Tag Archives: Black Bloc

The frequently cited St Paul Principles had their time and place: ST PAUL


In my circle they’re called “Saint Paul’s Principles” because my colleagues think the edicts are Catholic I guess. The St Paul Principles came from St Paul Minnesota, circa 2008, and were formally adopted by the varied groups organizing to disrupt the Republican National Convention of 2008. They’ve lived on as guiding principles for activists of all ilk. In 2011 many Occupy encampments ratified the StPP as their own code of conduct, indifferent to whether they were applicable or even beneficial. Let’s examine the well intended dogma. Do they apply universally? Are they constructive? And how did they work out for St Paul? The last one is easy. As you may remember, disruption of the 2008 RNC failed spectacularly.

The St. Paul Principles

1. Our solidarity will be based on respect for a diversity of tactics and the plans of other groups.

2. The actions and tactics used will be organized to maintain a separation of time or space.

3. Any debates or criticisms will stay internal to the movement, avoiding any public or media denunciations of fellow activists and events.

4. We oppose any state repression of dissent, including surveillance, infiltration, disruption and violence. We agree not to assist law enforcement actions against activists and others.

It’s hard to argue against this elegant expression of solidarity. With the SPPs, the protest organizers aimed at preempting COINTELPRO style disruption from generating conflict within the movement. The implicit condemnation of violence was of state sponsored violence, not authentic barricade defense. And no snitching. The SPPs addressed the problems which were already scuttling Denver’s 2008 DNC protests. In Denver, “Recreate ’68” planners let the press infer they meant to revive the Chicago riots of 1968, prompting almost every traditional social justice group to circulate a contract which everyone was expected to sign. It was a vow of nonviolence. Organizations who refused to sign were ostracized and could expect the violent police clobbering they invited.

Essentially the SPPs aimed to unite the nonviolent and non-nonviolent activists, to ensure neither denounced the other, and that physically neither wound up caught in each other’s fights or sit-ins. Probably the chief concession was being asked of the nonviolent crowd: Please, as long as we promise not to shroud your family atmosphere and your baby strollers in tear gas, please let the Black Blocs do their thing without your repudiation. Please. We share the same goals.

Can you begin to see where such a strategy might fail to lead?

But the St Paul organizers did share the same goals. Their aim was to disrupt the RNC via a strategy they called “3S” actions. SWARM, SEIZE. STAY. It’s easy to see why three years later Occupy Wall Street was attracted to these directives. “3S” defines Occupy and another three years on, OWS activist followed the 2014 Climate March with an action called “Flood Wall Street” the instructions for which rephrased 3S aquatically.

The “movement” to which the SPPs refer shared a goal, to disrupt the RNC, by means of swarming, seizing, and staying, by whatever tactic each member group wanted. They shared a further agreement, that the city of St Paul was to be partitioned in sectors allowing groups to conduct their actions in isolation, united in time, but separated geographically so that red zone, yellow zone and green zone participants needn’t mix and find themselves out of their respective confort zones.

The groups organizing against the 2008 RNC shared one more thing in common, bound as they were to the St Paul Principles, they were all signatories to the principles.

Do the St Paul Principles apply universally?
It’s easy to see that the 2011 OWS occupations in major cities across the country shared a similar goal. It was, if perhaps more vague than to prevent a party convention, to disrupt the wheels of commerce by means of encampments; the “3S” tactic now reduced to a single verb “Occupy”. Allies such as unions and antiwar organizations, while sympathetic, cannot be said to have shared the same determinaton to disrupt. Even MoveOn with their “99% Spring”, FireDogLake with their merchandizing, and Adbusters had to relent with the revolutionary rhetoric. Eventually OWS spinoffs like Occupy Sandy Relief began to serve functions diametrically opposed to disruption. Did they expand the “movement”? Of course. But did the more inclusive “movement” outgrown the capacity for St Paul Principles to maintain its unity? Are activists bent on disruption expected to respect and support activists determined to prevent disruption?

I know it’s lovely to imagine every social justice effort as anti-authoritarian, and whether nonviolent or indulgent, each comprises a unique wing of a broad anti-government movement. If you are prepared to pretend that everyone’s aims are progressive, we share similar enough goals and we are reformists. But if some aims are revolutionary, explicitely anti-Capitalist for example like Occupy Wall Street, then reformists are counterrevolutionary. If you think reformists aren’t Capitalism’s first line of defense, even as they consider themselves activists, then you don’t know your adversaries from your allies. To imagine that activists shouldn’t address such chasms of understanding in favor of upholding popular delusion is going to get a movement nowhere.

At last year’s Climate March in NYC, the prevailing sentiment was against Capitalism. The organizers didn’t want to mouth it, but a vast number of marchers began to grasp instinctively that Capitalism has no solution for Climate Change. The anti-Capitalist movement can become “the movement” but reformists will have to understand they are obstructionists before they as individuals can be said to share the common goal.

The St Paul RNC Welcoming Committee aimed to disrupt the Republican National Convention for a WEEK. Can activist groups as they grow and transform over years and compete for membership and community resources expect that they shouldn’t be critical of one another’s missteps or aggressions even as their goals diverge?

How scalable are the St Paul Principles? Do they apply to no matter who considers themselves part of a greater “movement”. Do they apply to signatories and non-signatories alike?

Are the St Paul Principles constructive?
I would argue: Hardly. While it seems safer to segregate the Black Bloc from the civil disobedients from the family picnic crowd, you’re not going to reach critical mass with each on its own. With public dischord still in its infancy and while we have nowhere near the numbers to defend against or deter violent repression, perhaps it is only reasonable to program our street protests according to color zones, as if marches were amusement rides for protest tourism.

If you’re satisfied to lead combatants to jail and probation for mere symbolic shows of defiance, and you’re prepared to let nonviolent activists subject themselves to brutality which even when filmed will not awaken the conscience of the sociopathic oligarchs, and you’re resigned to let the masses burn themselves out with boredom given nothing to challenge their apathy, then the St Paul Principles are for you.

MIND THE GAP, chides Occupy Denver

Mind the gap
DENVER- Concert, 1000-strong march, and the customary Broadway sidewalk shenanigans. Here’s a paint-tub drummer, PVC didjeridoo and my vote for best sign: MIND THE GAP. Saturday’s musical festivities in Civic Center Park meshed well with the annual Zombie Crawl, but the day’s highlight came after dark, when Denver’s anarchist community held a march against police brutality in memory of DPD victim Marvin Booker. The unpermitted route began at Denver Zoo and defined “Whose streets? OUR STREETS!” as it took 23rd, York, Colfax, Broadway, around OCCUPY DENVER’s CC park and into the 16th Street Mall where nocturnal Zombies swelled the ranks and found themselves chanting and carrying the banners STOP POLICE TERRORISM and LAW ENFORCEMENT: END YOUR WAR AGAINST THE PEOPLE.

Black Bloc-headed Anarchism and the police team up to murder British man

The Black Bloc Anarchists have to be some of the most block-headed people around. It is simply impossible to differentiate between many of them and the police themselves, as both contrive to push innocent people into being victimized by police violence so as later to say that some demonstration or other was ‘radical’ and ‘violent’.

The Black Bloc dominated demonstration is always one of superficiality and most often times centered on petty vandalism and petty loser bouts against the police. Here on film is how the police and Block Bloc teamed up to murder one man, Ian Tomlinson. Ian Tomlinson death: Guardian video reveals police attack on man who died at G20 protest

Who Controls The Black Bloc Anarchists? The press would have us think that it is merely some bozo or other that does. The Evening Standard newspaper in their report ‘Black Bloc’ anarchists to hijack summit protests using shields and truncheons blamed the G20 London Black Bloc group on some individual lunatic named Alessio Lunghi, but the real control of these ‘ultra radical’ dumb-shits might just probably be with the police themselves?

It is important for us in the US to reject completely this type of confrontational idiocy being pushed by the Black Bloc Anarchists and the police. Those who tell us that it is ultra radical and effective as a protest method are just lunatics. What this mindset actually gets us, is smaller and smaller demonstrations, since normal people begin to fear to show up at events where they most likely will be tear gassed, arrested, or hurt in other ways.

JUST SAY NO to deliberate confrontational tactics with the police! It was the police themselves that hijacked the G20 protests, but the Black Bloc Anarchists gave them a helping hand. There is nothing radical about that at all.

DC March on the Pentagon was fueled by a promising alternative energy: youth

Youth and Student ANSWER Coalition march on the Pentagon March 21
WASHINGTON DC- Speakers were still entertaining an impatient crowd, and coffin carriers were mobilizing for the March to the Pentagon, when from the west came the Black Bloc. Bicycle cops in royal blue lycra scrambled to shepherd the group’s healthy gallop as they appeared from over the hill to kick the parade to a sudden start. They virtually led the parade over the bridge, until organizers prevailed upon the interlopers to allow the veterans groups to resume the lead, as planned. But it would not be the last initiative from the Anarchists.

(Click on image for better quality, wider crop)

1. THE MARCH
ANSWER March on the Pentagon, Mar 21, 2009
Black Bloc gallops into lead position, abruptly starting parade.

ANSWER March on the Pentagon, Mar 21, 2009
International Socialist Organization pass Lincoln Memorial

ANSWER March on the Pentagon, Mar 21, 2009
Peace groups from Vermont to Georgia

ANSWER March on the Pentagon, Mar 21, 2009
Youth and Student A.N.S.W.E.R.

ANSWER March on the Pentagon, Mar 21, 2009
West from the Washington Monument

ANSWER March on the Pentagon, Mar 21, 2009
Hezbollah crosses Arlington Memorial Bridge

ANSWER March on the Pentagon, Mar 21, 2009
Campus Antiwar Network

ANSWER March on the Pentagon, Mar 21, 2009
Across the Potomac

ANSWER March on the Pentagon, Mar 21, 2009
To the Pentagon

ANSWER March on the Pentagon, Mar 21, 2009
Code Pink paraded the parade

ANSWER March on the Pentagon, Mar 21, 2009
To military industrial complex in Crystal City

2. INTERRUPTION
ANSWER March on the Pentagon, Mar 21, 2009
At a narrowing of the route at the Boeing building, several students blocked the march with a plastic barrier.

ANSWER March on the Pentagon, Mar 21, 2009
Raising questions about the gentrified nature and self-policing demeanor of the event organizers and participants.

ANSWER March on the Pentagon, Mar 21, 2009
The Black Bloc honored the picket line, thus the Campus Antiwar Network and following groups were brought to a halt.

ANSWER March on the Pentagon, Mar 21, 2009
When the Black Bloc decided to move on to next actions, the march resumed.

2b. INTERRUPTION
ANSWER March on the Pentagon, Mar 21, 2009

Marie Walden, March on the Pentagon, Mar 21, 2009

Eric Verlo, March on the Pentagon, Mar 21, 2009

ANSWER March on the Pentagon, Mar 21, 2009
At the first hint of misbehavior, stocky 40-something “videographers” in undercover protest garb were pointing their cameras into the noses of the black-clad participants.

3. MESSAGE VARIETY
ANSWER March on the Pentagon, Mar 21, 2009

ANSWER March on the Pentagon, Mar 21, 2009

ANSWER March on the Pentagon, Mar 21, 2009

ANSWER March on the Pentagon, Mar 21, 2009

ANSWER March on the Pentagon, Mar 21, 2009

ANSWER March on the Pentagon, Mar 21, 2009

ANSWER March on the Pentagon, Mar 21, 2009

ANSWER March on the Pentagon, Mar 21, 2009

ANSWER March on the Pentagon, Mar 21, 2009

ANSWER March on the Pentagon, Mar 21, 2009

ANSWER March on the Pentagon, Mar 21, 2009

ANSWER March on the Pentagon, Mar 21, 2009

ANSWER March on the Pentagon, Mar 21, 2009

ANSWER March on the Pentagon, Mar 21, 2009

ANSWER March on the Pentagon, Mar 21, 2009

ANSWER March on the Pentagon, Mar 21, 2009
Why explain? You won’t listen.

4. COUNTER PROTEST
ANSWER March on the Pentagon, Mar 21, 2009
On the Pentagon lawn, near signs pointing to the “Pentagon Memorial,” white folk waited with the usual anti-antiwar slogans.

ANSWER March on the Pentagon, Mar 21, 2009
Megaphone versus megaphone.

ANSWER March on the Pentagon, Mar 21, 2009
That simple.

5. CONFRONTATION
ANSWER March on the Pentagon, Mar 21, 2009
Police in riot gear await march destination at KBR.

ANSWER March on the Pentagon, Mar 21, 2009

ANSWER March on the Pentagon, Mar 21, 2009

ANSWER March on the Pentagon, Mar 21, 2009

ANSWER March on the Pentagon, Mar 21, 2009

ANSWER March on the Pentagon, Mar 21, 2009

ANSWER March on the Pentagon 2009

ANSWER March on the Pentagon 2009

ANSWER March on the Pentagon, Mar 21, 2009

6. COLORADANS FOR PEACE
ANSWER March on the Pentagon 2009

ANSWER March on the Pentagon 2009

Eric Verlo, March on the Pentagon, Mar 21, 2009

Eric Verlo, March on the Pentagon, Mar 21, 2009

Eric Verlo, March on the Pentagon, Mar 21, 2009

(Still more photos to follow…)