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Cut It Out: An Open Letter to Black Bloc Anarchists

I like to compare those using Black Bloc tactics at a nonviolent protest to taking a 6 year-old kid to the symphony. You’ll likely find yourself constantly apologizing to those sitting in your row when the child makes fart jokes every time he hears the tympani. No matter what you do, how nice you are, how appreciative you are of the music or how knowledgeable of the composer you are, the crowd will only remember you for having the annoying kid with you who ruined it for everybody.Members of the Black Bloc movement march during an anti-Nato protest march in Chicago. (Reuters)

The highlight of the historic NATO summit protests in Chicago last weekend was when Iraq Veterans Against the War, joined by their families, threw their war medals in the direction of McCormick Place, where NATO generals were meeting, to denounce the senseless violence they committed to earn their medals. The veterans also delivered a flag to the mother of a soldier who committed suicide. An Afghan woman tearfully denounced the war that took the lives of family members. The ceremony was powerful and emotionally-gripping, and showed that members of the military rejected being sent overseas to risk their lives so the 0.1% in the military-industrial complex could profit from wasteful contracts and resource exploitation. And it would have been the media’s top story and the topic of everyone’s conversations if you didn’t have to act like a selfish bunch of ass clowns.

According to those who were there, you disrespected the veterans by chanting through the Iraq Veterans Against the War’s call for a moment of silence for lives lost overseas. By starting confrontations with riot police during the ceremony, you deprived veterans and their families their moment of justice for your own selfish need to have all the attention. You didn’t stop war, end capitalism, or even get close to the NATO summit. All you did was attract more riot police to an otherwise peaceful event, leading to kettlings, beatings and arrests. Way to go.

I’m willing to accept that there were likely several agents provocateur working with the police inside of a Black Bloc to incite violence. I’ll acknowledge that even within your ranks, some differ with others using the most extreme tactics. And I’ll denounce police for kettling and beating protesters with unforgiving brutality. But I’m still going to say it: your tactics do our movement more harm than good, and you need to just cut it out already.

The thing is, Black Bloc tactics actually serve the cause of the 0.1%. By making the dominant message about protesters vs. police instead of 99% vs. 0.1%, your tactics divide public opinion and turn it against the majority of those in the movement who don’t believe in violence of any kind, including property destruction. Infantile behavior taken by some of you, like taunting police, blowing cigarette smoke in their faces and throwing rocks through the windows of small businesses takes the moral high ground away from the movement, legitimizes the rule of the 0.1% and justifies the existence of an oppressive police state to the average American whom we’re trying to reach.

The top commenter on this YouTube video explaining Black Bloc said, “Black Bloc activists are the true revolutionaries, not these pacifists who advocate social democracy as a way to clean up capitalism's bullshit.” Another Black Bloc anarchist at the NATO summit said, "We're the ones that stand up and say, 'Fuck the police...We're the ones that have balls." Such ignorance exemplifies the futility of Black Bloc tactics. No matter how much you destroy or how intimidating you appear, the police state and the military-industrial complex will always have more armor, more guns, more tear gas and pepper spray than you can take, and in any standoff, they will beat you 100% of the time. Cops know how to handle violence. And city governments will continue to spend millions of dollars defending them when they attack you without abandon.

Occupy Wall Street was unknown outside of our own circles until an NYPD officer famously pepper-sprayed two women without provocation, even getting Jon Stewart to talk about the event. When student protesters at UC Davis were unjustly attacked, the world saw it and got angry. These actions forced average Americans to take the side of the victims, or at least learn more about their cause. But when your group of black-clad anarchists curses at cops and smashes windows to protest capitalism and get beaten by police afterward, you are only justifying your own punishment by testosterone-fueled riot police eager to crack a head with a baton and strengthening capitalism’s iron grip on society.

Nobody asked you to be the self-appointed “Defenders of Dissent” at our actions. Nobody asked you to give us lessons in how to be “real activists.” If you want to join the movement, join the movement. But stop dividing the movement into the “true revolutionaries” and “fake activists.” You aren’t helping anyone except the 0.1%. Either cut it out or go the hell away.