N30 Black Bloc Communique

From Stefan Wray <swray@io.com>
Date Sat, 04 Dec 1999 13:39:15 -0600

[: hacktivism :]

While this piece below deals exclusively with the destruction of property
during the WTO meeting in Seattle, it raises interesting points that can be
applied to digital property. So it is pertinent to this list. 
    - Stefan Wray

N30 Black Bloc Communique 
by ACME Collective 10:48am Sat Dec 4 '99 

Source: http://www.indymedia.org

A communique from one section of the black bloc of N30 in Seattle 

On November 30, several groups of individuals in black bloc attacked
various corporate targets in downtown Seattle. Among them were (to name
just a few): 

Fidelity Investment (major investor in Occidental Petroleum, the bane of
the U'wa tribe in Columbia) Bank of America, US Bancorp, Key Bank and
Washington Mutual Bank (financial institutions key in the expansion of
corporate repression) Old Navy, Banana Republic and the GAP (as Fisher
family businesses, rapers of Northwest forest lands and sweatshop laborers)
NikeTown and Levi's (whose overpriced products are made in sweatshops)
McDonald's (slave-wage fast-food peddlers responsible for destruction of
tropical rainforests for grazing land and slaughter of animals) Starbucks
(peddlers of an addictive substance whose products are harvested at
below-poverty wages by farmers who are forced to destroy their own forests
in the process) Warner Bros. (media monopolists) Planet Hollywood (for
being Planet Hollywood) 

This activity lasted for over 5 hours and involved the breaking of
storefront windows and doors and defacing of facades. Slingshots, newspaper
boxes, sledge hammers, mallets, crowbars and nail-pullers were used to
strategically destroy corporate property and gain access (one of the three
targeted Starbucks and Niketown were looted). Eggs filled with glass
etching solution, paint-balls and spray-paint were also used. 

The black bloc was a loosely organized cluster of affinity groups and
individuals who roamed around downtown, pulled this way by a vulnerable and
significant storefront and that way by the sight of a police formation.
Unlike the vast majority of activists who were pepper-sprayed, tear-gassed
and shot at with rubber bullets on several occasions, most of our section
of the black bloc escaped serious injury by remaining constantly in motion
and avoiding engagement with the police. We buddied up, kept tight and
watched each others' backs. Those attacked by federal thugs were
un-arrested by quick-thinking and organized members of the black bloc. The
sense of solidarity was awe-inspiring. 


Unfortunately, the presence and persistence of "peace police" was quite
disturbing. On at least 6 separate occasions, so-called "non-violent"
activists physically attacked individuals who targeted corporate property.
Some even went so far as to stand in front of the Niketown super store and
tackle and shove the black bloc away. Indeed, such self-described
"peace-keepers" posed a much greater threat to individuals in the black
bloc than the notoriously violent uniformed "peace-keepers" sanctioned by
the state (undercover officers have even used the cover of the activist
peace-keepers to ambush those who engage in corporate property destruction). 


Response to the black bloc has highlighted some of the contradictions and
internal oppressions of the "nonviolent activist" community. Aside from the
obvious hypocrisy of those who engaged in violence against black-clad and
masked people (many of whom were harassed despite the fact that they never
engaged in property destruction), there is the racism of privileged
activists who can afford to ignore the violence perpetrated against the
bulk of society and the natural world in the name of private property
rights. Window-smashing has engaged and inspired many of the most oppressed
members of Seattle's community more than any giant puppets or sea turtle
costumes ever could (not to disparage the effectiveness of those tools in
other communities). 


Here's a little something to dispel the myths that have been circulating
about the N30 black bloc: 

1. "They are all a bunch of Eugene anarchists." While a few may be
anarchists from Eugene, we hail from all over the United States, including
Seattle. In any case, most of us are familiar with local issues in Seattle
(for instance, the recent occupation of downtown by some of the most
nefarious of multinational retailers). 

2. "They are all followers of John Zerzan." A lot of rumors have been
circulating that we are followers of John Zerzan, an anarcho-primitivist
author from Eugene who advocates property destruction. While some of us may
appreciate his writings and analyses, he is in no sense our leader,
directly, indirectly, philosophically or otherwise. 

3. "The mass public squat is the headquarters of the anarchists who
destroyed property on November 30th." In reality, most of the people in the
"Autonomous Zone" squat are residents of Seattle who have spent most of
their time since its opening on the 28th in the squat. While they may know
of one-another, the two groups are not co-extensive and in no case could
the squat be considered the headquarters of people who destroyed property. 

4. "They escalated situations on the 30th, leading to the tear-gassing of
passive, non-violent protesters." To answer this, we need only note that
tear-gassing, pepper-spraying and the shooting of rubber bullets all began
before the black blocs (as far as we know) started engaging in property
destruction. In addition, we must resist the tendency to establish a causal
relationship between police repression and protest in any form, whether it
involved property destruction or not. The police are charged with
protecting the interests of the wealthy few and the blame for the violence
cannot be placed upon those who protest those interests. 

5. Conversely: "They acted in response to the police repression." While
this might be a more positive representation of the black bloc, it is
nevertheless false. We refuse to be misconstrued as a purely reactionary
force. While the logic of the black bloc may not make sense to some, it is
in any case a pro-active logic. 

6. "They are a bunch of angry adolescent boys." Aside from the fact that it
belies a disturbing ageism and sexism, it is false. Property destruction is
not merely macho rabble-rousing or testosterone-laden angst release. Nor is
it displaced and reactionary anger. It is strategically and specifically
targeted direct action against corporate interests. 

7. "They just want to fight." This is pretty absurd, and it conveniently
ignores the eagerness of "peace police" to fight us. Of all the groups
engaging in direct action, the black bloc was perhaps the least interested
in engaging the authorities and we certainly had no interest in fighting
with other anti-WTO activists (despite some rather strong disagreements
over tactics). 

8. "They are a chaotic, disorganized and opportunistic mob." While many of
us could surely spend days arguing over what "chaotic" means, we were
certainly not disorganized. The organization may have been fluid and
dynamic, but it was tight. As for the charge of opportunism, it would be
hard to imagine who of the thousands in attendance _didn't_ take advantage
of the opportunity created in Seattle to advance their agenda. The question
becomes, then, whether or not we helped create that opportunity and most of
us certainly did (which leads us to the next myth): 

9. "They don't know the issues" or "they aren't activists who've been
working on this." While we may not be professional activists, we've all
been working on this convergence in Seattle for months. Some of us did work
in our home-towns and others came to Seattle months in advance to work on
it. To be sure, we were responsible for many hundreds of people who came
out on the streets on the 30th, only a very small minority of which had
anything to do with the black bloc. Most of us have been studying the
effects of the global economy, genetic engineering, resource extraction,
transportation, labor practices, elimination of indigenous autonomy, animal
rights and human rights and we've been doing activism on these issues for
many years. We are neither ill-informed nor unexperienced. 

10. "Masked anarchists are anti-democratic and secretive because they hide
their identities." Let's face it (with or without a mask)--we aren't living
in a democracy right now. If this week has not made it plain enough, let us
remind you--we are living in a police state. People tell us that if we
really think that we're right, we wouldn't be hiding behind masks. "The
truth will prevail" is the assertion. While this is a fine and noble goal,
it does not jive with the present reality. Those who pose the greatest
threat to the interests of Capital and State will be persecuted. Some
pacifists would have us accept this persecution gleefully. Others would
tell us that it is a worthy sacrifice. We are not so morose. Nor do we feel
we have the privilege to accept persecution as a sacrifice: persecution to
us is a daily inevitability and we treasure our few freedoms. To accept
incarceration as a form of flattery betrays a large amount of "first world"
privilege. We feel that an attack on private property is necessary if we
are to rebuild a world which is useful, healthful and joyful for everyone.
And this despite the fact that hypertrophied private property rights in
this country translate into felony charges for any property destruction
over $250. 


The primary purpose of this communique is to diffuse some of the aura of
mystery that surrounds the black bloc and make some of its motivations more
transparent, since our masks cannot be. 


We contend that property destruction is not a violent activity unless it
destroys lives or causes pain in the process. By this definition, private
property--especially corporate private property--is itself infinitely more
violent than any action taken against it. Private property should be
distinguished from personal property. The latter is based upon use while
the former is based upon trade. The premise of personal property is that
each of us has what s/he needs. The premise of private property is that
each of us has something that someone else needs or wants. 

In a society based on private property rights, those who are able to accrue
more of what others need or want have greater power. By extension, they
wield greater control over what others perceive as needs and desires,
usually in the interest of increasing profit to themselves. Advocates of
"free trade" would like to see this process to its logical conclusion: a
network of a few industry monopolists with ultimate control over the lives
of the everyone else. Advocates of "fair trade" would like to see this
process mitigated by government regulations meant to superficially impose
basic humanitarian standards. 

As anarchists, we despise both positions. Private property--and capitalism,
by extension--is intrinsically violent and repressive and cannot be
reformed or mitigated. Whether the power of everyone is concentrated into
the hands of a few corporate heads or diverted into a regulatory apparatus
charged with mitigating the disasters of the latter, no one can be as free
or as powerful as they could be in a non-hierarchical society. When we
smash a window, we aim to destroy the thin veneer of legitimacy that
surrounds private property rights. At the same time, we exorcise that set
of violent and destructive social relationships which has been imbued in
almost everything around us. 

By "destroying" private property, we convert its limited exchange value
into an expanded use value. A storefront window becomes a vent to let some
fresh air into the oppressive atmosphere of a retail outlet (at least until
the police decide to tear-gas a nearby road blockade). A newspaper box
becomes a tool for creating such vents or a small blockade for the
reclamation of public space or an object to improve one's vantage point by
standing on it. A dumpster becomes an obstruction to a phalanx of rioting
cops and a source of heat and light. A building facade becomes a message
board to record brainstorm ideas for a better world. After N30, many people
will never see a shop window or a hammer the same way again. The potential
uses of an entire cityscape have increased a thousand-fold. The number of
broken windows pales in comparison to the number broken spells--spells cast
by a corporate hegemony to lull us into forgetfulness of all the violence
committed in the name of private property rights and of all the potential
of a society without them. Broken windows can be boarded up (with yet more
waste of our forests) and eventually replaced, but the shattering of
assumptions will hopefully persist for some time to come. 

Against Capital and State, 

the ACME Collective 

"Peasant Revolt!" 
Disclaimer: these observations and analyses represent only those of the
ACME Collective and should not be construed to be representative of the
rest of the black bloc on N30 or anyone else who engaged in riot or
property destruction that day.

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