Most of the major demonstrations in this country are organised by unions and coalitions with the odd exception of student rumblings. And OMFG aren’t they just pointless? They walk from A to B via nowhere to end up in a park for dry old speeches by regional candidates miles from any power base and achieve sweet FA and no more than a few lines coverage in the press if that to show for it. But I am not going into my views on demo’s.
Now every time we hear the call out most of the people I know ask the question ” Is there a blac bloc?” This question always seems to create an air of conflict. Now why is that ? People keep on telling us is a tactic. But is it a tactic that can no longer be used? One that has had it’s day? First appearing in the 1980’s and seen in all it’s glory in Seattle 1999 World Trade Organisation protests and subsequently used to good effect in South America.
But now anyone in black is automatically classed as part of blac bloc and will always draw undue attention from the police. So there seems little point in putting ourselves on offer, unless that is we can get large numbers. Without those numbers blac bloc becomes ineffectual and therefore becomes more of a risky statement. We don’t want to play your game, we don’t want to put ourselves on offer in a state of constant surveillance, we don’t want to associate ourselves with all the other groups. There is nothing on offer that is going to appease us. We are marginalised and we are here to make it as difficult as possible for you to impose your system on us. One we do not consent to.
But there have been other blocs too. We have seen Queer bloc, Book bloc, Bike bloc and this weekend at the March for Climate there have been calls for Green anarchist bloc, and of course a huge Climate bloc. So a bloc is definitely becoming more about a statement of what we are not who we are, But there are still tactical reasons for keeping to a bloc and it is tactics we need to put into practice if blocs are going to work. Here are some that were prepared earlier :
Basic protest line up
There are lots of reasons for putting into practice such basic line up tactics for any type of demo. To keep your group together and secure also has the effect of keeping PLO’s (Police Liaison Officers) out of your bloc and creating great solidarity. So you have formed a block either by linking arms, holding poles, or banner effectively making it a no go zone for anyone other than your bloc. Creating an formidable force.
So are the days of the blac bloc are numbered? or maybe it is just evolution. Black allows you to merge, it allows individuals hard to track. It is who we are. But as we have seen with footage released by the police following TUC demo on the 26th March 2011 even with given precautions concealing identities to avoid state intervention we still managed to give ourselves away. Watch this and you will see how surveillance was used in watching blac bloc protesters in Oxford circus and how easy we made it for them.
So if circumstances arise and there is a black bloc and you want to join the protest. Here are some pointers on how to be an effective black bloc.
1. Black means *plain* black
Black means plain black – no labels! Cover them with gaffa tape or dye. Pen is harder to use for this than you’d expect, and electrical tape often comes off easily. It’s worth bringing spare if you can. Sometimes you can make a hoody plain by turning it inside out
2. Covering your head
- Hoods are vital – they hide hair, shape of head, etc.
- In summer months, get a thin raincoat (the cheap ones that don’t actually keep off the rain work well) and wear that instead of a hoody. That way you won’t overheat. Wear a black baseball cap. Make sure your hair is well tucked in and not visible. So long as you keep your head down, the baseball cap makes overhead cameras useless.
- In winter months, get a loose hoody. Get a black hat and make sure it hides your hair. Try to pull it down to cover your eyebrows if you can.
3. Masking your face
Make sure what you’re wearing isn’t too hot, is breathable, covers your whole face, and won’t fall down. You basically have 4 options:
- Material pulled up over your nose (this is what most people do). Make sure it’s tight enough and won’t fall down when you run! If possible, get something elasticated. Try make your eyebrows harder to see by wearing a hat, if you’re doing this. Don’t forget to make sure your mask is big enough – it should reach all the way from the top of your nose, to well below your neck
- a scarf (in winter, you can go about with these and not draw too much attention. Legally the police can’t confiscate a scarf as it’s main purpose is to keep you warm, not hide your face) Don’t try this in summer! Like 2, you need a hat to go with this. Experiment so you can tie the scarf behind your head quickly and securely
- a black t-shirt. This works surprisingly well! Put the t-shirt over your head and position the hole at the top so you can see out of it with your eyes. Then tie the arms behind your head. Check out this youtube vid if that doesn’t make sense –http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bwF_B0Gr4k4
- a proper balaclava (makes you look a bit more scary – but they’re good!)
Goggles/shades *can* be good but there are pros and cons. On the plus side, they will make cs-spray, pepper spray, and tear gas less effective, while also hiding your eye colour and making it harder to see your skin colour. On the other hand, some goggles can fuck up your eyes if you get punched or hit, and when you wear shades with a mask they often just steam up. As well as that, only a minority of people in a black bloc wear shades or goggles, so it can end up making you more identifiable! (it’s easy for cops to follow the only person in a crowd wearing a ski-mask)
- It’s important to try and hide your skin colour a bit. If no-one does this, then anyone who is a minority on the demo will stick out and might as well not be masked up. So, wear gloves where possible, as an act of solidarity and inclusiveness as much as for your own security.
- If you have any tattoos on your hand/arm then be really careful not to show them! Police pick up on that kind of thing.
Try to wear something baggy – this helps to cover your body shape and makes you harder to recognise. Coats are good for this.
Most people in a bloc will be wearing blue jeans, or black trousers. As before, try to keep it baggy, especially if you’re going for the jeans. Black is better, but there is some lee-way on this. If you’re wearing trackies, watch out for any identifying marks – a lot of them have distinctive stripes or branding that will need to be covered up
- This is a tricky one! People do get picked up or tracked because they wore distinctive shoes on a demo. So wear shoes that are plain and generic, if you have them. If you’re with a group, it may be worth all covering your shoes in black gaffa tape, so that they look the same.
- If you can fit a spare pair of shoes in your bag and wear different ones when masked/not masked, that’s great
- Make sure your shoes are cheap – they’re normally the most identifiable part of your outfit. If anything “spikey” happens you will need to get rid of them.
- If you’re taking a rucksack, make sure it is also plain black with no labels
- Get a big plastic carrier bag and keep it in the rucksack. That way when you ‘de-block’ you can put the rucksack inside it. Carrier bags are also easier to ditch if you see cops tailing you on your way home.
- Another option is to get a thin rucksack or one of those sports bags that school kids use for their PE kits. Then, you put your black-bloc outfit on over the top of it, keeping the bag underneath where it can’t be seen. I’m not convinced by this method – but it’s up to you
10. To carry with you
- Spare masks (if it’s someone’s first time on a bloc, they might not realise how important masking up is. It’s your responsibility to look after them – we need to look out for each other)
- A very different change of clothes (look like a non-violent hippy, suit, normal person, waiter, whatever. Just not some anarcho-punk out to cause trouble!). The easiest way to do this is to wear lots of layers
- A slightly different mask (e.g. switch between a pull up mask and a balaclava during the bloc – this will make it harder to keep track of you)
- Different shoes, if you can
- Supplies – this isn’t the place for a full-blown list of what is useful on a demo or eviction resistance. But as a bare minimum, make sure you have enough food/water to get you through the day and keep your energy levels up – you need to be able to run and think clearly at all times. Having spare for other people is always a good move too, if you can
11. when to mask up/down
If you’re carrying a big fuckoff shield saying “no prisons” on it, you should definitely be masked up…
- It sounds stupid, but try practicing near a mirror to make sure you can do this quickly and well. There may come a time when you need to be anonymous at short notice, or where you need to merge quickly into a crowd.
- Try to get into a cctv blind spot with at least one other person when you change clothing. Or change together under a banner/umbrella. It isn’t totally necessary, but it will make it even harder for cops to follow you on camera
- It is hard to decide exactly when to mask up/down – it depends a lot on your assessment of the situation. As a general rule, try not to be the only person/small group in a crowd that is masked up, and try to “de-bloc” while there is still a crowd for you to hide in.
- Don’t go off alone. Cops will notice and may try to pick you off or search you
- You may need to burn your outfit after the demo. Better safe than sorry! Cops *will* take all black clothing in your house as evidence if you get raided. If anything was smashed near you, tiny glass shards get stuck in your clothing which *will* get picked up by forensics, who can work out exactly which window they came from
- Whatever you do, don’t tag yourself on facebook pictures or send texts about things that happened on the day!
- Masking up is only one part of staying safe. If anything “spiky” happens, you need to make sure there is no forensic (i.e. fingerprints, blood) evidence on the scene to link you to it. You need to be really careful what you say in public, especially on texts/phone/social media. You need to not talk to people who could be undercovers, or might inform on you in the future (even if they seem sound now – are you sure they won’t rat you out a few months down the line?). You need to not take electronics like iphones along which track your location and get linked back to you.
- There are other ways to hide too. By merging with a crowd. By dodging cameras. By wearing things that ‘naturally’ make you harder to recognise (hair different, peaked cap and sunglasses – this WILL make you look like a journo/undercover, though!). Keeping aware of cameras around you. Blocking cameras. And probably more….
- Oh and one last thing – *never* be fashion conscious. People have been done time because they thought their anonymous clothes looked stupid and changed into something nicer!
I do not condone or condemn these tactics. They are what they are and I would never encourage any individual to break the law. So what ever you do out there. Keep yourself and others safe. The current Capitalist system is not working. We have to lead. It is our time.