This report outlines recommendations for antifascist best practices and lessons learned featured in a recent a article published by a major mainstream media outlet. The journalist encourages the pursuit of violence in matters of political discourse, and provides information from antifascist organizers on how best to pursue violent activity. This report is for subscribers of Low Intensity Conflict.
In an article published by the New York Times, journalist Rick Paulas interviews antifascists about black bloc tactics. Speaking on the importance of dressing in all black and covering your face as a member of a group, one antifascist organizer says that black bloc activities promote anonymity, aesthetic intimidation, and group solidarity. “It’s tactical, and practical, and it’s also an art form with the effect of building solidarity long after the boots go into the closet.”
Anonymity is the most frequent purpose that the members gave for why their wear the black clothing and asks. Their self-stated goals are to hunt fascists, combat law enforcement, and “take the offensive against any material symbols and power centers of capitalism and the state.” Black block members follow a security protocol that warns them not to use, wear, or carry any item or article of clothing that they would wear or have worn in the course of their normal lives. Those items could be used to identify them later, after they’ve committed assault, or damaged public property or other symbols of capitalism — which includes Starbucks storefronts. Black bloc members are concerned as well that their actions run the risk being identified by friends and family members.
‘Aesthetic intimidation’ is another reoccurring reason why the black bloc dresses alike in all black clothing. One member says that a “mass of solid black descending upon the park in Berkeley, hunting for fascists, was an intimidating aesthetic. That’s by design.” Another member tells the journalist that “[a] group of people all dressed in black can be intimidating.”
Members also go past these two simple rules (black clothing and face-covering) to focus on the tactical advantages of their clothing. Wearing all black carries a tactical advantage because it gives the group a zebra-like effect, which acts like a camouflage. Black bloc members also mention the protective qualities of the clothing they wear. “One should decide on organic or synthetic gloves before participating in an action: Wool and cotton may allow chemical contaminants, like pepper spray, to absorb, while nylon can melt if you grab something hot, which historically has included some kinds of tear-gas canisters but can include various things on fire.”
Black bloc tactics are designed to build solidarity within the group. One member states that, “black bloc creates a feeling of ‘Who you are is who I am.’ It doesn’t matter who I am when we’re fighting together.” Because of the uniformity the group has, it’s nearly impossible for them to identify each other. According to the members, this promotes equality and identification as a singular movement.