+ + +
Riot Police - A contingent of anonymous thugs, usually imported from the suburbs, who wield "non-lethal" weapons designed to
spread terror and make us feel powerless in our own neighborhoods.
Black Bloc - (see above)
+ + +
We who have been brave enough to confront the police, the banks, the mayor, and the city council must now have the courage
to disassociate unreservedly from the Black Bloc and all other violent groups. This is not merely an issue of public relations or
community outreach (although those concerns are real, and have been articulated by others associated with Occupy and the General
Strike). This is about ethics and common decency. This is about setting the parameters of our society, and insisting upon a way of life
commensurate with our values. We are trying to build a new world, so we'd damn well better start thinking about what kind of world
we want it to be. It is hard to imagine that this militia of masked children resembles in any way the world that the 99% is striving for.
No matter what kinds of empty academic arguments they try to put forth, the Black Bloc is violent. When the police throw
"non-lethal" flash-bang grenades at unarmed citizens, the threat is clear: we are to remember that "real" violence is an imminent
possibility, and that the bullets are not far behind. Likewise, when the Black Bloc smashes up storefronts, hurls rocks and M80s, sets
fires downtown, and assaults unarmed citizens who attempt to put those fires out, the threat is clear: they intend to destroy anything
that can be deemed contrary to their narrow understanding of the world. Destruction of property is violent, not because property is
equivalent to people, but because the destructive act is designed to make people afraid of the potentiality of "real" violence by similar
means. It is not dissimilar to the abusive husband who punches the wall next to his wife's head, signaling an undeniably violent
intention while falling just short (this time) of "real" personal violence.
Let's acknowledge that the vast majority of Black Bloc folks are not agent provocateurs. Yes, there are undercover cops in our
midst, as videos on Youtube have proven conclusively, and it is well-known that police have dressed up as the Black Bloc to discredit
past demonstrations (again, see Youtube videos from Montreal, Seattle, etc.). It's not hard to imagine that some of the rock-throwing
imbeciles in Oakland this past week have been cops, or paid off by cops. But the presence of myopic, valueless, self-aggrandizing,
fascistic Black Bloc thugs is a very real problem which we must address. Experience has shown that we cannot trust the police to
maintain peace and civility in our streets, and so we must do it ourselves. To blame the entirety, or even the majority, of the violence
of November 2nd on provocateur bogeymen is unhelpful because it disempowers us to confront a concrete threat that we have a moral
and practical obligation to address.
Besides behaving nonviolently, the easiest way to disassociate yourself from the Black Bloc is to have the courage to show your
face. Yes, it is true we live in a surveillance state. Police and private industry have set up cameras in every corner of our society.
Helicopters appear at the slightest whiff of popular dissent and shine their spotlights on us. Every day it gets a little bit harder to feel
like a real human being, and not a number in a database or an avatar on a computer screen. But don't let anyone tell you that
facelessness is a solution to these problems. Don't get it twisted: black bandanas, balaclavas, and those ridiculous Guy Fawkes masks
are uniforms like any other. They are ways of convincing you to abdicate selfhood and submit to a brainless collectivism that would
have you accept unconscionable behavior in the name of "solidarity." Truth is, solidarity means nothing if it is unconditional. We
thoughtful, compassionate people must be rigorous in evaluating who we choose to associate with, and must be fearless in cutting ties
with those whose methods are unacceptable to us. You are a human being, so act like one. Show me your face.
The next time you demonstrate, occupy, protest, or speak out, show your face and wear color. Any color you like, anywhere on
your body. If you like to wear black, then maybe you can tie a pink or white or yellow bandana around your arm. Make it clear from
your dress and your humane behavior that you stand in solidarity with rational, compassionate, progressive ideals -- not with a bunch
of costumed clowns who think these historic demonstrations are an excuse to stage childish reenactments of scenes from movies and
The world is watching. Let's make sure it sees who we really are.