The Oakland Commune
Out of the whole Occupy movement in the US, Occupy Oakland was probably the most successful in challenging the so-called 1% and creating new forms and spaces of social organization. They disrupted business as usual, put into practice self-organization by poor people on a huge scale, and helped launch a historic general strike. Because anarchists were an important part of this diverse movement, and social movements in the US have always been disrupted by generating paranoia about “outside agitators” and “extremists”, Occupy Oakland was targeted with a powerful misinformation campaign spreading the idea that the anarchists were outside agitators, a shadowy conspiracy, or even police infiltrators.
This misinformation has been spread by the corporate media, by wingnuts, by pacifists, by NGOs who get paid to manage dissent, and by a few sketchy individuals who probably are police provocateurs (note the difference here between accusing an entire group of people or anyone engaging in combative tactics of being provocateurs, and looking into the possibility that specific individuals with a long history of disruption and sketchiness are provocateurs). Some wingnuts anonymously released a flyer claiming the “anarchists/vandals” were all white outsiders, not true, and calling for them to be beaten with baseball bats and other weapons. The same flyer claimed they were government “operatives”. The Anti-Repression committee provided a reasoned response to the various accusations and misinformation.
Wingnut conspiracy websites like The Intel Hub often do the legwork for conspiracy theories about rioters and violent protestors, creating the impression that provocation is a proven fact. And while police infiltration and provocation does exist and is a real problem, these conspiracy theorists (who are sometimes pacifists, sometimes Stalinists, and sometimes rightwingers) spread the illusion that anyone attacking banks, fighting with the police, or breaking the law is a government agent. They have lost the debate against a diversity of tactics, they know that so many people hate the banks, the police, and the government, so they need to use underhanded methods to keep people marching in circles for ever, either because they believe violence is morally wrong, or they think we can avoid a police state if we all follow the law, or they don’t want anyone to make a move until the Party says so. In this article and video about police infiltration in Occupy Oakland, theintelhub.com takes a simple fact, that police infiltrators were present, and they try to create the impression that it has been proven that all street fighting, graffiti, or attacks on banks, police, and corporations is the work of police themselves. Note that they never debate the revolutionary arguments in favor of taking over the streets and destroying banks, they never provide solid evidence that those who argue or act in favor of anarchist tactics are police provocateurs, and they make the absurd claim that with free speech and peaceful protests (rights given to us by the government) we can achieve the changes we need.
In Toronto in June 2010, the G20 (a summit of the 20 most powerful governments in the world) met to further organize our exploitation and misery and the destruction of the planet. The city of Toronto was militarized, but people organized to fight back against the G20 and the riot cops protecting them. Organizers agreed on a diversity of tactics, meaning that different people could participate in the protests however they saw fit, without stepping on each other’s toes, using different methods and strategies, as long as they did not denounce one another. It is a diversity of tactics, and not pacifism, that the government fears most. In retaliation, they launched an anti-terror operation to arrest the organizers of the protest before these had even started. Those arrested would spend weeks or months in prison, and a number of them were convicted.
At the protests, the police successfully defended the conference site, but Black Bloc anarchists were able to break away from the main march and cause significant damage in Toronto’s financial district, targeting the same financial interests that are behind the G20. They were spontaneously aided by hundreds of Toronto residents, and in the rioting, several police cars were burned. The peaceful protestors, meanwhile, were also able to carry out their protests and actions, though they were brutally attacked by police (a common occurrence, even when there is no rioting going on elsewhere in the city– unfortunately, today’s pacifists want a comfortable protest experience without any of the sacrifices or inconveniences incurred by the historical figureheads they so often manipulate, like King and Gandhi.
Subsequently, a number of NGOs, journalists, and commentators took advantage of the fact that the anarchist organizers were in prison and they violated the diversity of tactics agreement, denouncing their fellow protestors as “provocateurs”. Because they weren’t interested in an honest debate, they did not make any criticisms of the Black Bloc’s participation in the protest. Rather, they made baseless accusations that the Black Bloc members were cops, trying to delegitimize them and make any debate impossible. They worked to divide and pacify the movement, unscrupulously taking advantage of the situation created by the cops, and some of these conspiracy theorists directly helped police identify masked protestors. It’s important to note that a number of masked anarchists were arrested and imprisoned for rioting. In other words, they weren’t cops.
The accusations against Toronto anarchists are numerous. Conspiracy nut Alex Jones’ proof is that the anarchists who torched the police cars are wearing Nike and looking relaxed. Never mind that anarchists are likely to steal the clothes they will later ditch after a riot, or that not all anarchists believe boycotting Nike can accomplish anything since nearly all clothes are made in sweatshops. And never mind that many participants in the riot remarked on the sense of euphoria in the streets, and hundreds of Toronto residents felt so safe, they spontaneously joined the riot even though they didn’t have anything to cover their faces with. This kind of flimsy evidence is typical of Jones.
The people who brought us the Truther movement, who think the system will collapse if only people realize that Bush and Cheney concocted 9-11, and who care infinitely more about 2,900 Americans killed in what might have been a conspiracy than over a million Iraqis killed in what was definitely a conspiracy, came out with their own documentary about the G20 protests, with their usual conspiracy theories resembling castles made out of sand.
One website claims to have proof about police complicity with the Black Bloc, and they site an article in the mainstream Toronto Sun.The way this conspiracy nut sees it, the Sun article exposes “a stand-down order to facilitate a false flag operation” and “the covert official allowing of the protected “Black Bloc” to rampage through Toronto to provide the pretext for the later assault of the peaceful protesting citizens.” But if you read the actual article, there is no mention of official protection of the Black Bloc or a false flag operation. In fact, the Toronto Sun journalist writes about extreme confusion, disorganization, and miscommunication among the police, with orders being given to engage, and then not to engage, and then to engage again, and finally to not engage, with officers talking over one another and contradicting each other. “Nobody seemed to know what to do. It was just a mess.” This is a far cry from a covert government operation. What these conspiracy hacks don’t want you to know is that the government used to believe it was always best to use a heavy hand to stop rioting (see Kristian Williams’ Enemies in Blue) but after analyzing their failures in the ’60s and ’70s, they realized their heavy hand often provoked rioting, and sometimes it’s better to be more permissive.
A couple other conspiracy hacks didn’t even offer any evidence, they just claimed that the anarchists were provocateurs, made the false claim that police did nothing to stop them from rioting, and made the ridiculous claim that the government is much more afraid of protestors being peaceful.
Taksim Square, Istanbul
In one of the greatest revolts of 2013 and in the midst of strong economic growth, Turkey blew up in a series of riots and occupations that began with the simple defense by anarchists and environmentalists of the last green space in the center of Istanbul, Gezi Park. In reaction to the police repression, hundreds of thousands of people occupied Taksim Square. The movement included women, youth, old folks, radicalized football hooligans, Left organizations, anarchists, muslims, atheists, Kurds, and Turks, and it spread to all the major cities of the country. The movement built itself on the basis of barricades, occupations, gatherings, and battles with the police.
Among the first to say that the “violent” ones (referring, as always, to protestors and not to cops) was President Erdogan. Later, when a crowd defended a barricade in the plaza against a police assault and some molotov cocktails were thrown, pacifists and others filled Twitter and the internet with the accusation that those responsible were undercover cops. Later the same day, the cops raided an office where 70 of the rioters had taken refuge. One of the detainees, who in photos is clearly seen as one of the main people throwing molotovs, was Ulas Bayraktaroglu, a well known former political prisoner and member of a socialist party. Quickly, the pacifists modified their conspiracy theories so as to not be openly contradicted by the facts and come off as total fools. They searched for other ways to attack and criminalize those who defend themselves.
“Jo També Estava al Parlament
At the end of March, 2014, many hundreds of people took the streets of Barcelona to protest in support of the people facing charges for the blockade of the Catalan Parliament in June 2011, currently facing trial at the infamous Audiencia Nacional in Madrid. During the protest, many people were masked and some attacked banks and other buildings.
A video posted on Youtube and circulated on many email lists and contrainformation websites insinuated that the damages were caused by police infiltrators.
As usual, the video is poor quality. It is impossible to see whether the masked protestors who supposedly are undercovers really make up a Black Bloc or if they are simply obvious undercovers with their faces covered, which is typical in Spain as a measure for the political police to protect their identity and avoid reprisals. The only ones who can be seen clearly look like the usual obvious undercovers, they are not dressed like typical protestors nor are they integrated within the protest. The video later shows some broken windows but does not show whether it was the suspicious masked protestors who caused the damages. The viewer is only left with insinuation and accusations without evidence.
At the time of the blockade in June 2011, some people also said that the conflicts were caused by cops, before 14 comrades with a long history in the social struggles in Barcelona were identified in footage and arrested. The slogan for the support campaign, spread in tens of thousands of posters and stickers and repeated by tens of thousands of people, is “I was also at Parliament, and I would do it again.” If so many people “would do it again,” are we or aren’t we in support of conflicts in the street? Is there really anyone left who wants to protect the banks from being smashed, besides cops and the bankers themselves? Evidently, only the pacifists, who do not make direct criticisms against the smashing, since no one would listen to them anymore, but can only fill the internet with unaccountable and false accusations.
Extradition to Canada for G20 Black Bloc
It was recently revealed that the Canadian government is seeking five US citizens suspected of participating in the black bloc in Toronto during the G20. This may be one of the first times people have been extradited for mere property damage.
Alex Jones and all the other bloggers and conspiracy theorists who maintained that the black bloc in Canada was a police operation to discredit the “legitimate” protesters are remaining silent. Evidently they’re not as concerned about repression and international police operations as they pretend to be.
Here are the support websites of two of those who have been arrested, pending extradition. More information about their cases is available there.
Mexico City, December 2012
After major protests and riots in Mexico City, following the election of rightwing presidential candidate Enrique Pena Nieto, Democracy Now (December 5, 2012) broadcast the unsubstantiated accusation that the rioters were police infiltrators. Absurd, because Mexico City is known for a strong anarchist movement, along with thousands of other people who believe in fighting the cops. But if you’re a student leader or paid NGO activist, it’s easier to avoid the losing debate against your political adversaries and just tell everyone they’re police infiltrators. Progressives like Amy Goodman will help you out, which is pretty hypocritical considering how she went gaga for the masked Zapatista guerrilla, Subcomandante Marcos.
The Reichstag Fire
In 1933, Marinus van der Lubbe, a dissident communist from the Netherlands, burned down the Nazi parliament. Immediately, the Communist Party feared blame would be placed on them, and they began a campaign to smear and bad-jacket van der Lubbe, calling him a mentally handicapped or psychologically unstable homosexual (to them, this was an insult), and claiming the Nazis had burnt down their own parliament to justify harsher repression. Van der Lubbe always maintained he acted alone. What is not surprising is why van der Lubbe attacked the Nazis, but why he was one of the few to do so until after the Holocaust was well under way. Even today, many people still believe the Stalinist slander and think the Nazis burned down their own parliament in a false flag operation. The politics of appeasement to fascism used by almost everyone except the anarchists in the lead-up to World War II is a proven fracaso. The idea that people should not have “provoked” the Nazis spreads a belief that the Nazis wanted peace. What was their provocation for killing Jews and Roma? None whatsoever. Just like the police do not need a provocation to torture and kill, the Nazis needed to provocation to act like fascists, because that’s exactly what they were. Marinus was right to burn down the Reichstag. More people should have carried out similar attacks. The real reason the Communists did not want to rock the boat was because Stalin was preparing to make a deal with Hitler.
Even though Vancouver protestors had agreed to a diversity of tactics in advance, many liberals subsequently denounced the Black Bloc for property destruction, subsequently accusing them of being racist, sexist, and infiltrated by the cops. Harsha Walia, of No One is Illegal, took apart these accusations one by one in a subsequent debate. Here is what she had to say about the infiltration accusation: “There is this idea, relating to anonymity, that the bloc is more susceptible to provocateurs. The entire movement is susceptible to police provocateurs. The actual police provocateurs that were ousted on February 12th were posing as journalists, not the black bloc. Another very clear example of this is what happened in Montebello when police provocateurs did present themselves as the black block, they were first outed by the black block themselves.”
In another example of how little evidence conspiracy nuts need in order to make serious accusations, one blogger claimed that the Stimulator, a popular–and anonymous–anticapitalist TV show host who often speaks out in favor of social rebels who take up arms or practice self-defense, must be a government agent. His proof? The fact that the Stimulator hadn’t been arrested after advocating violence. Somehow, these people still haven’t caught on to the fact that democratic governments tolerate dissent, hoping that it will go away or play by the rules, and they generally attempt to separate those who speak and write in favor of struggle from those who take illegal actions in a struggle. Democratic governments pretend to only care about upholding the law in the hopes that people will only talk about resistance, like conspiracy theorists, bloggers, and 9-11 Truthers, instead of actually participating in it.
The French Ninja
In an anti-austerity protest in France, one anarchist kicked a protestor who was trying to keep fellow protestors from breaking a bank window. The media subsequently dubbed the masked anarchist “the ninja” and spread the accusation, made by some old Stalinists from “The Left Front”, that the kicker was a police infiltrator. They subsequently released “proof” of his copness with a hazy youtube video showing him brandishing what they claimed was a night stick, but was actually an iron bar he was using to keep back journalists and citizen-cops. After the media spread this conspiracy theory about “false anarchists,” the police responding with a campaign to prove that the rioters were in fact rioters. It turns out, the media and the leftists were wrong, and “the ninja” was identified by police and put in jail. Curiously, the media didn’t say anything about their mistake.
Here’s an article from Alsace Libertaire on the sorry episode.
During an anti-austerity protest in Madrid on September 25, 2012, an undercover police officer dressed in black was tackled and beaten by fellow cops as he cried out, “I’m a colleague!” The youtube video of the event is hilarious, showing how stupid and brutal the cops are, but it was immediately seized on by pacifists to claim that the violent ones were police infiltrators. This is curious for a number of reasons. First of all, if you look carefully, you’ll notice that the undercover is wearing a black shirt and light jeans, no mask. Hardly a Black Bloc anarchist. Secondly, the protest itself, organized by a whole gamut of dissidents from liberals to anarchists, was planned to blockade the Spanish Congress. How the liberals imagined doing that without breaking the law or clashing with police is beyond understanding. The fact that they got all upset when clashes broke out only shows how they are living in a fantasy world in which people will link arms and sing, and the police will simply stand down. In any case, their accusations that “the violent ones” and “the masked ones” were really police infiltrators (and the clearly false allegation that the undercover cop was wearing a mask) was published in one of Spain’s largest newspapers.
In a testament to crowd psychology and how ready pacifists and conspiracy theorists are to manipulate it, by simply writing the claim that the police agent was wearing a mask made people think they were watching a masked cop being beaten by fellow cops, even as they saw a video showing an undercover without any mask.
October 2011 Greece General Strike
On October 20, 2011, the second day of a 48 hour general strike in Greece, Communist Party members and PAME unionists clashed with other protestors. The Communist Party and their union, PAME, had called for a blockade of parliament, but when thousands of other protestors tried to storm parliament, the communists and police began working hand in hand to beat them up and eject them from Syntagma Square. The Communist Party, parroted by many leftist and mainstream media, claimed that the masked protestors were police provocateurs, which is hypocritical given that the communists were aiding the cops in arresting them. (Some anti-authoritarian conspiracy nuts floated the theory that it was provocateurs on the other side who started the fighting, which is equally absurd, given how often fighting breaks out in Greece between the anarchists and extraparliamentary left on one side, and the parliamentary left on the other side). Right-wing conspiracy nuts and communists around the world coincided in their belief that “security forces deployed hooded provocateurs to clash with the 3,000 police deployed at the parliament”.
The Party also claimed that an old man who died of a heart attack in the protest, helped along no doubt by all the tear gas in the air, had been killed by a thrown rock, and many media passed this story on as well. To top it off, they claimed that the “masked ones” were anarchist provocateurs, and while no doubt many thousands of anarchists were there trying to storm parliament and fighting with the communists (who are in parliament), and a great many of them were probably proud to be there, large groups of masked rioters at any protest in Greece, and at this one in particular, will also include socialists, nihilists, extraparliamentary communists, and unaligned youth.
Genoa G8 2001
In July 2001, the 28th G8 summit took place in Genoa, Italy. 200,000 people protested, and the spectacle of the summit was disrupted by heavy rioting. Police militarized the city and attacked protesters indiscriminately, torturing many detainees. A Black Bloc of anarchists from across Europe damaged banks and corporate property, while many other protesters participated using other tactics, from peaceful marchers to the Tutte Bianchi. Anarchist Carlo Giuliani was killed by police who shot him in the head and then ran him over twice with their vehicle. Despite the fact that police violence preceded any rioting, and that many anarchist comrades, including Giuliani, chose to fight with police and attack banks and other elements of the G8 power structure, some leftists claimed the riots were started by police provocateurs. Groups such as Ya Basta and Tutte Bianchi were frustrated that their spectacular and nonviolent confrontations with police were overshadowed in the media by streetfighing, or did not go as choreographed given the aggressive police actions. For those who still think the police need a justification for their violence, it is interesting to note that none of the police who engaged in torture or fabrication of evidence were sent to prison, and the cop who murdered Carlo Giuliani was acquitted. Despite clear evidence of a direct shot to the face, and a photo taken just before Carlo’s death showing the cop aiming directly at his head (or the fact that the cops subsequently ran him over twice), a judge decided to concur with the absurd story that the cop shot in the air but the bullet ricocheted off a stone thrown by a protestor.
After the general strike and riots of March 29, 2012, the mainstream media in Spain described a Starbucks that got torched as a “small coffeeshop”. This is a really common trick, to describe a multinational as a small, family owned business. If a small business truly is smashed in a riot (and this rarely happens), probably one of three things has happened. Either undercover cops did it to make common people angry at the rioters, or there are racial and economic tensions between the shop owners and the residents of a neighborhood, or someone who used to work at the small business and was exploited or screwed over decided to take revenge—remember, not all family businesses treat their workers like family!