Occupy Wall Street’s ‘Solidarity Sunday’: What Are ‘Black Bloc’ Protesters?

Occupy Wall Street's growing pains

Journalist Tim Pool began live-streaming an Occupy Wall Street solidarity march for Occupy Oakland in Manhattan Sunday night. The march was intended to demonstrate support for the 400 or so Occupy Oakland protesters arrested in Oakland, California on Saturday and charged with breaking into a YMCA and Oakland’s City Hall in addition to resisting police.

Mr. Pool’s jittery stream provided a chaotic look at an Occupy action from the inside and also raised questions for many not that familiar with the Occupy movement and associated variations in protest actions. Questions such as: what does the ominous term “Black Bloc” mean and is it really part of the Occupy movement?

The question about “Black Bloc” protesters referred to Mr. Pool’s own (surprisingly coherent, considering he was constantly on the move) narrative of the march, in which he made a few references to “warnings” about “Black Block protesters” and prompted worried tweets and comments from viewers of his channel. Here is Wikipedia’s general answer as to the meaning of “Black Bloc“:

A black bloc is a tactic for protests and marches, whereby individuals wear black clothing, scarves, ski masks, motorcycle helmets with padding, or other face-concealing items.[…] The clothing is used to avoid being identified, and to, theoretically, appear as one large mass, promoting solidarity.

Black Bloc protests first came about in the 80s in Europe and were a part of the anti-World Trade Organization demonstrations in Seattle in 1999. Protest techniques are disruptive and volatile. They include rioting, vandalism and fighting as well as assistance to fellow protesters in fleeing police. These techniques are probably why many who casually mention Black Bloc protests online often include the word, “anarchists.”

In some instances Black Bloc protesters may actually be cops, as demonstrated by the Quebec police who went undercover during protests there in 2007.

Is Black Bloc protesting a part of OWS? The consensus from Twitter users who appear to support OWS is no. However the Occupy movement’s flagship website may have essentially invited Black Bloc-style protest with its announcement about today’s actions, titled “Solidarity Sunday–Wear Black Fight Back“:

Yesterday, Occupy Oakland moved to convert a vacant building into a community center to provide education, medical, and housing services for the 99%. Police responded with tear gas, rubber bullets, beanbag rounds and mass arrests. The state has compounded its policy of callous indifference with a ruthless display of violent repression. The Occupy movement will respond, as we have always reponded: with an overwhelming show of collective resistance. Today, we take to the streets. Across the country, we will demonstrate our resolve to overcome repression and continue to build a better world grounded in love and solidarity for one another. All eyes on all Occupies.

SOLIDARITY SUNDAY starts at 7 p.m. EST, Sunday, January 29. Check your local Occupation for convergence points.

Other solidarity protests were scheduled to occur in cities such as Boston, Philadelphia, DC, Chicago and Los Angeles, to name a few. Until 9:30 p.m. ET Sunday night the New York protest seemed relatively peaceful–right up to the moment Tim Pool was struck from behind and his camera knocked to the ground. Pool seemed uninjured and continued narrating the protest, calling the person who struck him a member of “an affinity group of anarchists,” which he did associate with what he’d heard about the Black Bloc.

[Timcast on UStream]

Occupy Wall Street’s ‘Solidarity Sunday’: What Are ‘Black Bloc’ Protesters?