I have, in my lifetime, participated in many different kinds of action. My experience has shown police repression and state violence is not a response to violent demonstrationse, but to effective ones. We have the right to ineffective protest, outside the "yellow zones" which protect the powerful and enable them to ignore us.
I took part along with millions of people world wide in the largely peaceful demonstrations on 15th February 2003. I watched as they ignored us, and went to war in the name of democracy. It made me sick and angry. It showed that the biggest demonstration in history will not change things if it just voices dissent. Direct action of all colours is the only way to make change.
All the blockades on Sunday took place in this spirit. They were NOT about expressing an opinion. The people's "opinion" of the fucked up system we live in has been voiced load and clear, time and time again. The blockades were about direct disruption of a high profile meeting of heads of state - to actively make the G8 face resistance.
Personally I felt that because our actions might be effective, we would certainly be attacked. I wanted to be able to defend myself and those around me. This was confirmed to me when the first police charges took place in Laussanne. The first charges were against the P&S carnival, not the Black Block. The two Blocks were clearly seperate, acting in different areas. The police fired gas into the peaceful carnival because it got too close to the delegates route: i.e. because it was effective.
Many of the P&S Block ran to behind the Black Block who were more prepared to defend against the attack. If it wasn't for the active resistance slowing the police advance the space we held would have been cleared much more quickly. If it wasn't for the music and energy of the P&S Block it would have been a very dark place to be. When the two blocks merged under police attack it gave the space life and refused to give it up without a fight.
Being attacked by heavily armed riot police is terrifying. It has happened to me many times now and I think you never get over the fear. But I have come to feel more and more like fighting back and I have come to understand more the value of the Black Block.
A "Black Block" is not the same as a riot. In the looting and street fighting I saw in Geneve the people were mostly local kids, some didn't even cover their faces. They broke any windows for the rush of it and threw anything at the police, in anger (launching plastic bottles at armoured riot police will not have much impact...) For me this popular anger is a response the result of alienation and the crushing of people's lives and spirits by wage slavery, media propaganda and consumerism. It is beatiful in its way but it is not the same as a Black Block.
A well organised Black Block (like we were on Sunday) is made of autonomous groups of friends who are well prepared and take the streets with some common tactical understanding of what we are there for. To take spacea and defend it with barricades and projectiles, to use the fleeting moment in which we control the space to destroy the property and symbols of the disgusting system we are all forced to live under. This property damage is NOT "random vandalism" it is highly political and usually carefully targetted. On Sunday I saw debates between different groups (and languages!) about the politics of different targets, stones in hand. Some targets were attacked, others left intact as a result of these discussions.
The smashing and burning created by the Black Block is as important as the music and colour created by the carnival. If we just fight and destroy we will create a very bleak new world, and Anti-capitalist movements are strong beacuse they are imaginative and diverse, but some messages are crystal clear:
Capitalism Kills. People suffer and die because of Capitalist exploitation and wars. The planet is being consumed by pollution and destruction. Millions are made refugees by economic, ecological and military abuses. They are persecuted, detained and deported. The way of life in the G8 countries is based on this suffering and persecution...
If we really mean this then to just go into the streets and party is an entirely inadequate response. It is right to respond to overwhelming injustice with anger and entirely appropriate to leave Lausanne and Geneve looking like a war zone for a short while. If these sumits take place to the sound of helicopter blades amid burning barricades and tear gas it unmasks the real violence hidden by the slick corporate show. And it makes people sit up and take notice in a way that marching peacefully cannot achieve. It gets noticed and opens political space for ideas to break through and grow.
George Orwell once commented that a society in which it is a crime to kill one person but not to drop 10,000 tonnes of high explosive on a residential area sometimes made him feel that this planet is an insane asylum made use of by other planets. I feel the same way when I see the scandal raised in the media about a few broken windows when our western way of life is so dependent on abuse, terror, poverty and exploitation. The hysterical condemnation of Black Block "violence" is, to me, slightly insane.
I think this view may have been shared by the genuinely surprising number of residents of Lausanne who came out into the street and onto their balconies to wave at the masked up black block and accept the free food and cigarettes, liberated from the looted shops, with a little smile. Those people were not threatened by the black block's clearly targetted attacks. The parents and children were caught in the indescriminate police gas attacks in the park were terrified, but not of the masked up Black Block activists who helped them to safety. One small girl gave me a kiss in thanks. Everone I know who was in the Black Block on Sunday really cares, that is why they are there.
This is just a stream of my thoughts and it is getting late so I stop now. There should also space for criticism of many of the ways we worked this weekend, but right now the battle is still going on and there is so much to do. I just wanted to add a Black Block voice to the celebrations of the co-operation and diversity of our movement posted here.
with love and solidarity
we are not innocent