I’ve read what I can find about the first anti-authoritarian/non-permitted/street reclamation march that snaked through Denver on Sunday to kick-off the DNC protests.  I’ve also read the calls to action and perused the websites of the organizing and umbrella groups.  And I’ve seen the pics (I do love riot porn).  By all accounts on the ground, Sunday’s snake march to “reclaim the streets of Denver” was a success, in that about 1,500 to 2,000 people managed to march more or less where ever they wanted to through downtown, managed to keep police and security on their toes (at one point scrambling madly to protect the convention center from un-confirmed, and wrong, rumors of an attempt at gate-crashing), and even managed to survive at least three tense stand-offs with police with few if any arrests.

I know some of you reading this wonder “what’s the point?” “what did they succeed in?” “why?”.  Well, those are complicated questions that warrant and justify many different answers and even more nuances.  But at least one line that can be drawn is that such popular (meaning “regular people”, not paid organizers and organizations, bureaucrats, or other institutionalized appendages) demonstrations help to expose the fallacy of State authority and expose the myth of regulation and policing.  It is a small, often overly-hyped, but nonetheless effective and important aspect of dismantling the illusions that the State, and capitalism, perpetuate upon the population for their own gain (I’ll post more of my own analysis and opinions on street demos and direct actions later this week).

One thing that does worry me, slightly, is experience.  Especially with black bloc and anti-authoritarian/anti-capitalist bloc tactics, there is a great deal of value that I believe comes from an experienced, and well-maneuvered, analysis of on the ground realities and tactics.  Not that I think- or have any reason to think- that militants in Denver don’t know what they’re doing; but black blocs throughout the U.S. over the past decade- at least the most high-profile and effective ones- have been predominately East Cost (NYC, Boston, Philly, Washington, Miami, Quebec City, Montreal) and I think have gained a great deal from the direct involvement of groups like NEFAC, ARA, and the like.  Even Seattle ’99 was organized (the black blocs) in great part with the contributions of East Coasters- the logistical and tactical coordination for which among Quebecois and New Englanders being the seed that started NEFAC.  It’s true that many anarchists from all over the country played crucial roles in all of these actions and are continuing to do so in Denver.

But what I’ve seen so far of the anti-authoritarian bloc in Denver is troubling to me far several reasons.  Take the following video (not for it’s lame, liberal middle class college kid commentary but for what the images illustrate):

OK.  First there’s an entirely un-organized and spontaneous march through the streets happening.  Great.  Feel the empowerment.  But then, the small number of ‘bloced-up’ participants (face masks, red and black flags) come face-to-face with a police line (and not a very big one for that matter).  But this black bloc lacks any and all tactical unity, actual formation (as in, marching as a “bloc”), and clearly has no tactical role personnel.  They’re not so much an organized resistance (which poses problems for the State and the status quo) but a loose group of angry people who are dressed in the chick where of their chick.  No black bloc with the slightest bit of situational awareness would have stood face-to-face with that police line for more than 20 seconds; the only thing that does is stall until more, and more heavily armed, pigs can get there (as we see happens later in the video).  Flaggers and elected signalers from either end of the bloc should have quickly chosen whether to move backwards and onto another street or to push forward through the police line (with their low numbers, the latter would have been a risk but might have worked if the rest of the marchers followed- the chaos would have been too much for the police and by the time more showed they could be back in their march and moving down the road).

Then, most bizarrely of all- I can only hope that the folks on the ground knew something of the location that I don’t- the block heads into the near-bye parking garage; where they’re entirely cornered and in fact enclosed, as in, easily flushed out with one tear gas bomb.  Once blocked inside, an ass-load more cops show-up and the fun is over.  That’s the lamest public challenge to State authority I’ve ever seen.

In this video:

…it was nearly the same.  A group of reformists/liberals are occupying the intersection in front of what looks obviously to be the State Capital building without permit.  Upon the arrival of the anti-authoritarian bloc, the police move in.  The black bloc is un-organized, lacks cohesion and tactical unity, and ultimately (in the next video) gets pushed back from their position.

When GMAC (the Green Mountain Anarchist Collective) published the much-ridiculed A Communique on the Tactics and Organization of the Black Bloc, from Within the Black Bloc, it was exactly this sort of effective vs non-effective street demo that was hoped could be avoided.  Not that I doubt you kids in Denver didn’t have fun, but at the end of the day, the best, most passionate and rational descriptions of why taking to the streets in anti-authoritarian blocs matters is going to have a hard time justifying the travel costs to Denver vs the positives of this kinda “anarchy”.

Remember folks, everyone wear’s all black so you can’t be individuated in the crowd; vinegar on your mask, under your eyes slightly helps with tear gas, and rubber bullets and tasers hurt a whole lot.

And please be careful Caroline.

 

But it is also true that

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