Before I begin this article, I would like to make note that this isn’t an endorsement, nor is it an opposition. The point of this article is to inform, not to convince readers to sway any which way. Education is absolutely crucial, and various areas of politics and the ensuing responses is definitely not exempt.
Presidential inaugurations are headline news stories without any sort of effort. The transition from one political leader to the next is inherently momentous in any situation, regardless of who’s occupying whose vacancy. On January 20th, such an event occurred in the United States, and it was perhaps one of the most politically vibrant days in recent memory. Of course, the inauguration itself already earns such an honor, but what enhanced its vitality even further were the ensuing protests, and then riots.
It is critical to note that the riots were not born from the protests. The protesters were mostly unrelated, showing up on their own terms and using peaceful tactics to communicate their frustrations with the policies that will be possibly put into place over the upcoming years. The riots, on the other hand, were initiated by an organized group using a tactic known as a black bloc.
What’s a black bloc?
A black bloc, as stated before, is a tactic. It’s not an organization or a movement, nor is it a form of protesting. Participants dress in all black, wear masks or bandannas to conceal their faces, and engage in vandalism of private property and rioting.
Where did it come from?
Throughout its existence, West Germany was wracked with political unrest. Many protesters took part in what is known as squatting, where they would occupy areas and were often met with police brutality. After being met with force from police after so long, once peaceful protesters turned to violence to fight back.
During the 80s, black blocs were deployed a number of times within West Germany. It wasn’t until the end of the decade that they began to appear in other countries around Europe, and then in North America, and, more recently, Brazil and Egypt.
What are the goals of a black bloc?
It’s hard to pinpoint what is meant to be accomplished with a black bloc since it doesn’t belong to any one particular ideology and varies on the context that triggered one. It’s always been used by radical leftists, mostly associated with anarchists and, to a lesser extent, various ideologies adhering to Marxist thought.
The general idea of black blocs, however, is to protect the public interest and fight institutions. Leftists such as these believe that capitalism causes discrimination and legal oppression, and that the police force exists to protect the interests of the wealthy, or those that are at the top of the capitalist food chain and thereby aid in reinforcing discrimination and oppression.
In Marxist ideology, private property is not the same as personal property. Personal property is defined as the objects a person owns their self. Private property, however, refers to the ownership of industry. For instance, owning a business or a company that makes goods for the public to consume would be owning private property.
Keeping in line with the idea that capitalism is destructive and harmful, leftists believe that private property must be abolished, as private property is permitted under capitalism and is what keeps it thriving. Black blocs, then, include vandalizing private property like banks and businesses because they are viewed as an enemy to the participants’ ideology. And as these leftists are distrustful of police as an institution, they often resist arrest, and cause distractions to help free those who have already been arrested.
With the exception of some individuals who might be there just because they get their kicks off of vandalism, the intention of black blocks is usually political. Revolution is a large part of their ideology, and black blocs coincide with that thought.
Will black blocs hurt me?
If you’re not a business building, a person that participants in black blocs would associate with fascism or Nazism, or fighting back, you have nothing to worry about, in truth. Black blocs exist because participants believe they’re protecting the public interest by scaring the institutions they accuse of perpetuating oppression. It’s a strategy of striking fear into the heart of law enforcement, business owners, and the government, as well as political ideologies they deem harmful. Harming uninvolved persons has no advantage, and is counterproductive when the goal is to help further liberation of the general public. Besides, black blocs don't happen very often. The one that happened in Washington DC doesn’t necessarily indicate any more violence like such in the near future.
Does every leftist support black blocs?
No, it’s a highly disputed topic in leftist circles. Plenty of strains of Leftist thought take anywhere from mild to severe objection to anarchism as a whole, and as black blocs are primarily associated with anarchism, black blocs are disapproved of by extension. The use of violence as demonstrated by black blocs is also debated among anarchists (take anarcho-pacifists, for instance, who are opposed to any sort of violence), as well as accusations of misogyny and racism, among other forms of bigotry, often being reinforced within black blocs. Black blocs can also, unfortunately, get even more out of hand by enabling destruction from those not associated with them.
In summary, black blocs are an often disputed, infrequently deployed tactic to fight institutions and assert the power of the general populace. Given the current climate of the United States, it’s not surprising that such an event occurred, but the chances of a full-on war breaking out because of the actions of black blocs is more absurd than a reasonable concern. Regardless, the whole situation has created an intriguing situation that, no doubt, has kicked off a very politically and emotionally charged year in US history.