The Brenner Brief’s Amanda Melson dives in to the intricacies and operations of “Black Bloc,” a dangerous organization operating in the U.S. and Egypt.
In recent weeks, Egypt has been the scene of upheaval and turmoil. Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi’s government is struggling to stay in power as Egyptians revolt against his rule and the Muslim Brotherhood. Added to the chaos is the emergence of a group that calls itself “Black Bloc.” Dressed entirely in black, with black masks to hide their faces, Black Bloc’s members have been on the front lines, stepping between police and military as they attack protesters in Tahrir Square and Port Said. Egypt’s government and media have been swift to label them as terrorists. But are they? Progressive-activist-turned-conservative-activist, Breitbart writer and Citizen Patriot Response Director, Brandon Darby, doesn’t think so.
Darby explained that Black Bloc is more a tactic than an ideology. When used in the US, Europe and other democratic countries, the method is engaged in exclusively by leftists. This maneuver was employed at the 2008 RNC National Convention when the RNC Welcoming Committee, a self-described anarchist group, attempted to prevent RNC delegates from reaching the convention center.
Black Bloc in the U.S.
Brandon Darby knows all about because he was there. Recruited by the FBI, Darby infiltrated the RNC Welcoming Committee. His work prevented destruction of property and harm to untold numbers of people. He explained that Lisa Fithian, on the steering committee of United for Peace and Justice, was organizing 10,000 liberals to march in peaceful protest against the RNC Convention, held at the xCel Energy Center in St. Paul, MN. Her goal was to prevent the convention from going forward and that couldn’t be done by peaceful means. So she organized three separate groups of people — green, red and yellow — to do separate things.
The green group consisted of the mainstream 10,000 liberals. They were law-abiding people who had no idea they were being used in any way. The yellow group consisted of individuals willing to be arrested for “locking down” in the street, using PVC pipe, chicken wire and duct tape. And the red group was there to provide cover for the yellow group by attacking law enforcement, throwing urine on unsuspecting bystanders, using caltrops to disable vehicles and tossing molotov cocktails before fleeing the scene, removing their masks and slipping back into the protest. All three groups would march together.
Fithian would manipulate the green group out into the streets so the yellow group would have time to lock down. When the police would order people to move back, the green group would comply. If the yellow group hadn’t had enough time to get in place, the red group would move in and engage the police in physical conflict. The media would tell a story of police brutality against the “peaceful” protesters. Lost in the telling of the tale is the thwarting of democracy, the right to assemble and address grievances. This is the Black Bloc tactic.
Black Bloc in Egypt
Egypt is not a democracy. It is a country ruled by a brutal dictator who will not hesitate to employ lethal means to quell any opposition to his governance. Darby points out that in such a country, openly protesting such a regime leads to doors kicked in and families killed. To do so is unsafe, idiotic in fact.
There are so many things for Egyptians to protest. Unemployment is high and the value of Egyptian currency is rapidly declining. The government has been overtaken by the Muslim Brotherhood. Charges have been made that their rise to power was largely due to fraud and manipulation. The media is controlled by the government, so there is no free and open exchange of ideas, no freedom to speak openly. The recent passage of the Egyptian Constitution only serves to strengthen militant Islamists. There is no legal recourse for the people to address these concerns.
As the situation becomes more oppressive, opportunities to influence the path the country will take become fewer and more desperate. Darby, invoking President John F. Kennedy, points out, “Those who make peaceful change impossible make violent change inevitable.” There is no other option left to the Egyptians to make social change, and so they engage in guerrilla-type tactics to protest their government’s behavior. Will they be successful? What would that success entail? A cynic might say they’d likely exchange one brutal regime for another. And they might be right. Only time will tell.
History of Black Bloc
The term “black bloc” began in Germany in the 1970s with a group of anarchists, and has been used loosely in a number of other instances since then, including the anti-World Trade Organization protests in Seattle in 1999 and the G20 summit in Toronto in 2010.
And those, who call themselves “Riders of darkness” do not differ much from American “Black Water” mercenaries, who left a bloody trail in Iraq. It is not excluded, that they are backed by the CIA, Libyan and Saudi Arabian security forces, Ayman Fayed says.
“Chaos against injustice” is Black Bloc’s motto as shown on their official Facebook page which has garnered over 45 thousand fans over the past two weeks.
They are known for using new tactics, dressing from head to toe in black, covering their faces with bandannas or kerchiefs and brandishing black flags as they skirmished with security forces.
Although largely new in Cairo, the term “black bloc” has been used for years in the United States and Europe to describe a tactic commonly used by anarchists and anti-capitalists during large-scale political demonstrations that occasionally devolve into street fights with the authorities.
Participants in the bloc typically dress in black to foster a sense of unity and to make it difficult for witnesses to differentiate between individuals. Members of the bloc often blend in with larger groups of protesters, then break away, linking arms as they rush down streets.
In the United States, at least, black bloc members usually eschew violence against people but have few compunctions about damaging property.
The tactic received attention during the 1999 protests in Seattle against the World Trade Organization, when youths dressed in black broke windows and spray-painted graffiti on buildings.
In St. Paul, during the 2008 Republican National Convention, black bloc members roamed through the city smashing bank windows and using hammers to batter a police car.
The Interview with Brandon Darby
Brandon Darby (BD): Well, Black bloc is a movement and it’s not fair to say they’re not occupy because probably 100% of the people who are who do black bloc tactics are in occupy they are part of the occupy movement. They might not say so now, but initially they were when it was everyone on the far left. So the various far left groups one of the tactics that the far left uses are black block tactics. Its part of what they use in protests. Anytime there are large protests … the protests were organized by united for peace and justice. Now that was a mainstream democratic protest, would violate the law and what have you. Now the far left black block protest which happened at the same time were also organized by United for Peace and Justice. See what I mean. So the majority of the people protesting had no idea that they were part of an effort with those black bloc protestors. They thought it was a separate effort but really it was all organized by the same people. They’re just different tactics they’re different actors in a stage in a play and they’re all organized by a stage director. Black block people, an organization from here flies to Egypt to protest it – the ideology is embraced by some there. The ideology and the methodology – it’s a method, you know; it’s a tactic. It’s not so much a specific organization, it’s a tactic. It plays a part. Like one of the things the, when you look at the RNC and wait I’ll use that as an example. A woman named Lisa Fithian she was on the steering committee for United for Peace and Justice, who was organizing the mainstream 10,000 people, 10,000 liberals right, who would never break the law. She also organized the far, far left RNC welcoming committee, which was the Black Bloc. So what she did, was in order to meet her goals, which were very un-American, they were to prevent the buses of delegates from making it to the convention center so they could shut the convention down. What she decided she needed to do was she needed to have, to divide her protesters into three groups, the red group, the yellow group and the green group. The green group are … with the 10,000 protesters who have no idea they will be doing anything illegal or being abused in any way. They thought they were just voicing their concerns. So what she decided was that the yellow group would be arrestable. They were the ones who were going to get arrested. They were the ones who were going to sit in the road, chain their arms together, and PVC pipes (?) and prevent the buses from getting through. But she realized that the police weren’t going to let that happen. So what she decided to do was to use the green group, manipulate them to get into the roadways and provide cover while the yellow group was chaining themselves up and locking down. Now, if the police said, “Get out of the road,” the green group, being average liberals who weren’t going to break the law, they would be like, “Oh, we’ve got to get out of the road.” So they would start getting out of the road. So then she would slow down the green group. If the green group got out of the road and it still hadn’t given the yellow group time to lock down, then she would call in the red group, which is the Black Bloc. And they would come and actually attack the police, giving the yellow group time to lock down and then they would flee, as a separate group, they would flee and then that would give the yellow group time to lock down. So the green group was used as cover, inadvertently – the green group didn’t realize it. The red group knew what they were doing, that when they fled, it would look like the police were attacking the yellow group was a separate effort, even though it was the same group of people. The same effort. So it was red, yellow and green. So that’s how they use black bloc in a protest. That is the tactic. That is the use of the Black Bloc and then they act as though it’s something separate when it never is. The average liberal protesting, they think it’s separate.
Amanda Melson (AM): So Black Bloc is a tactic and not necessarily a group of people?
BD: That’s correct.
AM: But it’s a tactic that’s used around the world then?
BD: Yes. Various far left groups, and it might not be considered far left in other countries because if you’re in Russia, to be a conservative means that you’re a communist, you know? To be progressive means that you’re a capitalist. So what they are is people who ascribe to a certain ideology who, and it’s a tactic they decide to use, so people from various groups you know if you put all the far left groups together, not all of those people would be people who would use Black Bloc, but (unintelligible) it’s just it’s a concept, it’s a tactic that is used in protest.
AM: So this rise of Black Block in Egypt, because you know they’ve been labeled by the Egyptian government and the Egyptian media as a terrorist organization. Which I thought was kind of odd because Black Bloc in Egypt claims to want to protect the people and supposedly step in between the police and the protesters.
BD: Right, but see there, it’s a different story. There, they basically have to wear masks or they’ll get their doors kicked in and their families killed. If you’re somebody who wants to fight against an oppressive regime, the reason it’s not a pro – Nelson Mandela used arson and they used arson and apartheid. There was no other option for them to create social change. Our Founding Father’s, a lot of them, the Son’s of Liberty, used similar tactics. But there were no options. So, the reason we don’t support it here is because we have a system that gives you once you engage and participate in, you can change, make changes. So it’s being immature, infantile and destructive to our stability for people who are using those tactics here. But in other countries, where there are no options, of course you would wear a mask, you know what I mean? You would be an idiot not to.
AM: So they’re probably not, as they’re labeled by the Egyptian media and the Egyptian government, they’re probably not a terrorist organization? You think they probably do more good than harm?
BD: I think it’s very likely they do there, yes. Those who make peaceful change impossible make violent change inevitable. I think it’s the same thing the Sons of Liberty did when they lived under a system where there was no recourse. There was no legal recourse. You have a situation where there was a popular movement, I don’t care for it, in a lot of ways, but there was a popular movement in Egypt, and then somebody got in power and decided to become a dictator. And the people are saying, “Hell no! We don’t want a dictator.” And then that dictator is using the military and the police to attack the people. When that happens, I don’t know what options people have. Same thing with Iran. If people in Iran were protesting the Iranian regime and wearing black masks and fighting the police, I don’t know that many of us would have a problem with that. We’d call them freedom fighters, you know? The reason it’s terroristic here is because there are avenues to make changes here. There are avenues, and there is a system of stability, so there are avenues to make changes here. And people want to take, you know they want to wake up and (intelligible) smoke bong hits (?) and not stood up and show up and try to participate in the system and consequently because of that, they it’s very destructive to someone who’s active (unintelligible) and then generally when they act that way here, it’s like at the RNC ’08, they weren’t protesting oppressive government. They were trying to prevent other Americans from exercising their Constitutionally guaranteed right to assemble. That’s not the same people at all. That’s not the same thing at all. They’re not protesting cops killing unarmed civilians who simply disagree with a dictator. These people were trying to use violence to prevent others from meeting. That’s fascist. That’s frightening. That’s un-American as can be. That’s the difference. You’ve got to be careful with how we label, you know what I mean?
AM: I wonder what the purpose of the media would be, I mean when you say “Black Bloc,” people think of Black Bloc here and the Occupy movement, and of course they’re being labeled terrorists. It makes me question why, I mean I think I could figure out why the Egyptian government and the Egyptian media would, but why other media outlets here would kind of buy into that narrative, unless they want a particular outcome too.
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- Masked ‘Black Bloc’ a mystery in Egypt unrest (dailystar.com.lb)
- A ‘Black Bloc’ Emerges in Egypt (thelede.blogs.nytimes.com)
- Blockheads (dailynewsegypt.com)
- Death by cunnilingus (salon.com)
- The Black Bloc Blows Up In Egypt (breitbart.com)
- Masked ‘Black Bloc’ a mystery in Egypt unrest (miamiherald.com)
- Report of sexual assaults in police stations (dailynewsegypt.com)
- Nahlah Ayed: Who are Egypt’s mysterious Black Bloc? (cbc.ca)
- Masked ‘Black Bloc’ Protesters Add Mystery To Egypt Violence (huffingtonpost.com)
- The Egyptian Black Bloc – Exclusive Interview From the Front Lines of the Egyptian Revolution (consciouslifenews.com)