The global Occupy movement is undergoing a period of sustained tactical innovation. In the U.S. occupiers are experimenting with new techniques of nonviolent protest inspired by the Black Bloc. In Quebec, we are testing whether a sustained student uprising against fee hikes can spark a broad base anti-capitalist insurrection. In Spain, the indignados are imagining new ways of holding people’s assemblies without permanent encampments in the squares. And perhaps the most important tactical breakthrough has come from Germany where last week 25,000 occupiers took the streets for Blockupy, three days of visceral protest against capitalism and the logic of austerity.
The beauty of Blockupy is that it combined three tactics into one powerful event in Frankfurt’s financial district: Occupy, Blockade, Demonstrate.
One organizer explained that the goal was to transcend a narrow critique of the financial industry by broadening the movement’s tactics: “our action will visualize the different aspects of the crisis of the system we are witnessing and experiencing – a crisis of representative democracy, the destruction of the planet and our life resources, a crisis of traditional gender relations, of war regimes and militarized border regimes, of cities and urban life.”
Here is how a occupier from Amsterdam described the mood:
“When arriving to Frankfurt on Thursday we felt as if we entered a civil war zone. Five thousand police from all over Germany were brought to enforce the ban on 18 different peaceful manifestations, including public lectures, marches, workshops, a street rave and a protest camp in a public park. The city had been brought to a near-complete paralysis by dozens of police roadblocks on all roads leading into the center, the closing down of metro stations, tram lines and most of the shops, offices and banks. Buses carrying suspected protesters from other cities and abroad were detained on the highway and were forced to return to their origins under police escort. Suspected demonstrators entering the city through the main train station were illegally stopped and held captive for hours… On saturday indignant protesters descended on the city to participate in the only permitted demonstration. While 5,000 police watched, over 30,000 people marched peacefully through the hot streets…”
Another occupier explains that the heavy-handed police tactics ultimately backfired: “At the end of the weekend my impression is that the tactics the authorities in Frankfurt, and elsewhere, use against us are not sustainable in the long term for every time the authorities carry out such an assault on our democratic rights they de-legitimise themselves a little bit more and give our movement more legitimacy.”
Occupy’s Spring Offensive has begun and a total tactical rethink is underway.