Black Bloc

Introduction

Black bloc is an international protest movement of violent anarchists who largely want to eliminate the power of governments and financial institutions in the global system. Black bloc is primarily a tactic, not a cohesive group.* Groups of protesters dress in all-black and don helmets to conceal their identity and then violently confront symbols of authority and capitalism. The protest movement began in the 1970s in Germany with the goal of direct action against police brutality, economic inequality, and other perceived injustices. It has since spread worldwide through anarchist websites and online forums.*

The black bloc ideology is centered around anarchism and creating chaos.* According to U.S. officials, black bloc protesters tend to target businesses as representations of capitalism. Black bloc protesters often imbed themselves in larger demonstrations to conceal their presence, which led to the label of black bloc as piggyback protesters.* Black bloc tactics gained national attentions in 1999 during protests against the World Trade Organization in Seattle, Washington. Since then, black bloc protesters have fomented violence at protests of President Donald Trump’s 2017 inauguration and 2020 protests against police brutality.*

Black bloc protesters have no formal hierarchy and cells are typically temporary as protesters adopt black bloc tactics in protest against symbols of financial and political authority.* Media and police have prominently linked black bloc to the 2017 G20 protests in Germany and anti-Trump protests in the United States.* German politicians across the political spectrum called for renewed focus on Europe’s radical left after violent black bloc protests at the 2017 G20.* Protesters have destroyed property, specifically targeting symbols of capitalism, such as during summer 2020 anti-police protests that have targeted courthouses, prison construction sites, and other symbols of authority and capitalism in the United States. In August 2020, for example, black-clad protesters broke windows and vandalized private property during riots in Seattle, Washington.* Protesters organize on anarchist websites and online forums.* Groups on both the right and the left have condemned violent black bloc tactics and the cooption of protest movements.*

Leadership

Black bloc has no organized leadership structure.

Base of Operations

International.

Website

Not determined.

Membership Size and Relevance

Black bloc does not have a formal membership structure.

Recruitment and Propaganda

Black bloc has no formal membership or recruitment process. Recruits are united by a broad ideology and organize independently while adopting black bloc tactics in protest against symbols of financial and political authority.* Black bloc protesters are unified by dressing in black as an intimidation tactic and attempt to appear unified.*

Violent Activities

Rhetoric

  • Anonymous black bloc protester, February 2017: “I subscribe to self-defense in the very same sense that the Black Panther Party does and that Malcolm X does.”*
  • Anonymous black bloc protester, February 2017: “Which means for me to recognize one type of violence, which is people being beat up for having certain types of political views and being brazen about them, compared to the everyday violence ... like I go through the Bay Area and there are people sleeping in the doorways of million-dollar condos that are empty. Is that not violent? That is the most cruel and violent thing I think I have ever seen.”*
  • Anonymous black bloc protester after protesters targeted bank machines and a Starbucks on the University of California, Berkeley campus, February 2017: “Starbucks is a symbol of global capitalization.”*

Daily Dose

Extremists: Their Words. Their Actions.

Fact:

On September 20, 2020, Taliban militants ambushed a security checkpoint in Uruzgan, Afghanistan. The attack killed at least 24 members of the Afghan security forces.  

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