After Donald Trump’s inauguration on Jan. 20, the Black Bloc, an anti-fascist group with more than 500 members, went out into the streets of Washington, D.C. to protest Trump. While most of its members were detained by police, one of the members went rogue. This member, who still has not been identified, punched “Neo-Nazi” Richard Spencer live on camera.
I learned about the incident on Twitter. Someone had posted a video of Richard Spencer, whom I had no prior knowledge of at the time, getting punched to the beat of a reggae horn. Immediately after I saw the viral video, another tweet popped up posing the question if it was acceptable to use violence against Neo-Nazis.
Someone responded saying, “People didn’t die in WW2 for ya’ll to ask this question.” I immediately laughed, agreed and hit the retweet button.
But after researching the Black Bloc, I realized that I cannot support the anonymous member’s random act of violence. In fact, I cannot support the Black Bloc at all.
According to writer at The Nation Natasha Leonard, who joined the Black Bloc that day, the Black Bloc’s protest tactics included smashing windows and burning trash cans, “Make America Great Again” hats and a limousine.
From my understanding, nothing of what they do is organized, but I suppose that destruction of property is not something that takes careful planning.
The only thing that is organized about the Black Bloc movement is their clothing. They dress in all black and wear ski masks to hide their faces so the police will not be able to easily identify them.
Before it was confirmed that the Black Bloc was responsible for destruction of property in D.C., conservatives on Twitter were blaming it all on the Black Lives Matter protesters.
However, I have not seen a lot of condemnation for the Black Bloc. There are a few articles debating if it was morally right to punch Richard Spencer, but other than that, this is old news. And that is how you know that the Black Lives Matter movement was not responsible.
The conversation needs to be less about Richard Spencer and more about the double standard we have for protests and riots.
If Black Lives Matter had been responsible for throwing punches and lighting things on fire, major news networks would have been discussing it and showing footage for at least a week. Even if it was just one person who began rioting near a peaceful Black Lives Matter protest, the whole group would have been blamed for it. It happens almost every time there is a protest against police brutality.
Even if there is no violence, black and brown protesters are still called “thugs,” “criminals” and “bad guys.” Police show up armed in military gear. The leadership of the black community is questioned. And before you know it, half of America sees Black Lives Matter as a terrorist organization.
But when the rioters are white, there is a different response. And guess what most of the Black Bloc rioters were? White. Of the 500 rioters, 200 were arrested and face felony rioting charges, which is great and is exactly what should have happened. However, I wish that they would have gotten more national air time, because I doubt that the majority of Americans are familiar with the Black Bloc.
The harsh language that is used to describe black protesters and the occasional rioter (who, by the way, are usually not claimed by the movement) needs to be used when discussing the Black Bloc and white rioters in general. This is not the first time that white people have rioted, but some may think so due to the riots never being called riots.
One can find mostly sports- related riots started by white thugs dating back from 1984 when the Detroit Tigers won the World Series. Eight rapes, one fatality and 80 were injuries were reported in 2015 when Ohio State University won the NCAA football championship and 90 fires were started. Between those two examples, you can find about nine more, but barely any consequences.
Perhaps the only redeemable quality about the Black Bloc is that they show allyship for minority peaceful protestors by creating human shields to protect them from police and not allowing those with “vulnerable immigration status, arrest records or good reason to fear police repression because of the color of their skin” to participate in Black Bloc, Lennard said.
I would think that people who meet that criteria would be smart enough to know that they should not participate without having to be told, but good for the Black Bloc for having rules for membership.
According to one-day Black Bloc member Lennard, the main goal of Black Bloc is this: “If bearers of white privilege can do one thing, it is put ourselves on the line and take risks where others can’t.”
Lennard is right. If a group of 500 black and brown people got together to take a “risk” and destroyed property and punched Richard Spencer, they would have wound up killed, arrested and surrounded by the military all on live television, and their movement would have been no more. The chance at a good reputation would have been severed.
No one asked for the Black Bloc to do this. A bunch of white rioters dressed as bank robbers did not change the outcome of the election or Richard Spencer’s views.
The only thing the Black Bloc proved is that they benefit from white privilege enough to not be nationally known and condemned for their crimes.
The next time any white rioter or protester thinks that they should speak and act on minorities’ behalves, they should stop and let an actual minority organize the movement.