Crafting Gentleness

Monday, August 10, 2009

"After we have burnt everything" ...

I just received this link from a friend. It's a very powerful piece about 'Black Bloc' activism.

"For ten years I have run with the black bloc, seizing every chance, every moment we were strong enough, to run riot and fill the air with the sound of breaking glass and baton rounds, and the heady smells of adrenaline, gasoline, testosterone and teargas. For ten years I have stood up for the “diversity of tactics” and pushed for radicalization: from social movement to social struggle to social war. So this text is difficult for me to write...

During the days in Strasbourg I was always in or close to the black bloc-style actions, because that is where my affinity lies. For me it was appropriate to react to Police complicity in yet another death, this time at the G20 demonstrations in London; we were right to be angry at the way the demonstration in Strasbourg was relegated to an abandoned industrial estate and divided by thousands of riot police across the French-German border; I supported the decision to fight the police to try to break out of the space they had pushed us into with their negotiations and their crowd control weapons, and to try to take our actions somewhere more meaningful; and it filled me with joy to see the border post burn.

Even the Ibis Hotel action made me smile. It is a more complex issue: I don't think our actions on Saturday (or possibly ever?) are worth risking someone being seriously hurt for. However, I understand that no one was hurt in the action, and it is important to remember that the Hotel was part of the NATO summit, one of five Hotels in Strasbourg publicly set aside to house the thousands of journalists there to cover the “celebrations”, and a place from which police were spying on the demonstrators. So, even if we ignore the fact that Ibis profit from the deportations of sans papier, it is difficult to say that it was not a legitimate target.

But despite all that, the experience of that week left me feeling uncomfortable, alienated and confused. We took advantage of a peace march to make it look like war... We used the camp space, ate the food, and shat in the toilets. But, compared to previous self-managed events and camps, our participation in the village life was mostly limited to drinking beer, hiding in closed action meetings, or fighting the cops around the camp-site, building burning barricades, and making it look like war... And through it all I found myself questioning more and more how our actions relate to our politics, ourselves, our interactions and our values."

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