and state violence not amongst ourselves.


Stupid courage to not wear a mask while committing crime in our police state is stupid.

Just committing crime, on its on, without a mask, is extremely courageous. I'm pretty sure you're the coward.

Jack's Username

I believe this debate is a tough one and possibly the one that could divide the movement-not that it would necessarily be bad, just tragic.

The focus for my degree was American Social Movements dating back to the early IWW days all the way through the Berkeley Free Speech Movement/SDS and the 'Black Bloc' groups of that era like the SLA and Weather Underground. Of course, there were always parallels to be made between that of Che' and Castro as well as Baader Meinhof (RAF) and all the other 'violent' groups that sprung up all around the world at that time.

Unfortunately (or fortunately), one can argue the merits of using non-violent vs. violent tactics and they're usefulness and effect on whatever it was they wanted to achieve. The trend has always been to side with the peaceful anti-war activists and the like of the late '60's and early '70's and casting a shadow over the kidnappings and bombings of other groups. But what is often forgotten is that even the most peaceful of protests can turn deadly without much provocation; Kent State comes to mind as do the freedom rally's by MLK in the South. Most of those groups faded away rather quickly for one reason or another, yet the more 'violent' movements have had a tendency to outlast the others by years and even decades. The Cuban Revolution, despite Che's murder, is still with us and the Red Army Faction (RFA) lasted well into the mid to late '80's.And now we have Anonymous which has been around in one form or another since around 2002 and still growing despite a slew of arrests and having servers and websites taken down frequently.

So I think it's a disservice to discount the 'violent' forms of protest as they tend to be the more passionate of the bunch, sticking around long after the peaceful protestors have packed up and gone back home.

The key to either side, in my humble opinion, as history has shown repeatedly is to stay fluid and to some extent anonymous and decentralized. Something it seems we have finally learned and are taking to heart.


Anonymous has made lulz with By Any Means Necessary in Michigan, Anarchist Black Cross in Denver, and now it looks like Black Bloc is in the hot seat.

Anarcho-syndicalist and anarchist share some views, but the impulses of easily manipulated boys are not going to lead to the lasting changes we require.


It is difficult for me to think of any place in America, a country that is virtually always at war with somebody, where there are more guns than people and more illegal immigrants than job vacancies, as a place where "mothers and fathers with strollers felt safe." Personally, when I worked in America, I always carried a gun.

As for the so-called "Black Bloc," I don't think anyone needs to worry about them being infiltrated by agents provocateur. They are organized, trained and financed by undercover policemen in all of the NATO countries.

The undercover policemen, in turn, seem to be organized by the associations of police chiefs to keep them "off the books." This isn't a conspiracy theory, but the subject of a public hearing in the United Kingdom. One of the undercover policemen has volunteered the information that he has worked in a nation that you call home.


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