Monday, March 28, 2011

Black Block "anarchists" : How many of them are undercover cops?

I was at the demo on Saturday, and left the march in Piccadilly at the request of my wife, as the BlackBloc were smashing windows and the riot police were sidling into position.

Freshly-smashed pane of glass at Starbucks.

Riot police forming up in Bolton St.

Paint bombs on Santander

So who are the BlackBloc?

First and foremost, they claim to be a tactic, not a group. The tactic is to dress in black, mask face (so that police FIT teams cannot identify them) carry the black-red flags, let off thunderflashes, throw paint bombs, smash windows and get in the papers. The tactic is also to attack the demonstration that they are using as cover as energetically as they attack the State and its hated symbols (i.e. shop windows).

I recall Class War heckling CND rally speakers, and splashing mud on Joan Ruddock. And Spartacists arriving at a Gulf War rally carrying a huge, expensive-looking placard saying VICTORY TO SADDAM. We took their banner down before the Murdoch Press could get a snap of it to put on their front page.

The BlackBloc ideology is defined as Autonomist - someone who lives by their own rule. That figures.

There is an account of their tactics by Phil Dickens here.

Basically, their aim is to wage class war and smash the state. “1-2-3-4! This way to class war! 5-6-7-8! Organise and smash the state!”  
Hmm. This might be better:
"Smash the state, class war, starts with breaking plate glass doors". I made that up just now.

They alone have the correct line. Dickens is critical of Liberty in his article (police stooges) and "TUC and the absurdity of the reformist, social-partnership position." Only those who smash shop windows are true believers.

Phil ends : " If we want the government to back down, the cuts must become the more expensive option. We have to make the country ungovernable."

The question is: given that the peaceful Climate Camp was infested with up to three undercover police officers, what proportion of the BlackBloc are policemen and women? 

This vid is being widely tweeted on the BlackBloc hashtag on Twitter:

Go to 5:50 and you will see one bloke in black waved through the police line, even though the officers had been lashing out at others.

This is not overwhelming proof of an agent provocaterr, but is certainly is suspicious, and the BlackBloc has form with this. 

Genoa 2001:
In Italy, the Green party senator for Genoa, Francesco Martone, alleged that there was a history of collusion between the police and neo-fascists to discredit the left. "There is evidence that they have worked together to infiltrate the genuine protesters," ...Video evidence collected by protesters and the independent media suggests that men in black were seen getting out of police vans near protest marches. 

An Italian communist MP, Luigi Malabarba, said yesterday that during the riot on Friday night, "I saw groups of German and French people dressed as demonstrators in black with iron bars inside the police station near the Piazza di Kennedy. Draw your own conclusions." (source)

Quebec 2007
Quebec police admit they went undercover at Montebello protest

Conclusive proof is hard to find, until you have a case like Mark Stone/Kennedy, the guy who spied on the Climate Camp. But the presumption has to be that the Black Bloc networks (yes, they have networks, even though they are a "tactic, not a group") are infested with police spies.

[update] via Liberal Conspiracy : the Met Police, after initial denials, say:  "we have now established that covert officers were deployed during the G20 protests".

It is interesting that few black bloc activists get arrested. This may be partly because they try to un-arrest any of their comrades who do get taken. But it could be that the police might end up arresting one of their own. And that would be a waste of an asset, as we saw with Mark Stone, who was uncovered after his charge was dropped, unlike genuine campaigners.

The big question is, Do the spies act as agents provocateurs? 
It is clearly to the advantage of the hard right in the UK if the anti-cuts movement can be identified in the public mind with violence and rioting. 

To their credit, the broadcasters have been trying to distinguish between the genuine protesters and the "thugs", although they have been trying to conflate UKUncut with the Black bloc. UKUncut do seem reluctant so far to dissociate themselves by condemning the tactics of the Black Bloc.

And that's the problem. We are so keen to be inclusive, that we are reluctant to speak out against any tactics by apparent allies, even if they undermine our message, and play into the hands of the police by giving them an excuse to attack otherwise peaceful demonstrators.

If the real anarchists in the Black Bloc wise up and start to try to identify the undercover police in their ranks, especially if they can expose what role they had in relation to precipitating kettling, they would, at last, be doing us all a favour. 


Don't be Daft! said...

"Black Block "anarchists": How many of them are undercover cops?"

In truth, probably none. Derek should be able to correct any misconceptions you may have about this. Just ask him about CW meetings at The Porcupine in Bristol.

In the meantime, check out Ian Bone's blog.

Daily Mail: Anarchists will unleash hell.

Ian Bone: Let’s fucking hope so!

DocRichard said...

Please offer evidence for your "probably none".

DereK? Wall? CW? Corporate Welfare?

Ian Bone? URL?

Adrian Windisch said...

I suspect you are correct. I am suspicious of the small number of window smashers (not bb as face exposed) surrounded by dozens of press cameras. Why are these people not (in)famous?

Probably some are undercover cops. Papers are just full of spin. See the job the mail did on Adam Ramsay?

I think this is the blog mentioned

Know your rights! said...

Just a few short days after the biggest Trades Union march in a decade and way too much coverage on blogs is about individuals, or those who got themselves nicked while turning a shop into a 'creative space'.

It's terrible that I can't recall a blog post or interview about one average joe or joanne and what Saturday meant to them. I'm worried about my job and I have a young child.

It's not about the narcissistic sit ins by relatively very few people that get all the coverage on the news and blogs. It's not about the Black Bloc and it's not even about the policing. It's about us - the people of Britain with a lot to lose. Everyone seems to have forgotten that.

DocRichard said...

Thanks for that. I will take a look, when my browser decides it can read pasted in URLs again.

KYR: Xacly! The BlackBloc have done a wonderful job for Osbore, diverting attention from his attack on jobs.

I have written several posts on alternatives to Osbore plan. Here's one:


Know your rights! All three of em.. said...

Thanks Doc

I would argue that UKuncut have done a much better job than Osborne. Appearing on Newsnight and alienating people we need onside, writing self-obsessed articles in the Guardian about being arrested for occupying shops (an attracting a huge amount of derision).

Yes, I agree with their basic point that everyone should pay broadly what they owe in tax (the guardian certainly doesn't though) but I seriously think they are undermining the position of the rest of us by their actions (not their standpoint which most agree with). Nearly half a million people had their say and didn't get arrested. Where is their Guardian article, where is their blog post?

I have a lot of time for Ian Bone too. Interesting man.

DocRichard said...

As I say, I was on the first UKuncut action in Bristol. They have succeeded in getting a Parliamentary committee to look at tax avoidance. But I think the point is made, and we should now concentrate on getting a global tax regime in the G20 in france this November. Will benefit the whole world, and stop th "race to the bottom" - competition for lowest corporation taxes.