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According to PickAxe Production's video, entitled "Breaking the Spell," a documentary on the November 1999 WTO anti-globalization demonstrations, but told from the perspective of the Black Bloc and the Eugene, OR anarchists.

Their reasoning for the property destruction: How do you stop a corporation? You can't put a multinational corporation in jail. The key is to hurt these businesses as much as possible. As a result, during the Battle of Seattle, key corporations such as Nike and Starbucks were targeted by the Black Blocs as prime candidates for a thorough trashing.

One of the most ironic lines from the film: a woman selling newspapers on the corner was asked what her opinion of the demonstrations was, and she said she liked the peaceful demonstrations, but vandalism is vandalism. When prompted then what she thought of the Boston Tea Party, she enthusiastically replied, "I love it!"
Although anarchist black blocs are typically spun as part of an underground army like Fight Club's Project Mayhem, black bloc is actually a strategy adopted by groups rather than being a group.

Certain groups adopt black bloc (or green bloc, or red bloc...) in order to preserve anonymity. This makes it easier for people committing aggressive or illegal actions to disappear into the crowd, as well as protecting the identites of the participants.

Black bloc is most effective at large demonstrations, where there are a lot of people, and especially if significant numbers of those present are dedicated to nonviolent tactics.

Ironically, black bloc is a very frightening tactic for most police officers, who are engaging in a similar tactic via their uniforms - police uniforms, or blue bloc, also serve to preserve anonymity and allow cops to take illegal and aggressive actions without fear of reprisal.

The Call to Action
A Black Bloc can't be formed without, well, people. In the weeks and days before a major action, somebody will start out a call for a "Black Bloc of One" to be formed, asking that anarchists, socialists, communists, students, workers of the world, anti-capitalists, and more gather at a certain place and time, separate from where the main event of the day is being held. They then do a feeder march (a march not permitted by the city) to join the main march.

The Clothes
Despite the name and the reputation, people participating in the Black Bloc don't have to wear all black, though many do. Red is also frequently used as an identifier. But, it doesn't matter in the end. Recently there have been calls for people participating in the Bloc to wear normal clothing, so that they aren't singled out by the police. Of course, Bloc participants also wear bandannas. These serve a two-fold purpose. First, they hide the wearer's identity from the media, police, etc. Second, when soaked in water, apple vinegar, or just worn, they offer your nose and throat some protection from pepper spray and tear gas. Bloc members will also wear construction goggles or swimming goggles to protect their eyes.

The Flags
The fastest way to find a Bloc is to look for the flags. They will be all-red, all-black, black and red separated by a diagonal line, black and green seperated by a diagonal line (I've only seen this once, and was told that this flag stands for green anarchist), and I'm sure there's a few more out there. American flags being waved upside-down or with things written on them are also a good sign that you've found a Bloc.

Other Ways to Find The Bloc
If there are a large number of officers walking up the sidewalk and following one group, you've found a Bloc. If there are lots of action medics (they will have the red cross on their clothes) and legal observers (neon green hats or red armbands, depending on the organization), you've found a Bloc. If you see the anarchist A, you've found a Bloc.

The March
A Bloc will travel as one tight group, with banners attached to PVC pipes on each side of the group (these are used as protection from police clubs). If they want to have fun, they will attempt to turn off of the main march route as one. This act, known as a breakaway, is a sight to see, but will often result in the police at the scene forcibly pushing the group back.

The Chants
If nothing else, these people are creative. Everything from the usual "Whose Streets? Our Streets!" and "Tell me what democracy looks like? (This is what democracy looks like!)" to "2, 4, 6, 8, fuck the police state" and "Bombs are dropping, while you're shopping." Usually, one person will scream the chant once, so that everyone can hear it. Then, everyone joins in. If the police are using violence, they (and everyone else) will repeatedly chant "Shame!" or "Peaceful Protest!". "41 Shots" is a favorite at New York City protests.

Civil Disobedience, Flag Burning, etc
When a breakaway is successful, then it is a victory. Those who made it will continue unhindered to the end of the march (through a route of their own creation), and will often be tailed by police. When everyone is gathered again, there will be a meeting, at which time they will decide to do something. This something could be a feeder march to a target of opportunity, or it could mean that civil disobedience is about to take place.

They may choose, if someone has the flags and the lighters, to burn an american flag. When this happens, they will link arms and form a tight circle, to prevent so-called flag rescuers (often plainclothes or undercover police) from preventing the burning of the flag. In the center of the circle, someone will light the flag on fire, and raise it. After that, well... those who were in Washington Square Park at M22 know what happened. For those who don't, out comes the pepper spray, billy clubs, flex cuffs, arrests, etc. Another Bloc tactic involves a bunch of members rushing out to someone being arrested, surrounding the police officer, and "unarresting" the individual (i.e. pulling him/her out).

Media and The Bloc
When it comes to journalists and the Black Bloc, it's a double-edged sword. The Bloc wants to bring attention to what they're doing, but at the same time wants to protect the identity of the individuals that make up the Bloc. It is common courtesy to not take photographs or video of Bloc members who aren't wearing masks, though at times this is unavoidable. At the least, one should blur out faces, especially if the people in the photo are committing civil disobedience.

My Take
I was in New York City on March 22, 2003, and had the luck to not only find the Black Bloc early in the day, but to be able to follow them around. For context, I was there as a journalist, with my badass Sony VX2000 videocamera. After I failed to get through the successful breakaway (the police closed off the intersection by the time I got there), I followed two medics and a legal rep until we ran into a group that was running away from the cops. I followed this group all the way to Washington Square, and was literally pulled into the inner circle I mentioned so that I could get the flag burning on tape. It was, to say the least, an experience. While I admit that it was one of the greatest rushes I've ever had, I was also scared shitless and feared for my life, especially when things turned nasty. While I may not agree with all of the principles that a Black Bloc is based on, I respect what they do and who they are. I met and hung out with some good people on that day, and saw them go toe-to-toe with New Yorks' Finest without blinking an eye. I will always keep my footage from that day safe, as a testament to the actions they took and the bravery they showed.
This writeup is dedicated to anyone who let me have some water, held my camera so I could tie my shoes, unwrapped a MiniDV tape so I could reload, or anything else helpful on M22, as well as the guy who was warning the photographers to not take photos of faces, but saw me and said "Oh, don't worry, you're cool." Rock on.

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