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Behind the Black Mask and Shattered Glass: Pre-sentencing interview with G20 arrestee Kelly Pflug-Back

by Comrade Black

Kelly Rose Pflug-Back
Kelly Rose Pflug-Back
Kelly Pflug-Back
Kelly Pflug-Back

Also posted by Comrade Black:

Origionally posted on: Profane Existence
On May 28, Kelly Pflug-Back will stand in front of a Toronto courtroom to be sentenced.

I first met Kelly when she was a 16 yr old traveler kid who had just arrived in Victoria. We hung out on the streets, at drop in centers, and did Food not Bombs together which developed a lasting friendship. Over the years Kelly became quite the well known community organizer and activist. So it was a surprise when her picture went out across the internet, TV news, and newspapers last year following the G20 as police released pictures of their most wanted suspects in their sweep of 1100 activists who arrested, most of which would be released with no charges.

This interview was conducted by email.

PE: You have been active in community organizing for many years preceding this arrest? Can you tell us a bit about how you became involved in the struggle and what types of organizing or activism you have done?

KELLY: I’ve always been most interested in long-term, sustained efforts to build networks of social support so that people don’t have to rely on the state. I’ve done a lot of work with Food Not Bombs in a few cities, worked with needle exchange programs and anti-stigma AIDS resource centres, and facilitated workshops for queer youth and street-involved youth on self-esteem, safer drug use and sexual health. I’ve also participated in a couple of land occupations opposing developments on Indigenous territories, and I’ve recently been doing a lot of journalism for magazines.

PE: What were the charges you are about to be sentenced for and what are they supposedly in relation to?

KELLY: I’m being convicted of six counts of mischief over $ 5000, as well as one count of being masked with the intent of committing a crime. When the G20 economic summit was held in Toronto in 2010 I participated in corporate property damage. For folks who don’t know much about the G20, it stands for “Group of Twenty Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors.” They are essentially the leaders of the world’s most powerful national economies, and they meet in different cities periodically, spending billions of dollars on security and luxuries every time. They make decisions geared toward enhancing the economic power of elite nations while continuing to impoverish the global South. These meetings exclude anyone from the exploited nations which the G20 derive much of their wealth and resources from. They also exclude any input from Indigenous groups that many G20 countries, like Canada, have robbed of their traditional lands in order to establish their nationhood.

PE: You were also charged initially with a few other charges; can you speak about those and how/why they were dropped?

KELLY: I initially had charges of conspiracy to commit an indictable offence, as well as assaulting a police officer with a weapon, obstructing justice and intimidation of a justice system participant. I never assaulted a police officer, and there was no evidence to suggest I did. The guy who they were saying I assaulted testified in court that he had never seen me before, a year after the charges were laid. The conspiracy charge didn’t stick because they were unable to associate me with any co-conspirators…they were trying to frame it as though I was a conspiracy of one person. This is a good example of what people mean when they say “trumped up charges.” A person can be slapped with serious or violent charges as a way of intimidating them, strong-arming them into a plea agreement or justifying harsh punitive measures such as restrictive bail conditions. The assault charge was a convenient excuse for them to keep me on house arrest for a year.

PE: How did police use Hate Crimes Legislation in your case?

KELLY: They didn’t. One prosecutor who was on my case for a short time was briefly posturing about applying it to me, before they dropped my charges of assault police and obstruct justice. He was saying that I had committed hate crimes against police, because police are allegedly “a recognizable group.” Those laws are ideally there to protect vulnerable people who are at disproportionate risk of prejudice-based violence in our society. Police are not vulnerable, they carry firearms and have monopoly over the legitimized use of violence.

PE: The police also tried to portray you as the/a leader of the bloc?

KELLY: Unfortunately, yes. I’m definitely not the leader of anything, nor do I want to be.

PE: You are taking a non cooperation plea bargain, which involves pleading guilty? Does that mean you did everything they have accused you of? How did you get a plea offer and what does that entail?

KELLY: That means I’ve pled guilty to the six counts of mischief as well as the masked with intent. The deal involved me pleading guilty to those charges so that the others would be dropped. It’s funny, because I feel like I wasn’t actually wearing a mask with the intent of doing anything. It was pretty incidental that I ended up being part of the property damage, and I didn’t make much of an effort to hide who I was. I’d never thought of wearing a mask during a protest as something that you necessarily do in order to break the law, but covering your face in Canada is becoming increasingly criminalized, not only for protesters but also for Muslim women who want to wear the niqab. Muslim people and protesters are both increasingly profiled as being a threat to the security of the Canadian state, so I think there’s some important parallels to be drawn there.

As far as the counts of mischief over $5000 are concerned, I definitely didn’t single-handedly cause over $5000 worth of damage to six things. I don’t have super-human strength, and I was using a wooden stick somebody gave me, not a pickaxe or a sledgehammer. All those charges relate to events where pretty large groups of people were damaging property together. I am being scapegoated for the actions of an entire protest which over a hundred people participated in, and I’m fine with that. I realize that if they didn’t single me out, they might have just done it to some other poor sucker. The entire legal process surrounding G20 charges has been about scapegoating individuals, and I think that this serves the purpose of distracting the public from having to think about the reasons why people are pushed to the point of rioting in the first place. If you blame the G20 protests on a few deviant “ringleaders,” or make ludicrous claims that the vandals were all actually undercover police, you don’t have to think about the reasons why a pretty substantial number of people chose of their own volition to participate in a very impassioned form of opposition to symbols of global economic apartheid and corporate consumer culture. Whether or not you agree with property damage as a form of protest, I think it’s undeniable that the mass-scale environmental devastation and human rights abuses being perpetrated by multinational corporations and the governments of G8 countries are brutal and unconscionable. An event like the G20 protests in Toronto is in many ways an inevitable by-product of these injustices. The ugliness of sweatshop production, child labour, factory farming, and civil war in nations that have been impoverished by colonialism and neo-liberal economic policies slips into the public psyche, and the disgust and sorrow that comes with acknowledging those realities is bound to come out somewhere.

PE: You were under house arrest for quite a while, and then had rather strict conditions. What were those restrictions?

KELLY: Being on house arrest meant that I lost my job and my apartment and was also forced to drop out of school. Before my arrest I was doing free meal servings in downtown Guelph every week, helping run a needle exchange program, doing shifts at a queer and trans library/social centre and hosting a radio show at the university every week. It was awesome. Me being removed from that community meant that the free meal servings fell apart and the understaffed library had one less volunteer and was able to stay open less often. Not being able to give my love and support to people who really need it was the most painful part of being on house arrest.

Confinement and stress are also pretty bad for anyone’s health, and while I was on house arrest I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia, which is a muscle condition that causes chronic pain, as well as some other auto-immune conditions. I’m still very ill a lot of the time, and I had to register with my school as being a student with a disability. Losing the privilege that comes with being able-bodied has opened my eyes to a lot of issues surrounding health care, illness, ageing and disability. Too many social justice movements disregard these issues, and it is definitely time to change that. If you want to build a free and co-operative society, providing long term care for ill and elderly people is a huge part of that.

PE: At the time of your arrest you were in a long term romantic relationship, how did the arrest affect that relationship?

KELLY: I had been with this guy for a couple of years when I was arrested, and were living together at the time. One of the conditions of my release from jail was that I didn’t communicate with him unless we were in the presence of one of my parents. This was a strictly punitive measure. We were never co-accused, and his charges relating to the G20 were dropped very early on. It was very stressful for both of us. His mother ended up dying of cancer while I was on house arrest, and I wasn’t able to be with the family much during that whole process, or give my full support to him. He was absolutely devastated, and so was I. She was a really amazing woman, and it was awful to not be able to visit her when she was in the hospital. It’s for the best that me and him aren’t together anymore, but I would have preferred to split up with him under different circumstances.

PE: We are told that people are innocent until proven guilty, but the house arrest, conditions, and depiction of you and the other G20 arrestees seems to contradict that?

KELLY: Most of the constitutional rights we supposedly possess can be trumped very easily. I feel that violating people’s rights is most frequently justified in two ways: assigning them sub-human status, or saying that they pose a threat to national security. It’s fine to arbitrarily arrest, detain and brutalize homeless people, sex trade workers, drug users and racialized people because our society generally views them, either consciously or unconsciously, as being less than human. And it’s perfectly excusable to bomb Pakistani civilians, blatantly profile Arab people in airports, and torture detainees in Guantanamo because their rights (as well as the standards of international law) are trumped by America’s security interests. If the law were an impartial thing that granted all people equal access to the same rights and freedoms, Stephen Harper, Obama and George W. Bush would be sitting in holding cells underneath the International Criminal Court.

PE: When charges were laid the police released a list of suspects on the large to the media. Why were you included in that list? Were you on the run?

KELLY: I was never on the run. There is not a grain of truth to that. I turned myself in the second I found out I had warrants. You can’t trust anything the Toronto Sun says…for god’s sake, they run feature articles on the Lingerie Football League. I like to think of the Sun as a less entertaining version of the National Enquirer.

PE: Why did you decide to be involved in the resistance to the G20?

KELLY: Even as a really little kid I had a vague kind of concept of what global capitalism is doing to the world. Way before I even understood what the G20 is, I knew that I loved the earth, I loved animals and I loved people, regardless of how screwed up most of us are. I knew that bulldozers and guns and bombs and money hurt all of those things, even if I didn’t understand the specifics.

PE: How involved were you in the organizing?

KELLY: I actually wasn’t involved at all. I felt like a bit of a loser during the lead-up to the G20, people would always be asking me to come to this or that meeting and I would always be staying home to sleep and study or busy running stuff for the free meal servings we were doing. The only thing I really organized was an anti-G20 show with a bunch of Ontario punk and metal bands at this loft space in Guelph. It was one of the best shows I’ve ever set up, and I can’t wait till my conditions are over so I can do concerts again.

PE: Why did you decide to mask up as part of the Bloc?

KELLY: I think covering your face during a protest can be a way of conveying a sense of uniformity and anonymity during protests: my individual identity does not matter, it’s the broader cause that matters. Like I said, I’ve never thought of it as something you necessarily do with the goal of breaking any laws.

PE: Can you explain your politics and how they come into practice in your lived experience?

KELLY: I definitely don’t see myself as someone who subscribes to any kind of ideology. I just believe that humans don’t need authoritarian governance, social hierarchy or capital-based economic systems to live peacefully with one another. That’s how we lived for the majority of our time on the planet, and we caused a lot less damage to each other and our environment before we invented these types of institutionalized control and domination. The word “anarchist” is kind of arbitrary to me, since people attach all kinds of different meanings to it, many of which contradict each other. Plus, I know a lot of people who are very anti-statist and anti-authoritarian but do not see themselves as anarchists or any other political category. A lot of Indigenous folks I know don’t believe in the validity of the state, but don’t attach the label of anarchism to their beliefs.

As far as practising those beliefs goes, I think it’s about trying to relate to the rest of the world in ways that aren’t based on control, domination, competitiveness or superiority. And it means helping each other let go of the self hate that we all carry around as a result of a lifetime of internalizing the dominant society’s sexism, racism, classism, homophobia, and other harmful prejudices. Everyday things like that are still political acts, and they’re really important.

PE: Can you talk about the importance of Indigenous Solidarity as a settler person organizing on stolen lands?

KELLY: This country was built on the largest genocide known to human history, and genocidal acts are still being carried out against Indigenous people today. Trying to deny or downplay that reality is such a fucked up thing to do. On every continent, colonialism has meant mass-scale murder, torture, rape and the systematic destruction of people’s cultural customs and languages. I think it was Beaudelaire who said that in the crime of genocide, “half the crime is forgetting.” The Canadian state has granted a few superficial concessions to Indigenous groups, but on the whole our government is very afraid of being held accountable under the Genocide Convention and wants to keep erasing that history and trying to silence people who speak out about it. So I think all people on this planet have got to acknowledge the central role of Indigenous issues in social and environmental causes.

PE: Recently liberal pundit Chris Hedges wrote a article condemning the Black Bloc and calling it “the Cancer of the Occupy Movement” I am wondering how do you think that this type of public criticism effects people like yourself who are going to trial for actions associated with The Black Bloc? Does it have any effect on your support?

KELLY: Chris Hedges’ critique struck me as particularly week-kneed, because he had rather passionately supported property damage as a means of protest in the past. Then he writes this article without disclosing his previous view point or explaining what made him change his mind. It seems like he wrote this piece because public opinion currently disapproves of property damage as a protest tactic, and he was swayed by external pressures to revise his views to suit the status quo. A good journalist questions dominant opinions regardless of whether they are the only one doing it, and offers a lateral scope of social issues. I think his piece was just a polemic rather than any kind of investigative story. It’s certainly possible that this could affect the outcome of some people’s charges. As far as my individual situation goes, most of my friends and family are my most vital supports, and they don’t know or care who Chris Hedges is.

PE: Many liberals or pacifists allege that people breaking windows or rioting discredits the message. Can you respond to this from your own experiences as a Black Bloc participant?

KELLY: I have trouble believing that a couple photos of burning police cars is the only thing dissuading consumers of mainstream media from listening to Indigenous land claims, environmental issues or labour politics. People who want to think critically will look past the sensationalized photo spreads, and people who refuse to think critically will continue to buy into whatever moral panic the news is selling them.

PE: Hedges also has characterized the Black Bloc as “infected with a deeply disturbing hypermasculinity.” As a womyn with disabilities, how do you feel about this characterization?

KELLY: Patriarchal society in general is infected with a deeply disturbing hypermasculinity! Patriarchy and prejudice against people with disabilities are deeply connected, and both pressure people to believe their worth depends on whether their body is “attractive,” “useful,” “normal” and non-threatening according to dominant standards. Many of the things that people vandalized during the G20 were symbols of patriarchy, like window adds with emaciated, underage-looking girls in hyper-sexualized poses. Being constantly bombarded with these unhealthy images is hurtful and violating to people of all genders.

Global capitalism is also inextricably linked to kinds violence and exploitation that disproportionately affect women and girls, so in that sense any form of opposition to the G20, multinational corporations or trade blocs is also an opposition to patriarchy. There are many documented cases of female workers in sweatshops being systematically raped because they protested their work conditions, and the colonial history and ongoing economic exploitation of the Congo is what has caused the civil strife and pandemic of gang rapes that Congolese women are suffering right now. If Chris Hedges wants to speak out about the prevalence of hyper-masculinized violence in the world, he should rail against governments and multinational corporations, not a scraggly bunch of protesters who opposes them.

PE: What about writers like AK Thompson who have characterized the Black Bloc as being a “white Riot” of mostly middle class youth? This seems rather contradictory considering how many of the people charged in relation to the G20 Black Bloc were People Of Color.

KELLY: It’s definitely important to address the fact that a lot of activism is white-dominated, but generalizing too much just erases the presence of racialized people in radical movements. Quite a few of the people arrested for vandalism are racialized or come from poor backgrounds, and looking at the news coverage of G20 arrests, I noticed a class division in how they described people with vandalism charges versus people who were charged with the main “conspiracy.” The conspirators were “masterminds,” and we were “violent thugs.” Most of the conspirators are in their 30′s and a lot of them have formal education. Many of the people with vandalism charges are punked-out looking kids with crappy clothes and no bail money, and it was framed a lot of the time as though the conspirators were the brains behind the operation and we were the idiot proles who did their bidding. Framing it like that certainly shows more than a little racism, classism and ageism in the media.

PE: What do you say to those who state that terms like Diversity Of Tactics is just a code word for Smashy Smashy?

KELLY: I usually stay out of the diversity of tactics debate. Don’t we have more important things to do?

PE: You seem very much to have been targeted. How was it that the police knew of your involvement, or knew you were someone to watch?

KELLY: From reading my court disclosure, they weren’t really keeping tabs on me at all before or even during the G20, except when the actual mini-riot-thing was happening and they were taking photos of people breaking stuff. When I was first arrested, it was on arbitrary charges that they had no evidence for and dropped. It was weeks later, after I’d been released, that they re-arrested me for all the mischief charges. In court they had some undercover police officer lying on the witness stand and saying that I was at a pre-G20 organizing event that I never attended. They’re trying to back-pedal, and make it look like I had some kind of organizational role that I didn’t have.

PE: You told me a while ago that you were more afraid of the trial affecting your schooling than you were of going to jail. Can you explain why that is? And is that still true now that your about to be sentenced?

KELLY: I really love studying and learning, and because I didn’t finish high school it took a lot of extra time and hard work for me to get into university. The thought of having to interrupt that pursuit bothers me more than the thought of jail time. I have a really positive outlook on life, and I think that I gain something and learn something in all situations, no matter how difficult they might be. Jail is just another one of those proverbial bags of lemons that you have to make into lemonade, or however that saying goes.

PE: have your views on militancy, direct action, or Black Bloc as a tactic changed since your arrest?

KELLY: I’ve always had a pretty neutral view of property damage, and I actually hadn’t thought about the politics of it much before I ended up participating in it. It was something I just steered clear of. Since my arrest I’ve thought about how messed up it is that you can get a harsher sentence for breaking windows than for assaulting someone or harming a living thing. I think that really shows how much our legal system is rooted in preserving and protecting the material property of the wealthy. Breaking a window is basically an assault against money, and the idea of money. Treating that as a more severe offence than committing harm against a living thing is basically saying that you value money more than life, and that’s pretty psychopathic.

PE: Did you receive much in the way of support since your arrest?

KELLY: Definitely. People I’ve never met have sent me books and zines and letters, and people from all walks of life have given me support and solidarity. People seem to think that folks who live in the country are all a bunch of backwards rednecks, but when I was on house arrest in my home town I had so many people saying they thought it was just awful what I was going through, and supporting me in whatever way they could. Another really cool thing was the Women’s Co-ordinating Committee for a Free Wallmapu, which is an Indigenous Mapuche women’s group in Toronto, set up this rally in support of all the female G20 defendants and the Mapuche women political prisoners who are being criminalized by the Chilean state.

PE: How could people have supported you better, and how can people support you now?

KELLY: Nothing means more to someone in my position than a phone call or a visit.

PE: You have been doing a lot of writing since being on strict conditions? And spamming white-power forums with gay porn from what I remember you saying?

KELLY: Oh man, that was some awesome gay porn. It was from the ’80′s, and all the dudes had the most epic moustaches. But yeah, I’ve been doing a lot of writing…I’ve had short stories and poems in a couple of anthologies, and I write articles for The Dominion and a couple of other magazines. I also just got a gig doing editing for Fifth Estate magazine, which is ridiculously exciting to me!

PE: Any plans for when this shits all over?

KELLY: Unfortunately, a couple of my friends have died since I’ve been arrested, and I haven’t been able to go to their memorial services because I’ve been on house arrest or had a curfew, so I can’t travel.

So I think as soon as that’s done I’m going to go out to BC, visit my friend’s grave, and pay my respects properly. Other than that I just want to keep going to school, get back into doing FNB servings, and probably go on lots of overnight camping trips. I’ll probably be done my degree by the time this is all over, so I’m also excited about places I could do internships and apply to grad school!

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Comments

BLACK BLOC ARE EITHER TOOLS OR AGENTS OF THE PLOICE STATE

I AM VERY SAD READING THIS INTERVIEW.  Sadly some think smashing a few windows or burning cars  during a PEACEFULis a" basically an assault against money, and the idea of money" or some other action that challenges the state and or capitalism. In fact in my opinion it actually reinforces the power of the state the police and the capitalists. It allows the police and the state to protray ALL the peaceful protesters as "rioters" and a threat to public safety AND then use violence to crush the protesters often in illegal fashion. If the majority of Black Bloc are not agents of the police they are at least unable to see that their actions SUPPORT the state and the police. In my opinion BB tactics show they do not care about creating political change through protest. They are selfish and share more in common with the capitalist and the police who are also cowards. They are not my allies or allies of peaceful protesters. They are allies of  the capitalists destroyers of this planet. The Squamish Five were actual heroes  who actually intelligently attack corporate and state property as did the Sour Gas sabotageurs in Alberta and BC or Sea Shepard Society for example. Their actions did not hijack others protests nor involve putting others at risk.  So when I see Black Bloc protesters I see them as agents and/or allies of the police the corporations and the police. And I will intervene to stop them at any protest I am at. Here in Victoria we have for the most part made it clear these tactics will not be allowed to hijack peaceful non violent protests. Sad to see people supporting people and tactics that maintain the status quo and achieve no positive results at all. Big Fail! Now I salute the real G20 protesters the Oakland Occupy protesters and  the Montreal protesters who will not allow their peaceful protests to be hijack by police agents and allies.

Al

A couple pieces you may want to read:

http://vancouver.mediacoop.ca/blog/bineshii/11052

and

http://wewantsomefood.blogspot.ca/2011/11/to-our-friends-we-are-here-to-our.html

Since you can't engage us politically with your contradictory "peacful protest = legitrimate protest" and "corrupt government (will send agent provaceteurs) = (still somehow) legitimate force" argument, you choose to just pass us off as provacteurs. It's just plain absurd to anyone who has a shred of critical thought left in thier brain.

STAY STRONG KELLY, KEEP IT REAL!!!!!!!!!!!!!

LOVE FROM THE WEST COAST!!!!!!

INSURGENT G WE WILL JUST DISAGREE

Insurgent G, I am sad you  think I am putting forth a "... contradictory "peacful protest = legitrimate protest" and "corrupt government (will send agent provaceteurs) = (still somehow) legitimate force" argument. That's hilarious. In no way do I believe peaceful protest = legitimate protest. and  "corrupt government (will send agent provaceteurs) = (still somehow) legitimate force"   does not even make sense given that my arguement is that agent provacateurs are use to lgitimatize the use of illegal violent force on nearby icconent people and/or protesters.

There are many forms of succesful protest that involve the destruction of property  as I stated "The Squamish Five were actual heroes  who actually intelligently attack corporate and state property as did the Sour Gas sabotageurs in Alberta and BC or Sea Shepherd Society for example. Their actions did not hijack others protests nor involve putting others at risk." and some forms that invlove violence against persons such as resistance movements(ANC, WWII resistance movements) that also did on many ocassions put others at risk. I support and continue to support these type of protests.

The so called Black Bloc tactic smashing of windows of banks or starbucks etc.. during peaceful demonstrations are not effective and accomplish little. At least the groups mention above did analysis and put thought into having evolving tactics. I see no evidence of this. The Black Bloc are in North America at least inflitrated by police agents and why anyone would want to further the tactical goals of the police is beyond me. But that is what the Black Bloc does in my opinion.To consider Black Bloc or their tactics as radical is hilarious beyond belief in my opinion.

To continue actions at peaceful protests thatallow the police and the state to claim the right to violently attack innocents time and time again, To ignore the inflitration of these groups by police and or informants is naive  and show  that those involve actually have no idea what they are doing and are unwilling to see they Fail to achieve anything politically socially or economically.

 

Groups like the Squamish Five, Sea Shepherd,IRA, ANC(during Apartheid), Sour Gas Sabotageurs, the Litton Industries bombers all used tactics that actually achieve useful goals. They also take/took into consideration the impact on innocent people.

I see no usefulgoal achieved in Black block tactics beyond some ego driven idea that they are comitting an "anarchist" symbolic blow. 

Some of us believe anarchist goals and thoughts are deeper and more meaningful than committing useless property damage that galvanizes support for the state and the police without any  benefit to show for it.

The Litton,Sour Gas and Squamish five groups all did property damage as well but I would suggest that they actually achieve something by doing it in an intelligent fashion.

Same with the IRA, ANC and the Sea Shepherd society and many others.

For me these are the real radicals. The Black Bloc achieves nothing but is strangely proud of it. Oh well.. It is obvious we will never agree.  

 

Hey Al

It's too bad that you're so dismissive.

Incidentally, 1 member of the Squamish 5 was radicalized by hanging out with red army faction and black bloc militants in germany, which then inspired her to take direct action here in our neighborhood. 

That progression from liberal activism to militancy is exactly why I think the Black bloc will always be relevant as long as there's a classwar.

Some of the efforts in North America leave a lot to be desired because the militancy of the radical left is still in it's infancy here. Watching hipsters timidly break a few starbucks windows can be slightly pathetic, it's true, but it's just the early stages of growth.

The future looks a lot brighter to me every time I see people mad enough to do more than just complain. Some of them have been doing direct action longer and use tricks to manage risk, one of which is the black bloc. Simple as that.

some good points Sid

Aloha Sid,

 

Your raise some good issue with my view point.. It is instrustive to perhaps have a look the black bloc and red army factions inGermany that so inspired 1 member of S5.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_bloc

 

Look at the German orgins.. This is not the timid black bloc we se hijacking demonstrations here but a group of people directly confronting the violence of the police against peaceful demonstrators. I have never witness any such Black bloc action here in Canada. In Greece The Black Bloc there is actually doing that... and making links with others to do the same. If this was happening in Canada I would be all for it. 

 

The militancy of the radical left is NOT in its infancy here! The radical left in North America is entirely Dormant and seems to have forgotten the long history of miltancy and radicalism in North America.

I am all for Direct Action. I am all for people protecting themselves from police retaliation. I have participated in Direct Action of various sorts so it is not from some non participation standpoint that I launch my critique.

If people think the Black Bloc tactics in north America represents the "early stages of growth" of radicalism and effective direct action then radicalism is doomed here. I would rather people think hard about what sort of direct action can bring meaningful change and build a movement INSTEAD of porrly copying from a political situation from 1980s Germany that was far more radicalized than anything we have seen in North America in almost a century. The Squamish Five seemed to have realized this as they were brillant in their direct actions.

 

I am sad that so called "radicals" want to continue to do actions that build nothing and as I said before merely reinforce the power of the police and the state.  If there is any racial movement or actions that do burst on the scene here, I am pretty sure it will not come from the Black Bloc.

INSURGENT G Great article YET has nothing to do with my points

Insurgent G,

As I am not a supporter of the state the police or the Corporate overlords AND certainly am not advocating terror charges against the Black Bloc, I love for you to make your point more clearly.

Just because I find the tactics of the Black Bloc ineffective in North America because all they do is reinforce the power of the state and the police without any addede benefit. When others have used tactics that are well thought out  they actually have an impact like the Litton bombers the Squamish Five, Sea Shepherd, etc etc whose direct action tactics actually support allies in  the peaceful parts of protest.

Why supporters of the Black Bloc tactics of hijacking peaceful protests are unwilling to address my critigue. So tell me clearly HOw do you see these tactics as being effective? Do you seriously belief it is helping to rebuild a radical movement in Canada?

Perhaps I am deluded But i actually want to overthrow the state and the whole security appartus NOT strengthen it or allow my actions to be used to harm innocent bystanders.

The German Black bloc was so effective because they actually fought the police and protected peaceful protesters from police attack. They were part nof a huge effective squatters society with links to the rest of the radical left and they were awesome stragetists.

If the Black Bloc in Canada is unwilling to see they are off track with their tactics I guess they enjoy  the thrill of uselessly breaking windows with no political impact..

Strange attitude.. I am not interested in supporting a stragetgy that  does nothing to challenge Capitalism or its states or their security appartus.

Until the Black Bloc in Canada gets this, they will never be allies of radical change in Canada

 

Heh! I'll rephrase

This new wave of left radicalism and militancy in north america is still in it's infancy.

Slowly emerging from that long dormancy you pointed out Al.

After Seattle 99 and then 9-11, things fell in to lull.

That's the problem with long periods of no meaningful resistance, when the folks decide to take action again, there's not many people around to learn from. That will not be the case in ten years but for now, we must be patient as the angry youth mature in to more seasoned fighters.

A big part of this is not criticizing every little thing they do.

Most of the black blocs I've participated in feel like I'm surrounded by lots of passion and very little experience in a street fight. Repetition is the only cure I know for lack of experience.

 

Insurgent G and Sid thanks for sharing

Aloha Sid and insurgent G,

 

thanks for sharing your points of view. I know we may never agree on some of these issues. I guess my frustration is deeply embedded from 25 years of thinking we are on the edge of a new radicalism here in North America. Ever since i was part of an anarchist collective dedicated to direct action, i thought we would see results especially from those allies like the Squamish 5 and the Litton bombers who carried out very courageuos acts.

I am not seeing much change or radicalism. Perhaps i am too isolated here in Victoria. I just thought we would achieve more in the 25 years I have been active.

I trust you are correct Sid about the Black Bloc here. Maybe they will match or surpass the success of the German Black bloc. i am just not seeing any edvidence of that. I will keep on with my own projects and be ready when opportunities arise to assist in creating a more active respond to the creeping fascism that is our society.

And may you be correct Sid

Kudos to Comrade black for great writings as always.. Check out CB's other writings. Great stuff.

 

Aloha Al :)

 

 

Shared frustration

I hear that Al, although I haven't been waiting for 25 years?! Ouch.

The west coast is still quite sleepy north of the border, but look to the resistance around the raven coal mine for local inspiration and if you really want a smile, there's always the brave folks in montreal. 

As for matching the autonomists, I'd settle for just a fraction of that!

Al Redford definetely needs

Al Redford definetely needs to educate himself.  He thinks the black bloc in Germany was all cool, not "hijacking" other protests etc.  Take a look at some of the debates and discussions from Germany during the 1980s and it was exactly the same as those now occurring in North America.  Pacifists and liberals in Germany condemned the black bloc for the same reasons Redford and others do here. 

As for allegations that black bloc participants are police agents: extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.  The only example, often brought up, is the Montebello 2007 one in which the SQ sent in undercover cops posing as militants.  But guess what?  It was black bloc militants who identified them and forced them out, unfortunately the only video of it was when the union organizer was confronting them and they stepped into the police line to be "arrested."

To say black blocs in North America have not been successful shows, again, your lack of education on the matter.  Seattle 1999 smeared the WTO as a bad thing, Quebec City 2001 showed a mass militancy against the Summit of the Americas--in both these mobilizations the black bloc played a pivotal role. The Toronto G20 black bloc was a great success, completely overshadowing the state's summit with scenes of militant resistance, burning cop cars, disorganized riot cops, etc.  Think the government of Toronto or Canada wanted these to be the world's impression of the summit?

You're not seeing much change or radicalism?  Even in Victoria you must see the waves of global revolt and rebellion occurring, you've heard of the Arab Spring perhaps?  Spanish Revolution, Occupy, May Day...?  Perhaps it's not that you're isolated in Victoria but simply cynical.  Fair enough, but try not spreading your cynicism around with poorly informed statements (especially on an article celebrating a militant now imprisoned for her actions).

Luckily I am constantly educating myself Zig Zag

Thanks for responding Zig Zag. I understand you find my statements poorly informed and  somehow I am a cynic. Actually If you read carefully you would see I praise direct actions by groups and individuals with a purpose, who whether they are the Animal liberation Front Earth First, Sea Shepherd, Squamish 5 or the Litton bombers, seem to get the idea that effective successful direct action is about more than using the same tactics over and over again. My point is I believe a renewnal of radicalism in the north American context needs to analyse what is effective and what is not.

Now you and I differ Zig Zag on what direct action is successful. You see the G20 as successful and somehow believe the city of Toronto and Harper's government was worried about the impression the Black Bloc gave out to the world. Strange I do not think they give a FUCK. really. They used the opportunity to crack down and imprison 100 people most of who were detained illegally without cause.   

You are not concern about Police inflitration of the Black Bloc or the conveniently abandoned police vehicles or the fact that the riot squad did not engage the Bloc when the window smashing started. They deliberately chose not to do anything.

So for you this is a mark of a succesful Black Bloc action. For me being highly uneducated, I like to question thungs. SO I ask could it be possible that the giovernment and the police actually want BLACK BLOC predictable smash up windows cars etc SO they can use it in the media AND to  take action against the main protests as well as set up  a scenario where they are in full control. SORRY I GUESS I AM JUST A CYNIC FOR EVEN THINKING SUCH A THOUGHT.

For some reason I am not viewing the events at the g20 as a Success or a model for radical direct action. 

I do agree the Summit of the Americas was an example where there was some thought put into the protest..with dividing the protest up into 3 zones Green yellow and Red. This  tactic actually meant there was some action including the fence coming down and the teddy bear :) catapult... being used against police.

At the g20 nothing anywhere approach this success or the Success of the WTO involving the Black Bloc  happened in my uneducated opinion. I know for you Zig Zag it was a roaring successful with Capitalists losing power every day before the power new radicalism which has led to amazing changes in our society and created zonesof liberation. WHY I insist on being deluded and not seeing this reality is beyond belief.

 

The Arab Spring, the Spanish Revolution and the Greek battles do occur if I am correct Outside  of North America. Now I agree Occupy has brought a frsh outlook. We will have to see where it goes from here.

Strangely though in Oakland the Occupy Protesters actively engaged Black Bloc protesters who were spraypainting and attempting to smash windows at a Whole Foods store. Theese Occupers must just be a reactionary fringe though. Probably thoughly uneducated and unable to see how successful window smashing around the  continent will usher in  the revolution. Crazy that we are not able to recognize these great sucesses and the massive tidal wave of radicalism sweeping thoughout Canada and the US. Only a Cynic like me could fail to see that soon the Black Bloc will lead us to liberation by using these succesful tactics.. It just takes a bit of time. How silly of me.

How silly of me to think that at the Toronto G20 the cop cars were left as a deliberate distraction and that the cops were actually highly organized...

Here are some others you would also disagree with as well:

http://www.anarchistnews.org/?q=node/15460

 

http://libcom.org/library/black-bloc-salar-mohandesi

 

I particularly like this critique of Hedges attack on the Black Bloc. You might like it too Zig Zag except where the author is critical of the BB.

http://pink-scare.blogspot.ca/2012/02/against-hedges-on-black-bloc.html

and someone harsher on the BB.

http://jacobinmag.com/blog/2012/02/black-bloc-idiots/

 

and someone who supports the Black Bloc agreeing with you Zig Zag

http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2012/02/07/18706832.php

 

Another article you might like:

http://theanarchistlibrary.org/library/severino-has-the-black-bloc-tactic-reached-the-end-of-it-s-usefulness

 

I am not afraid of a debate with those that see the Black Bloc as successful. I just think it is important to have a debate. For me I still firmly believe new tactics and an evolution of how to approach direct action and protests. Then again I actually want to see the Global Corporate Nation State system be overthrown. Some believe it must be done in the same old tired hierachical  way with some sort of Lefist cabal. For me I believe it must come in an organic way.

Strangely based on my interactions with many people I actually remain optimistic that one day we wil liberate ourselves from the tyranny of a Global state system.

You are correct Zig Zag that I do not believe in the current Black Bloc tactics being employed in North America. I am encouraged though by others who are doing dynamic  direct action that is in my opinion making a difference.

I am also sure that some in the ever changing Black Bloc will realize and adopt more succesful direct actions rather than repeat the same thing over and over.

See you on the other side

Aloha Al :)

Conveniently abandoned police vehicles?

I think most of your problem Al, which I see in your reading list, is that you're consuming too much editorial media about the black bloc. It's pretty different from the reality. Most of your opinions on it seem to be pre-digested by some liberal writer.

Then there's the strange tendency to equate black blocs as if they're some kind of collective identity which again, is mostly a product of editorials from people who don't know much about the subject.

Of course, Victoria isn't  the kind of town where you'd be able to go to some demos and experience the real thing, so you're left with all of the distortions of media.

The reality is pretty simple, people who're sick of peaceful marches and complaining, actively defending themselves and occasionally going on the attack. No, it's not the insurrection yet but it's a stepping stone and it certainly isn't stopping people from doing clandestine sabotege too, which you seem to advocate.

As if the kids trying to riot at the NATO summit is somehow impeding the efforts of eco-saboteurs somewhere else? As for that shit about deliberately abandoned police cars ... only people who spend way too much time online still believe that crap.

Black Bloc Tactics Useful, But Not Beyond Reproach

I agree that it's important not to take the word of liberals and mainstream media without a good deal of skepticism regarding black bloc tactics (which is what they are - TACTICS! - which is why I won't speak of the black bloc as if it's an actual organization: those using such tactics are also involved in a variety of other efforts, such as planting community gardens, doing ant-racist and anti-oppression work, community organizing, etc. etc. - let's not speak of such folk as if they're only purpose is to show up at demonstrations to "smash shit up").

I think it's counter-productive to blame the BB for the appalling police repression that happened in Toronto.  To my knowledge, aside from union bureaucrats and a few social democratic and liberal types, this is not the view of the grassroots organizations that actually organized the protests.  They've put the blame squarely where it belongs: with the cops who carried out the violence and massive violations of civil liberties.

I do believe it's important to subject BB tactics to the same kind of critical scrutiny that we would any other tactic.  For example, the Vancouver Minister who's car got smashed during the recent Seattle May Day actions, if I understand correctly what actually happened, is not a good example of strategic property destruction (the same goes for attacking most small business and "Mom and Pop" type places that are often owned by immigrant families who work extremely long hours for the kind of pay that's considerably lower than what a well-paid union member would make).  

I attended the Heart Attack action during the Anti-Olympics Convergence and I believe it was generally understood that there was at least a possibility that "militant actions" would occur.  When they did, seeing the sudden appearance of riot cops coming after us, quite frankly, scared the shit out of me.  Nonetheless, as I chose to be there and knew in advance that this was a possibility, I didn't blame those engaging in BB tactics for putting me at risk of getting arrested (or worse).

A friend from Ontario once told me that, during certain OCAP actions, it is generally understood that there is some degree of risk involved, such as at those actions that are of a more confrontational nature.  These are not places to bring the kids: OCAP also organizes community picnics and other "family" type events for those who would not feel safe at an action where a "diversity of tactics" may be expected.

I do agree that the issue of police and provocateur infiltration of the BB has not been adequately addressed in radical and anarchist communities.  We should expect that police agents will use the anonymity of BB tactics to carry out the kind of activities that could be later blamed on the real BB to paint them as violent thugs who value destruction simply for it's own sake.

The only way around this would seem to be carefully worded (and anonymous!) statements disavowing such actions, as well as explaining why certain targets were chosen (perhaps not a very practical suggestion given the security issues involved, but it's just an idea).

Of course, we can all agree that the actual "violence" of a few smashed windows and over-turned corporate newspaper boxes is nothing compared to the real violence of capitalism and the state. 

 

 

 

Conveniently abandoned police vehicles? etc

Aloha Sid

I understand that you think my criticism of the Black Bloc tactic of smashing windows at demonstrations is a result of being lifted and predigested by some liberal writer. Hmm I wonder what liberal writer that is? And what is exactly your definition of liberal?

The liberal capitalist media that I see(which includes everything from Fox to CBC) certainly does not spout anything close to my opinion. They label the black bloc as dangerous hooligans and other similar words and urge police crackdowns or cheer on the police with apparent glee(As CBC did during the entire G20 event)

I am under no illusion that the Black Bloc is a ORGANIZED collective identity.

I have been raising two main issues:

One this BB tactic is overused in North America in my opinion to the exclusion of more effective direct action tactics AND I personally see zero impact on the Corporate economic and political structures. Why people would want to repeat the same old ineffective tactic when  taking acting as a Black Bloc is beyond me. It is in the same category as the Peaceful protesters who just follow the same rote protests tactics or the Business Unions way of doing busines with Capitalism... None seem to have anuy meaningful impact on challenging Capitalism or its agents.

NUMBER TWO: I raise the issue of police infiltration of affinty groups and their attempts to use these groups as part of their Stragety. I believe they are being very successful in doing this. Yes there are some exceptions to the rule such as recent activity in Quebec where BB along with other protesters took the fight to the police. Still I shake my head at the repetitioon of a small number of tactics that I see as ineffective and actually reinforce the police and the state. WHY anyone would want to do that repeatedly make no sense to me.

Af for the police cars at the G20..Sid I am a bit confused. Am I to believe CBC assertion that the Police abandoned their vehicles because they were afraid for their safety? Does not wash with me or what Eyewitnesses reported. Sorry, I actually lived in TO and know the streets there.... So I guess we will disagree on police tactics and stragety which I saw as being highly efective at suppressing dissent. To it is sad the more effective strageties and tactics are not being employed to messed up the police's plans... LUCKILY the Quebecois seem to be thinking outside the box.

"As if the kids trying to riot at the NATO summit is somehow impeding the efforts of eco-saboteurs somewhere else?" I am not sure what you mean by this question. The Black Bloc or anyone else employing useless tactics will have no impact on other succesful types of direct action. I certainly never said or wrote that. I merely pointed out that there are succesful way to challenge the Capitalist overlords..  thanks again for the debate and discussions.

Aloha Al :)

Great Post GBLK

Aloha GBLK,,

great post.

To blame the BB for police repression would be strange. At the same time to continue using tactics that  create public support for the police to get bloated budgets, commit illegal acts, create illegal jails etc. seems to be a strange route to challenge capitalism or the prevailing fascist order.

 

You are correct when you say the protest orgainers "...put the blame squarely where it belongs: with the cops who carried out the violence and massive violations of civil liberties." So do I. I also want to challenge us all to look at how to create and use more successful tactics that address issues of police infiltration and the actually have an impact on capitalist such as banks etc.. and smashing a few windows does not do that in my opinion.

 

There are ways tocounter police infiltration and I wish we would learn more from our European allies in terms of  using a MUCH greater diversity of tactics.

" Of course, we can all agree that the actual "violence" of a few smashed windows and over-turned corporate newspaper boxes is nothing compared to the real violence of capitalism and the state.

I 100% agree GBLK...My goal hear is to spark debate and discussion about how we counter the   " the real violence of capitalism and the state. " My poiint is the Black Bloc tactics employed in North America are not in my opinion very successful. I realize others believe they are. I want an active debate on this. I see many defend the tactics and dismissed the issue of police infiltration WITHOUT stating why they think they are successful. I am blogged that they think they are.. I see little evidence that they are. Any one care to comment?

Anyhow Sid and GBLK i am glad they are people that are willing to at least look at the issues and debate them. Otherwise there will be no change and this will suit the Capitalists and the police who obviously like things to remain the same.

Aloha Al

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