Protect Yourself

Sometimes, it is necessary to go against what the mainstream considers “acceptable”, to break the law in order to do the right thing. Those who mask up and smash corporate property or riot in the streets have decided that the system needs to be abolished, that the laws are oppressive, or that those who make the laws are responsible for a serious and urgent problem, whether that’s the destruction of our planet, the hundreds of thousands of home foreclosures, murders carried out every day by police with impunity, etc.

Black Bloc in the protest against the G20 in Toronto

Black Bloc in the protest against the G20 in Toronto

Those who do decide that we need to fight back should know how to protect themselves in a protest.

First off, discourage people from filming or taking pictures during a protest. Often, people take pictures without thinking, and later get themselves or their friends in trouble. Other people who are filming are journalists or “good citizens” who later hand over the information to the cops. Furthermore, protests need to be participatory. If everyone has a camera in their hands, they become another alienated spectacle. People go out into the streets to change the world precisely because they’re sick of watching it on TV, and watching how the powerful are constantly changing it for the worse. Street protests need to be spaces of participation, creation, and destruction, not stages for the media and traps for police surveillance.

Secondly, it can be an important act of solidarity to wear a mask to a protest, even if you’re not planning on doing anything the cops or the bankers wouldn’t like. The more people are masked, the harder it is for the authorities to isolate or identify a part of the crowd. You can wear a mask to protect your identity, or simply to protest against constant surveillance. Because it is illegal to wear a mask in many places, it is best to go with friends who can watch your back, to be aware of where the police are, and to be mindful of your surroundings so you can pick the best moment to mask up and unmask.

Greek protestors cover their faces with sunglasses, Malox, and bandanas as a double defense against police surveillance and teargas.

Greek protestors cover their faces with sunglasses, Malox, and bandanas as a double defense against police surveillance and teargas.

Police can also use video surveillance to catch people who are wearing masks. If you are participating in a dangerous situation, it is a good idea to change several pieces of your outer clothing or even your shoes (e.g. bring a light jumper, track pants, or a rain poncho you can throw away). Wear clothes that are as generic and nondescript as possible, exchange items of clothing with friends, and don’t forget to cover, disguise, switch, or ditch whatever backpack or bag you may bring. And most importantly, be sure that when you are masking or unmasking, you are not being filmed!

Don’t be casual about taking off your mask or partially opening up your disguise. Decide wisely when to go into anonymous mode and when (and where) to come out of it. Don’t go halfway. If the cops can find a picture of you with the exact same clothes and shoes, with a mask and without, all your careful disguising will be wasted.

To read more about safety in a confrontational protest, see the links under “Practical Guide

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3 Responses “Protect Yourself” →

  1. Rob-bear

    January 3, 2013

    How do ordinary people, like me, protect ourselves from the violence of the “Black Block”?

    Reply

    • Bob Ferret

      January 3, 2013

      On the off chance you’re not a troll, exactly what violence do you fear from the Black Bloc? Black Blocs do not go around attacking random people. When you go to protests, do you attack people smashing banks, or stick cameras in people’s faces? Then maybe someone has shoved you, knocked you over, or even punched you. But just one eviction carried out by a bank is far more violent than a smack upside the head. And on many occasions, banks have decided not to evict when they have faced protest and property damage. As for the cameras, police regularly use the footage of journalists and bloggers to put people in jail. When you film, you’re putting people in danger. Again, the violence of a well deserved kick in the ass is far less than the violence of being put in prison.

      Are you a banker, and that’s why you need protection from the Black Bloc? Well too bad. They’re coming for you.

      Are you the owner of a small store. If you don’t exploit your workers or your customers and you try to foster a healthy community rather than participating in gentrification, you have nothing to fear from anarchists (unless you’re really attached to a money economy and being able to have employees, in which case, if we ever win, you’re shit out of luck). Just in case, establish good relations with your local anarchists, and you’ll have nothing to fear, in the off chance a Black Bloc comes through your backwater town.

      Reply
      • Thank you for the respect. I think trolling is a horrid waste of peoples’ time, and I don’t have time to do it. So, thank you for honouring my request.

        My experience of Black Block is of what appears to be random attacks on any property. It’s the “random” and particularly “any” that make me uneasy. I appreciate your response, and am taking time to consider it.

        I’m retired, and have become increasingly involved in “matters of good citizenship” in my retirement. I’m getting more and more fed up by the leadership of our country. Most recently, I’m coming to understand the First Nations’ “Idle No More” movement in Canada. I’m doing the “hard work” of trying to understand issues, allies, and potential problems.

        Thank you, again, for your reply.

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