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Black bloc vs. police state

This article originally appeared on the blog

As of yesterday I’ve learned two things: One, the police lie. I listened while their press statements came out and directly contradicted things I saw with my own eyes.

And two, I can no longer take seriously any of the arguments for diversity of tactics. The world is violent and full of suffering, and capitalism has done a lot to advance both in the world. But think pragmatically in context of the streets you are marching through and the people who inhabit them when planning your actions. Who is going to gain from this one? (As far as I can see, the police, and window-glass manufacturers). Who is going to suffer? (People on the streets of Toronto).

The black bloc
The black bloc put so many people in harm’s way yesterday. The people in the black bloc were the ones who had been talking the most about police repression and the police state at earlier rallies. That means they knew what they were in for.

That means they knew how the police would react, yet they brought on that behaviour and then changed outfits and disappeared into the crowd. They must have known that retaliation for their actions would fall to anyone and everyone there.

Both of my parents grew up in police states (Hitler’s Germany; Marcos’s Philippines), so I’ve mostly rolled my eyes at the use of the term for Canada. But yesterday downtown was really starting to resemble things I’ve read and heard about police states – totally being at the whim of the police if you end up in the wrong place at the wrong time, for one thing.

Militancy in self-defense? I’m all for it. But if you take police repression seriously – if you really live in a police state, even a temporary one that’s been brought on by the G20 – you don’t try to bring its wrath on other people for sport. That’s all yesterday’s rioting amounts to, because their message sure as hell isn’t getting out to anyone after last night.

If you take actions knowing that they are going to breed violence to other human beings (if nothing else because they have at so many international summits before) are you not indirectly responsible for that violence?
Here’s a press release explaining the Black Bloc’s point of view:
“Most of the targets are symbols to many of the ethical backwardness of a society in which wealth is systematically stripped from poor and racialized people who produce it, and remains concentrated in the hands of a few corporations, banks, and global elites. Several police cars were destroyed by protestors as well, many of whom felt anger over a week of unlawful searches, arrests, and arbitrary violence that had hurt many, even on the peaceful demonstrations of Friday.”

I don’t believe that the major lesson to come out of last night will be anything about the violence of capitalism. Symbolic, peaceful acts of defiance against a violent system endure. Unless we’re talking about the total overthrow of a government that has left you with no other options (and even this has been done with limited violence), violent acts don’t win hearts and minds. Don’t come back at me with the distinction between property destruction and violence. This property destruction lead to violence against human beings.

vs. the police state
The police let the Black Bloc riot. As Rabble’s David Langille points out, it’s beyond suspicious that 7,000 police and 19,000 security personnel couldn’t stop a few people from breaking windows and setting things on fire. They left two destroyed cop cars near Queen and Spadina for so long, people felt comfortable climbing into their driver’s seats. Stephen was there when one of them figured out how to turn on one of the sirens.

I still don’t believe that Canada is exactly comparable to a totalitarian system, but so many people saw police brutality on the streets last night, and there seems to be no real mechanism to check the police.

Local and federal government showed last night that they will rally around the police without question. Policemen keep repeating that you can report complaints to officers within the police system – how can those complaints possibly be handled impartially and with detachment, if they’re being reviewed by fellow officers?
A line of police on horseback charged a crowd and trampled people in Queen’s Park yesterday.

Journalists were assaulted and arrested.

People were beaten up, dragged into the crowd, and disappeared.

For more photos and reports on the G20, check out