From National Post - by Kathryn Blaze Carlson
B.B.: A look at the anarchists who could be the biggest G20 security threat
Date : mardi 15 juin 2010 @ 13:29:49 :: Sujet :
When security experts talk about the problems posed by protesters at this month’s G20 summit — the activists who present the “chief threat” to the city and its guests — they are largely talking about a collective of elusive protesters hooded and clad in head-to-toe black.
The Black Bloc, which grabbed international attention for its raucous appearance at the 1999 World Trade Organization protests in Seattle, is not a group, but rather a tactic used by self-described anarchists who promote violence in the form of property damage and direct confrontation with police.
“They are the chief threat — they are the people we know are going to turn up and cause problems,” said John Thompson, a security expert and president of the Toronto-based Mackenzie Institute, an organization that focuses on political instability and organized violence. “They are adrenaline junkies who are there to elicit confrontation.”
The loosely connected activists sport hoods or balaclavas to conceal their identity and, while protesters do not often organize prior to an event, their all-black uniform gives them an air of solidarity.
Peter St. John, a University of Manitoba professor who specializes in security issues, said the Black Bloc is a “sophisticated” and “radical” movement with a history of violence and a penchant for “shop-smashing.”
“These people are doing more than protesting — they are using violence to advance their agenda,” said Mr. St. John, citing Black Bloc-led vandalism at the Vancouver Olympics as an example. “And when you start using violence, you’re really coming under the rubric of a terrorist organization.”
He said recent revelations of government spending on items like the notorious $57,000 “fake lake” will only serve to strengthen the international movement of mostly young men and women — a movement that despises all things corporate and Western.
Ironically, however, protesters engaged in the Black Bloc movement are partly to blame for the whopping $1-billion G8/G20 security tab, according to Mr. Thompson.
“These guys are the ones who have driven the costs up — you know they’re going to turn up and you know they’re going to break windows, trash cars and get into confrontations with police,” he said. “What the Black Bloc protesters do is basically an extreme sport at public expense.”
Although Constable Wendy Drummond, a spokeswoman for the G20 Integrated Security Unit, would not address the Black Bloc movement specifically, she said the unit is “prepared for any eventuality.”
Ben Schumin, a self-described anarchist who has participated in upwards of a dozen Black Bloc protests, including the 2008 G20 Summit in Washington, D.C., said the security unit is right to prepare for a violent Black Bloc appearance at the June 26 and 27 gathering of international leaders.
“There are some people who wear the all-black simply to send a radical message, but there are also those who will be willing to get violent,” he said, adding that he does not support radical tactics, and will not be at this year’s summit. “A lot of the people who cause the biggest problems are the ones who come in from out of town — the locals don’t want to mess up their own bed.”
A cursory glance at anti-G20 websites proves that out-of-province protesters will, indeed, make their way to Toronto, with one Montreal-based group calling for protesters to “attack the G20.” Meantime, a music video entitled Crash the Meeting, which was posted by a self-described anarchist to a blog called the Guerilla Underground Network, calls on anti-capitalists to “leave Bay Street blazing” and features historic footage of black-clad protesters.
Mr. Schumin, who offered a rare glimpse into the inner-workings of the movement, said that while the Black Bloc is not a group, per se — even the capitalization of the movement is debatable — there are those who make regular appearances at events and who co-ordinate via email.
“Oftentimes there’s no plan at the outset, but usually you have a couple people who will take charge a bit,” he said, adding that Black Bloc participants will often “de-bloc” at the end of a protest, shedding their black attire in order to mesh with the general public.
Mr. Thompson said any violence perpetrated by Black Bloc participants will be the exception rather than the norm, but warned that a radical minority can still leave a mark.
“About 90% of the people who find themselves in a riot are just watching, and about 8 to 9% will follow the example of the 1 to 2% who are instigators,” he said. “The Black Bloc is a gathering of that 1 to 2% types — they will always start something.”
About the Black Bloc
Clad in head-to-toe black
Hooded or sporting a bandana in order to conceal identity
Male or female, but likely young
Supports property damage and/or violent police confrontation as a means to convey an anti-capitalist message
May correspond with fellow Black Bloc protesters via email, but could simply show up solo at an event wearing black
May be equipped with protective gear, such as knee pads and bicycle helmets
Likely living in the Western world