Groups permitted to protest the NATO summit, such as Iraq Veterans Against the War, are pledging nonviolence this weekend, but what concerns police and security consultants are black bloc tactics that could lead to police action.
Protesters using black bloc tactics dress almost entirely in black, often covering their face with bandannas or masks to preserve their anonymity. Black blocs, or those that use the tactics, are typically anarchists, and incite violence by destroying property and instigating police. Originally a European protest tactic from the 1970s, black blocs gained prominence in America after the 1999 riots in Seattle during the World Trade Organization conference.
One protester at an Occupy Chicago rally Tuesday said to expect black blocs during the NATO summit. Identifying herself only as JR, she said black bloc was a "tactic used by people who do not wish to be identified by the state," and intended "to incite a response." JR also called all property a form of theft and said "all structures owned by banks should be torn down." She did not say whether any banks in particular would be targeted by her or others using black bloc tactics during the summit, but said she had no interest in hurting people.
"That's a really stupid comment," he said. "There are tactics that work and tactics that don't."
Black blocs marginalize a protest's message and justify excessive police force, according to Hedges. While brutal police action, like the notorious 1968 Democratic convention in Chicago, can tarnish a city's reputation, it's far more powerful to contrast a militarized police with non-violent protests, Hedges says.
"What stains the city is when you have non-violent protests, like
That contrast is part of the rational behind clown blocs, a take on black blocs where protesters preserve their anonymity in clown makeup, but replace violence with humor. Clown blocs are already planned for Chicago's NATO summit, according to ClownBloq co-founder José Whelan.
"We’re hoping a group of clowns confronting [state and police] violence may more clearly illustrate the absurdity of the violence. After all, we'll be there with silly string and whip [sic] cream pies," he said.