February 1st : A Black Bloc Gone Wrong
This is an open letter in response to the actions on the evening of Tuesday February 1st 2012 at the residence of V, Chelsea and Francis.
We, Olly, Andre, Jessie, Kalilah, Drea, Martina, Steve, and Francis, members of a local radical queer community, experienced direct intimidation, as well as its ripple effects, by members of the anarchist and anarcho-feminist communities.
We recognize the experiences of all the people involved in the altercation that sparked the actions of Feb 1st. We also recognize that altercation between V, Chelsea & Francis existed prior to the events of that evening. We have no intention of debating those experiences. This is a letter in response to the violent tactics used by members of the anarchist community in the form of a Black Bloc.
On the evening of Feb 1st, a Black Bloc intimidated, harassed and threatened members of the queer community with the intention of accomplishing Community Accountability. One member of our community, Francis, was encircled and threatened by 20-30 people en bloc, in his home. When 7 people arrived to support Francis, we were immediately faced with a mass of physically threatening anonymous individuals. Attempts to mediate the situation through verbal communication, were met with responses of laughter, yelling, and silence on the part of the mass.
At 7:30pm, Francis was at home alone, sitting on his porch. His roommates arrived home and lingered in their car. Soon after, 7-8 cars arrived on the street and a group of 20-30 people, en bloc, came towards his home. Francis felt unsafe, intimidated, and was afraid for his life, so he entered his home and locked both the front and back door. There was a mass of people at the front door yelling to get into the house. The black bloc broke down the locked front door and entered into his home. They circled Francis, and read him a list of demands. (1. Francis was told to leave the house immediately, which he was in the process of doing. 2. He was told to pay the bills, which he had already stated that he intended on doing). Francis was never provided with a copy of the demands. Francis attempted to engage in dialogue in regards to the demands, but was told by numerous members of the bloc to “Shut the fuck up”. Another member of the bloc picked up Francis’ backpack and stated “We can use this for collateral”. He was forced to the porch, with the bloc inside. Francis was not even allowed to retrieve his dog from the home, and members of the bloc were forcibly touching and moving his property. Francis’ friends arrived at his home and attempted to engage in verbal dialogue with the bloc. Francis attempted to speak through the open front door to the bloc whose members yelled, “Get the fuck back!”. One friend said “He’s no threat at all and he’s not going anywhere.” At this point we began to move Francis’ stuff out of his home. About 10-15 members of the bloc came to the front of the building to form a line of surveillance. We were stared down as we moved Francis’ belongings into our cars. When we respectfully asked these people to terminate such humiliating tactics, the bloc responded with silence.
It is significant to note that on Tuesday, Feb 1st, Francis was packed and ready to move out, and was within minutes of leaving. The actions of the black bloc stripped Francis and his friends of our humanity. We were treated as monsters. This experience traumatized the authors of this article and the queer community in general. The black bloc’s actions emulated systems of state violence. If the people involved intended on enacting a form of community accountability, they failed. We will not stand for this behavior in, and against, our communities.
We will not stand for mob violence. Unjustified and excessive use of violent tactics against powerless individuals is one of the masters tools.
When the importance of fact and integrity are dissolved from personal and political actions, the role of activism is placed within a culture of triviality.
It is disturbing to us in the queer community, that a group of predominantly cis gendered white men entered into an un-investigated dispute between two queer identified people. We are appalled that they used tactics of violence and humiliation against an already oppressed group of individuals. Bringing a black bloc into a queer community is violence and it needs to be named as violence. The people involved did nothing less than enact their privilege within that space.
The people who were there for this event are traumatized and the effect of this trauma has been felt by our community. We were shaking, triggered, made voiceless, disrespected and completely stripped of our humanity.
Women and trans identified people face a constant threat of violence - within our community, from our families, the government, as well as society at large. More violence against queer people is an ineffective means of changing the current system. The actions of the bloc mimicked the police system in that it applied tactics of threat, intimidation, anonymity, bullying, many-against-few, unequal power dynamics, humiliation, intentional violence, and mob mentality.
Just as we don't accept tactics of police intimidation we will not accept these tactics of anarchist intimidation. As Andre wrote, “When you attempt to break us down or tear us apart, do not later be surprised to find the bodies you have tried so hard to tatter and tear, rebuilt and united. A conjoined monster we will be! Formed by the webbing of our collective tissue and personal histories, we carry too much weight of our own integrities to let this go lightly.”
Models of radical community accountability MUST recognize the humanity of everyone involved. The prison industrial complex and the police state ostracize, isolate and humiliate the individuals that they target. These tactics, as well as physical violence, are used to criminalize and disenfranchise the needs of both parties within a dispute. The actions taken that night were closer to the prison industrial complex and police state than they were to community based accountability processes. The black bloc emulated here did not create any real change. In fact, it only mimicked the systems it is fundamentally trying to oppose. It is not radical to participate in group think & mob mentality. Where was the critical aspect of social conscientiousness that is so important in working for justice?
An alternative to the current oppressive system would treat the needs of both parties as real, as opposed to engaging in polarized side-taking, vengeful action, and bullying without mediation. Actions in response to accusations of violence within the community should be intentional and critically examined.
This is a wake up call.
If you get anything from this letter, we want to stress that we must consider other forms of addressing community accountability outside of reproduced state violence. These tactics should empower, not dehumanize individuals. They should be informed, not rash. They should be supportive, not polarizing. They should engage tactics that are sustainable, not reproduce tactics of the police state. They should further community building not tear communities apart.
This is a call to action : We expect better of our communities.
Olly, Andre, Jessie, Kalilah, Drea, Martina, Steve, and Francis
And those in support:
Connor, Ari Te, Hez, Shannon, Rene, and other members of the queer community.