* I’m a huge, committed believer in the right to protest and to peacefully assemble. But these self-described “anarchists” who cause trouble at demonstrations throughout the country have got to be stopped. So, welcome to Chicago, morons…
Several thousand protesters spent five hours peacefully chanting, singing and marching against war. At the end, nearly 40 young veterans dramatically took their military medals and hurled them toward McCormick Place, where world leaders met behind closed doors.
It was supposed to end there — at Michigan and Cermak.
But a “Black Bloc” of about 100 anarchists wanted something else. The group, which chanted “What do we want? Dead cops!” as it left Grant Park at 2 p.m., surged to the front of the protest crowd and tried to break through the imposing line of Chicago cops in riot gear blocking its path.
Then, in a scene Chicagoans feared ever since the city learned it would host the NATO Summit, the two sides violently clashed on live TV, with police nightsticks flailing and protesters unleashing a volley of sticks, bottles and at least one rock.
The battle at Michigan and Cermak flared and then slowed, and then flared again in bursts between 5 and 6:30 p.m. By then, much of the Black Bloc had slipped away, leaving behind a scene of bloodied protesters and four injured cops, including one stabbed in the leg.
* It would help, though, if the city understood what they were dealing with in advance…
Prosecutors say the three men charged Saturday with plotting to attack President Barack Obama’s campaign headquarters, Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s home, police stations and squad cars were anarchists and “members of the ‘Black Bloc’ group.”
But a black bloc isn’t an organization. Rather, it’s a tactic for marches.
Participants wear black clothes, bandanas, masks and anything else to conceal their identities from police.
Black blocs first drew the attention of mainstream America in 1999 during demonstrations against the World Trade Organization in Seattle. A black bloc went on the offensive, bashing windows of many businesses in downtown Seattle including Starbucks, Gap and other businesses with a global reach.
Black bloc vandals also damaged property during the 2010 G-20 meeting in Toronto.
Black bloc participants say they conceal their identities for fear of reprisals from police, who often infiltrate black blocs during demonstrations to identify those committing crimes.
* And the same goes for the media…
The Black Bloc was also believed to be involved in another incident that took place during the march, an Associated Press report indicated that police and protesters clashed during the middle of the parade. The protesters, dressed in black, allegedly surged toward police and threw objects at officers. Police fought back with batons.
Those protesters ran away, but reconvened with the main crowd near the parade’s end at Cermak and Michigan Avenue and are believed to be part of the later clash with police, who beefed up security around that area — and officers showed up in full riot gear.
* Back to the Sun-Times story…
When police surged forward a second time — shouting “move” and using their clubs as barricades to shove protesters — many at the front of the crowd could not move fast enough. Several fell to the ground and were trampled by other protesters also being shoved back by police.
As reporters and protesters in the center of the melee screamed “There’s nowhere to go — stop!” the police line stopped just in time to prevent a disaster.
A good rule of thumb is that when reporters feel their safety has been threatened, you’re gonna see harsh coverage. The Sun-Times article was quite balanced, considering.
* A little perspective…
As someone who walked the entire parade route with the NATO protestors, from the Petrillo Band Shell to the corner of Michigan and Cermak, I can tell you there were two groups no one wanted to come in contact with: the police, and the Black Bloc.
From the outset, it was clear that the march’s organizers were not enthusiastic about the appearance of the Black Bloc, a gang of black-clad anarchists who believe that no protest is complete without a punch-up or a broken window. Marshals in orange vests ordered them to move further back in the crowd. They didn’t want the Black Bloc in the vanguard, as the face of the anti-NATO protests.
And yes, they were all dressed in black: black hoodies, black bandannas, black masks, black jeans, black boots. One Black Bloc member even brought along a black dog. Only the police, in their riot helmets and body armor, must have been hotter on that 85-degree day. Seeing themselves as the purest element of protest, the Black Bloc even tried to intimidate peaceful marchers, who they considered insufficiently radical. […]
At the corner of Michigan and Cermak, the march ended with speeches by veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan, who apologized for their roles in those wars and tossed their medals into the trees behind. After that ceremony ended, the police ordered protestors to “Move West” — toward the Cermak/Chinatown Red Line stop. Almost all the protesters complied. But not the Black Bloc. They’d come for a fight, and they weren’t going to leave without a cut or a bruise they could point to and boast, “Police brutality.” McCormick Place was in sight, beyond a line of mounted police officers.
“NATO is east!” the hardcore Black Bloc shouted. “NATO is east!”
They didn’t put up much of a struggle. Nobody got past the police lines. I hadn’t expected them to triumph in a conflict with the cops. None of them looked very big, very fit, or even very tough.
The Black Bloc didn’t storm McCormick Place, but they got more attention than the thousands and thousands of peaceful protestors surrounding them. That may have been their real mission on Sunday.
Their real mission is fighting with cops and causing trouble. They’re basically just punks who think they’re cool because they dig violence. They’re no different than European soccer hooligans, except their venue of choice is otherwise peaceful protests instead of sporting events.