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When the first Gulf War began in January 1991, several hundred Black Bloc demonstrators participated in a massive anti-war rally in Washington, DC. At a certain point, the Black Blockers broke away from the main hub of the protest and proceeded to smash windows at both the Treasury Department and the World Bank, to drive home the idea that “imperialist wars” are underwritten by “capitalist institutions.”
Embracing the premise that Western culture and its promoters are irredeemably evil to their core, Black Bloc demonstrators in 1992 marked the 500-year anniversary of Christopher Columbus‘ arrival in the New World by denouncing, in numerous cities nationwide, the “five centuries of genocide” that Europeans and their descendants had brought to the Americas.
And because every anti-capitalist movement needs its Marxist heroes, Mumia Abu Jamal has become a revered figure in Black Bloc circles. In 1999, some 800 to 1,200 Black Bloc activists took part in Millions 4 Mumia, a massive Philadelphia rally in support of the convicted cop-killer and former Black Panther.
At the 1999 anti-World Trade Organization (WTO) riots in Seattle, a contingent of Black Bloc anarchists trashed the storefronts of multinational corporations and helped force the WTO meetings to collapse. As one supporter puts it, the Black Bloc struck a blow against “the insulting and deadly march of corporate power,” as embodied by “irresponsible, money-starved vampire [capitalist] organizations who feed themselves by the selling and trade of increasingly trivial and noxious products.” Four years later in Cancun, Mexico, Black Bloc demonstrators played a role in forcing yet another round of WTO talks to break down.
Given the similarities between the worldviews of Black Block and Occupy Wall Street (OWS), it is not at all surprising that a number of Black Blockers have found a home in the Occupy movement—prompting some OWSers to complain that Black Block’s destructive tactics may tarnish Occupy’s reputation. In light of OWS’s well-documented history of objectionable and criminal activity—as evidenced by the thousands of arrests which have been made at Occupy sites nationwide—that complaint is laughable. Black Block and Occupy Wall Street are merely two sides of the same socialist coin.
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