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(en) US, LA, Thoughts on the anarchist bloc - An Anarchist Critique on the March 19th Hollywood Anti-War March

From Worker <a-infos-en@ainfos.ca>
Date Wed, 23 Mar 2005 08:21:59 +0100 (CET)


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I'm writing this piece in part from the insight gained from the
post-march anarchist meeting as well as in hopes that more people
will start writing honest, reflective pieces after marches. As of now,
most of the reporting that goes on after a march by the independent
press is almost as shallow as corporate media's portrayal of
what transpires in the street: exaggerated protest numbers,
flattering photos and superficial reviews of what happened, if even
that. Like crudo's recent piece entitled An Anarchist Critique
of March 19th SF Actions, this is my attempt at a sincere and
thoughtful article on what happened.


Before I get started though, let me also add that I am not from LA
and just happened to be in the area when the march happened. I am
active in my own area and in the broader anarchist movement, but
my observations of the march comes from an outsider's
perspective. Also, the shortcomings I saw at this protest are all too
familiar to my region, so please don't interpret this as some
holier-than-thou rant because I am a part of this movement or
scene or whatever you want to call it.


When I arrived at the march I immediately saw the black flags,
always an easy indicator of where the anarchists (or at least the
intentionally visible ones) were. Some of the banners were your
standard class war slogans but one was \u201cThe Ones Who
Strike the Blows Won't Remember, The Ones Who Bear the
Scars Will Never Forget.\u201d While the banner could have been
done so people could read it more easily, it was refreshing to see a
unique banner out there. Also, the group did start out marching
together in a fairly well organized contingent. So, kudos for starting
out visible, organized and with at least a dash of originality.


Unfortunately, from then on most everything else was lacking.
There was very little literature available from the anarchists there.
Also, I didn't see anyone passing out literature to
non-anarchist people before, during or after the march. Also, the
only literature available was about specific groups, there was
nothing there making anarchist thought relevant or connected to
the occupation of iraq or war in general. Also, the chants that went
on were weak and cliché. \u201cWhat do we want? Revolution!
When do we want it? Now!\u201d If we're going to criticize
ANSWER for being boring and predictable we're going to
have to be better than that.


The approach that was taken by the block in general was confusing.
Many people were masked up but the group though starting out
tight quickly turned into a loose assemblage of people. No direct
action took place and in the setting of a large, heavily policed
ANSWER march I'm glad. Also, the group took a fairly
antagonistic attitude towards the other marchers. Like I mentioned
earlier, there was no active distribution of literature or attempts at
engaging with other protesters. At one time a family with a peace
banner was in front of the anarchist group and with a small
boombox they were playing \u201cBaby, I'm an
Anarchist\u201d people would up the volume for \u201cand
you're a spineless liberal!!\u201d and marched closely behind
them until the family finally shuffled off to the side. Never did the
anarchists join in with other chants though many were not in
conflict with our beliefs or principles.


The whole march smacked of confusion and immaturity. In fact,
the times I overheard the media interviewing anarchists I heard
simplistic slogan-like responses that offered very little original
thought or gave a better understanding of what anarchism truly
means. When a reporter asked who all the black-clad masked
people were a kid said \u201cWe're the anarchists.
We're here to start a revolution.\u201d
It's hard to really assess the effectiveness of the anarchist
presence in the march because I am not sure many people even
came in with coherent ideas of what they wanted to accomplish
(unless \u201cstarting a revolution\u201d counts, in which case we
failed miserably). Just going off of common anarchist goals I can
say that nothing happened in the way of direct action, whether that
be symbolic or tactical. If the intent was to spread the word about
what anarchism is about and encourage people to find out more
about the movement then we did almost everything the wrong way.
Oftentimes anarchists attend ANSWER marches to spice it up, but
besides a small drum and dance circle at the end there was hardly
any creativity coming from the anti-authoritarian part of the crowd.
We like to be critical of ANSWER or people that just attend
marches and go home, but going off of the march in Hollywood I
don't see much more thought or energy going into marches
from the anarchists.


I'm glad there was a post-march meeting because people
brought up these issues so I knew I wasn't the only one
wondering what the hell was going on. Though some men reacted
very defensively and even rudely when my partner (a woman)
critiqued them (all men), many of the people and especially at the
post-march meeting listened with interest. For those of you that
were there this is all old news, but I hope that now that's it is
written down we can go back to it and remember what happened
the last time we just showed up with black flags and our balaclavas.
Also, I think it is important to let other anarchists around the state,
country, world read honest accounts of anarchist activity. In
crudo's critique they end with 5 points, all of which I think
very much apply to the Hollywood march and I'm sure many
others so I encourage people to read them over. Instead of repeating
it all, I'll end this piece with some general tips for marches,
many of which came out of the discussion that was held in LA
afterwards.
-if you want to reach out to people, consider your appearance and
the way you carry yourself, be friendly and outgoing to others (esp.
if dressing \u201cpunk\u201d or in a way that has socialized people
to be scared or uneasy)
-black bloc is a generally old and outdated tactic
-have literature available and pass it out before, during and after a
protest, make sure it's relevant to the theme of the march
-have agreed upon signals and calls to keep formation, often called
\u201ccadence calls\u201d
-talk about media issues with your affinity group or collective before
hand. How will you react to the media? Will there be a media
person designated? Will you talk to some media and not others? If
so, how will you decided which ones are ok and which
aren't?
-if people are new to protests consider having a know your rights
training and/or handling the media training beforehand
-be creative: interesting banners, chants (make chant sheets to pass
out), costumes, performances, instruments, etc.
-be able to articulate your beliefs and why you are at the march to
people that are unfamiliar to anarchism and radical politics
-realize that much of this requires pre-planning, set up meetings
before a protest to make banners and plan whatever else will be
going on.
=========================
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