The Black Bloc: Inside America’s Hard Left

The Black Bloc: Inside America’s Hard Left

October 26, 2019 100 By Stanley Isaacs


Fear is a part of our tactics. We do want Nazis to be afraid to
organize in public. It’s our job to go out
there and say: No, we’re not going to allow you to
spread these ideas. Philadelphia make it clear, fascists are not welcomed here. Politically, I’m an
anarcho-communist and I’m an anti-fascist. And right now, I’m focusing a lot
on that anti-fascism. So what I’m doing here is mixing half part water and half part liquid antacid. It makes something called L.A.W. or Liquid and Antacid and Water. You use it in response
to pepper spray. We get a lot of accusations that
we’re doing this for kicks, that we’re doing this because
we’re violent teens, who just want to see violence happen. I consider myself to be
someone who’s very fed up with seeing protests
that accomplish nothing. I did a lot of marching
and holding signs and yelling in the streets
and getting permits. And it didn’t really feel like
I was doing enough. I was aware that, you know,
obviously there’s plenty of racists in the country, but I didn’t realize that they were
organized and political, and actively out to cause violence. Seeing the state of the world
and seeing the news and seeing what’s going on, seeing how much danger
people were in, made me want to get involved. The term Antifa is short
for anti-fascist. And as many people know,
anti-fascism dates back to fascism, so we can see anti-fascists battling
Mussolini’s Blackshirts in Italy, standing up to Hitler’s Nazis. And today, a lot of anti-fascists
draw from the European tradition. And really, it’s at the front lines
of physically confronting fascists and white supremacists organizing in the
United States today. There’s no one organization
called the Black Bloc. It’s dozens, hundreds, thousands of
autonomous organizations all across the country,
all across the world. Black Bloc or Bloc is
just what we wear. It’s entirely black, simple,
non-identifying clothing. You don’t want to get
identified by Nazis. Or they’re going to try
and show up to your house, try and contact your employer, beat you up on the street if
they get the chance. So it’s important they can’t
find who you are. But it’s also important that
if you’re doing something illegal, if you’re trying to punch a Nazi, then you don’t want police
to be able to identify you. And you don’t want police to be
able to tell you apart. Antifa really exploded into the
headlines in response to the disruption of the
Milo Yiannopoulos event back at UC Berkeley in February, where mass Antifa broke windows
and created enough of disruption for the the university to
cancel the event. This created a lot of debates around different tactics for
opposing the far right, and questions around free speech. Street violence is actually one of
the last resorts for anti-fascists. The first line of defense is just
finding out who the local Nazis are. People will post online
with Nazi flags, and post about the marginalized
groups they want to kill. And when we find those posts, we save them and send
them to employers. Finding ways to disrupt their
organizing online. Track them down
and figure out where they live, and try and make sure that they
don’t feel comfortable. There has been an increase in
Neo-Nazi organizing since the Trump campaign started. And they’ve absolutely
been more active. The Jeremy Christian killings, the
killings in Charlottesville, those are not the acts of
individual people, those are the acts of a
political movement. Personally, I’m Jewish, I’m a trans woman, and I’m queer. And those are related. Knowing we have someone
in the White House, who calls white supremacists a side that has some good people, is really frightening. I do feel vulnerable and I do
feel scared every day, but that’s why I’m in the Bloc. When you’re a queer person
or a disabled person or a person of color, you don’t get to really
step back and say, I don’t want to be
politically active, because your life and your existence
is constantly in dispute. To suit up in Bloc and go out
there with your comrades, provides me a feeling of safety
that I wouldn’t otherwise have. When we appear in the streets, we’re trying to stop these
people from having proud marches where they can recruit and say it’s safe to be a fascist. And we want to go out and say, “no! you can’t do this.”
We’re going to fight back. We can make America great again! Antifa knew before the Trump
rally in Philadelphia, that it was not
just a Trump rally. That American Vanguard who
desecrated a Holocaust Memorial with anti-semitic messages, we’re going to be there,
with weighted motorcycle gloves, trying to beat people up. Anti-fascist. Anti-Anti-Capitalista-A! Anti-Anti-Capitalista! One common tactic that you’ll
see being used is we will have people who are
actually at home that are coordinating
with the action. And they’ll be checking Twitter and
whatever other news sources that they can find, in order to be
communicating information to us via encrypted messaging. It’s important that we don’t give
the state a monopoly on violence. The police are part of the
executive branch. The police serve Trump,
who’s a fascist. Police violence is no more justified
than anti-fascist violence. Who do you represent?
Who do you serve? Who do you protect?
Who do you serve? Two common tactics
employed by cops are snatching individual people
and stragglers, and then kettling or, like,
surrounding the whole group. Cops will kettle protestors, and then arrest them for
failing to disperse. Don’t do it! Always be looking for side streets.
Always be looking for exits. Always make sure you stay moving. Stop them! Stop them! Spread out! Spread out!Keep moving back!Keep moving! Stick together!You’ll hear people shouting,
tighten up, all the time, and that means that you have to stay
together as one cohesive body. The most violent people at any
protest are the police. -Back off! Back off!
-Back the fuck off! Get back! The police are the ones
that are with batons, beating people up,
throwing them to the ground, pepper-spraying them. I’ve gone home with bruises. I’ve had friends go home
with broken arms, dislodged eyeballs, brain trauma. A non-violent
resistance really works when it can leverage the
public opinion to pressure oppressive
regimes or leaders to change what they’re doing. The question is when it’s fascism, when there is no room for public
opinion to influence the decisions made by government, made by leaders, is that a viable option? Almost all people agree with
violence at some point. Why do you support the violence
of American soldiers and American police, and not the
violence of American citizens to stop Nazis? I actually personally really,
really dislike violence. I’m not comfortable with it at all,
as I don’t think anyone should be. So for me, it’s about
minimizing violence. So if that means
occasionally being violent against the people
perpetrating violence, I accept that. It’s… Pepe’s become
kind of a symbol… Richard Spencer, who coined
the term alt-right, and whose website publishes articles
calling for genocide, after an Antifa protestor
punched him in the face, there’s videos of him talking about
how he’s afraid to go out, and they might need to get security, and they don’t know if
they can afford it, and how if they can’t have a
public movement, they can’t win. We need to take very
seriously the notion that anti-fascists aren’t just
going to scream at us, they’re going to
physically attack us. And that’s the point. If we go out and punch
Nazis in the face, they won’t appear in public. And like they themselves admit,
they can’t win. Punch a Nazi in the face! This has been going on for a long
time with… Antifa. They’ve been terrorizing people, intimidating people, and when they can get away with it, violently attacking people. These are felons. This is terroristic. This is fascistic. Fascists aren’t people who
shut down speech. Fascists are people who want
to commit genocide and ethnic cleansing. Fascists are people who are willing
to scapegoat marginalized groups, and destroy their lives,
and their health and safety, in order to accomplish
political goals. That’s a fascist. Antifa are not fascists. We’re fighting against
people that have been walking into black churches and killing people. That’s violent. That’s what the real violence is. And so, to fight against that, is… doesn’t seem violent to me. That seems like meeting people
where we’re at to defend ourselves. When the tragedy in
Charlottesville occurred, when Heather Heyer was murdered, the mainstream media acted like
the presence of hundreds of armed Neo-Nazis was a
huge surprise. But for those anti-fascists who’ve
been monitoring the far right, were well-aware of what
this danger was. Charlottesville was a really
important turning point, because it was the first time that there was no choice but for the
media to show what was happening in a way that made the
public understand who we are as anti-fascists. We have replaced you! They saved our lives, actually. We would have been completely
crushed like cockroaches if it would not for the
anarchists and anti-fascists. Because the police have pulled back, and just allowing fellow citizens to go at each other. There was at least about a
week in America where anti-fascists were considered
to be people that you could respect. A lot of my friends are involved in
the same type of activism. And so, I don’t have to
hide it from them. But from my family, absolutely. I can’t get into the details
of what I’m doing, and I do lead a double life. It makes it hard to stay close to
people in your life, because there are so many
things that I do that I can’t tell people about. “Where were you last week?”
I can’t share that information. It means that you end up
forced into situations, where you can’t always be
honest with people. Fuck white supremacy!
Fuck white supremacy! My community is other
anti-fascist people. These are the people who
help me through some of my toughest struggles. And so, I’m able to feel
like I have a family. There’s a feeling of obligation and doing what’s necessary, in order to make the world little
less of a scary place. After we got the Trump
march shut down, they haven’t come back
into Philadelphia. This works. The Trump election has invigorated and empowered white
supremacists and Neo-Nazis, but it’s also invigorated
and empowered the left. We are on the cusp of some change. And what change that is, depends on
who gets involved and who organizes. We are the people!
The mighty, mighty people! The mighty, mighty people!