What is the Black Bloc and are they coming to Toronto?
There's been a lot of online chatter over the past few days about riots breaking out in Toronto this Saturday, June 6, amid peaceful anti-racism protests planned around the city — enough chatter, at least, to make hundreds of business owners board up their entire storefronts.
Mayor John Tory revealed on Wednesday the city had recieved unspecified threats from people who "want to wreak havoc downtown" this weekend.
Tory called these people a "tiny little minority of people who sit in their basements in the dark" and stressed that they are not affiliated with those who are organizing legitimate, peaceful protests against anti-Black racism and police violence in Toronto this weekend.
So who are these mystery d*ckheads? And why are they trying to hijack these important political demonstrations with violence and looting?
DO NOT PROTEST SATURDAY NIGHT! The black bloc will be rioting & looting Downtown! Police already know. There are brick piles already #toronto #blmtoronto #blacklivesmattertoronto @TorontoStar pic.twitter.com/VKoksr3OvK— Julie Venom (@Julie_Venom) June 4, 2020
This has prompted a surge in people typing such queries as "Who are the Black Bloc?" into Google.
If you were around during the time of Toronto's now-infamous G20 Summit riots in June of 2010, you're likely already be familiar with the term, though you may not know why it was linked to flaming police cruisers in Queen West at the time.
The first thing to know in this regard is that "black bloc" is more of a "what" than a "who": it's a tactic used by groups of protesters who most-often identify as anarchists, anti-fascists, anarcho-communists or anti-capitalists.
For people quibbling w “actual protesters” - the black bloc types aren’t attached to a cause. Anti-war rally? They’ll smash windows. Animal liberation? Sounds like window-smashing time. Renew “Billions”? Better smash some windows https://t.co/0M9t8clEVX— Dave Weigel (@daveweigel) May 31, 2020
These groups are known for infiltrating large street protests to vandalize, loot, perpetuate violence otherwise cause damage to society.
Protesters can join a black bloc by dressing entirely in black and obscuring their identities with scarves, sunglasses, face masks, motorcycle helmets or anything else that will protect them from being ID'd (or pepper sprayed) by police.
Black blocs are known to target the stores of large corporations during riots, and have a particular hate-on for ubiquitous American companies like Starbucks and The Gap.
At least, that's what they've been doing for most of this century.
Large protest scheduled for tomorrow in Toronto. A warning was issued that a group by the name of Black Bloc will be coming from Quebec to riot. This is not what George Floyd would have wanted.— Gypsydawl (@gypsydawl) June 5, 2020
Modern "black bloc" groups have been making headlines in North America since at least 1999, when a mob of black-clad anarchists intentionally damaged the locations of several multinational retailers in downtown Seattle during protests against the World Trade Organization.
Black bloc tactics were also blamed for violence during the aforementioned G20 summit in Toronto and for riots in D.C. on the day of U.S. President Donald Trump's inauguration, among other major events.
Similar tactics have been observed at riots taking place across the U.S. right now over the brutal Minneapolis Police murder of George Floyd.
The very suggestion that anarchists are infiltrating any of these protests to incite violence, however, appears highly controversial among some Twitter users, who've debating such things as the difference between Antifa and Black Bloc protesters passionately all week.
You have to keep your eye out for these Black Bloc anarchist dbags at every protest. They just want to cause mayhem. They are not allies.— J.J. Whelan - 💚 🌎 "Person of Interest" (@jimjameswhelan) June 1, 2020
Whatever your thoughts on the modern existence of black bloc tactics in America, historians say that they were first deployed in West Germany in the early 1980's.
"In response to violent state oppression radical activists developed the tactic of the Black Bloc: they went to protests and marches wearing black motorcycle helmets and ski masks and dressing in uniform black clothing," reads an account by the multi-lingual anarchy resource A-infos.
"As everyone quickly figured out, having a massive group of people all dressed the same with their faces covered not only helps in defending against the police, but also makes it easier for saboteurs to take the offensive against storefronts, banks and any other material symbols and power centers of capitalism and the state," the piece continues.
"Masking up as a Black Bloc encouraged popular participation in public property destruction and violence against the state and capitalism."
They are Black Bloc. They have been at EVERY protest against police violence. They were the sabatuers at Occupy Wall Street in 2008. They have a LONG history of riot, property damage, setting fires, etc. See video: https://t.co/nLYIrIO2LS— Irish American Princess 🍀 (@OKhiya3) June 1, 2020
When asked about rumours of black bloc tactics being used to potentially incite riots during peaceful protests locally on Saturday, Toronto Police Services said the following:
"We are aware of various social media posts regarding protest activity in the city. We continue to monitor and will respond, if necessary, to ensure the safety of everyone involved."
TPS Chief Mark Saunders said similarly yesterday during a press conference that his officers have the resources necessary to defend against whatever threats to public safety may surface.
"Every protest we have had to date has been peaceful so I am not going to speculate on what their intentions are," said Saunders, referring to Saturday's peaceful protest in Toronto over the death of Regis Korchinski-Paquet.
"I can tell you that through my frontline officers the vast majority of people that have gone to protests in the City of Toronto have been peaceful," continued Saunders. "There is a lot of passion, there is a lot of anger and there is a lot of hope and I hope that as Torontonians we continue to do that."
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