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Masked Up For Your Protection: In Praise Of Black Bloc Heroes (#GonzoNotes)

Posted in Austin, Creative Commons, Gonzo Notes, and Journalism

Portions of this issue of “Gonzo Notes” were originally published as a thread on my Twitter account.

What do you feel when you see the black bloc?

I feel pride, solidarity, and hope.

Though their faces are masked, I see a group of beautiful humans willing to get injured or imprisoned in order to keep all of us safer.

What the mainstream media wants you to feel is fear. Strangely, they want you to feel the opposite around the police, who come out to the protest dressed for war, driving military vehicles and with a sniper team ready on the roof tops. In addition to bullets, they’ve got bean bag guns, pepper bombs, noise cannons, the whole array of nightmarish “less lethal” weaponry that late stage capitalism can bring to bear.

Meanwhile, the black bloc have just their bare hands and their bodies, or if they’re lucky, a handful of flags on sticks and some homemade shields.

The feel when the bloc arrives is electric. I remember a counterprotest against a hate group that I attended over the summer: it felt too early in the morning, our affinity group too small and too exposed on the streets of Austin. We wondered if we were walking into a trap. And then there they were, flags waving, chanting, the paint on their protective helmets reflecting the sun, marching out from where they’d secretly gathered.

The bloc kept us safe that day, not just preventing the fascist forces from massing up but also holding the line against State Troopers who charged in to try to break up the protest. And even more, the mere sight of them, knowing what they represented, and why they were there, made all of us more confident and willing to confront our shared enemies.

I know who some of them are without their masks and we have our share of political disagreements. None of that matters when we’re in the streets together.

Not long ago, Crimethinc Ex-Worker podcast shared an extraordinary account in which about a thousand black bloc activists in Hamburg stood their ground against many times that number of police at their most brutally repressive, long enough for the majority of G20 protesters to escape.

“Afterwards, you could see shoes lying scattered on the street where the police had attacked us,” an anonymous victim reported.

A black bloc can serve many purposes, but protection is frequently one of them, whether it’s protecting less militant activists, a space that’s under threat, or simply each other. It’s important to remember that a black bloc is not necessarily antifa and not all antifascists wear masks and black hoodies. The two have become synonymous in the media partially because front lines self defense is one of the most visible parts of antifascism, and that often involves a black bloc.

But both antifa and the black bloc have this in common: they’re putting their safety at risk to protect those who are less able to protect themselves.

And, like that steamy summer morning in June when we saw the bloc marching downtown, hopefully they’re inspiring us too.

Inspiring us all to fight a little harder, Inspiring us to link arms with those close to us and protect what’s worth protecting by any means necessary.

This issue of “Gonzo Notes” is dedicated to everyone who shut down neo-nazis in Tennessee last weekend, and to the J20 defendents — see below.

They got the TV, we got the truth
They own the judges and we got the proof
We got hella people, they got helicopters
They got the bombs and we got the, we got the
We got the guillotine
We got the guillotine, you better run
— THE COUP, “GUILLOTINE

Gonzo action tips

Hundreds, including members of a black bloc, were arrested together during the Washington, D.C. protests against Pres. Donald Trump’s inauguration. Activists were not given a dispersal order, were held in a police kettle for hours, and then arrested en masse. Now about 200 people face conspiracy charges which could see each one spending 70 years or more in prison.

Combined with government efforts to target anyone who even showed interest in January 20 protests online, this is clearly an attempt to silence dissent against the Trump regime.

The Defend J20 Resistance website offers multiple ways you can help, including giving money to their legal defense, asking your organization to endorse a statement of solidarity, and sending phone calls or emails to urge the government to drop the charges.

Read the full issue of “Gonzo Notes.”
 

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In praise of black bloc heroes by Kit O’Connell is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
Based on a work at http://bit.ly/GonzoNotes15.

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