Anarchists try to block photographers. They would later set a police car on fire at the intersection of King and Bay during a protest at the G20 summit in Toronto. (June 26, 2010)
STEVE RUSSELL/TORONTO STAR
A group of G20 protesters roamed Toronto’s streets Saturday, lighting police cars on fire and laying waste to city blocks, and much of the destruction could be blamed on a protest tactic known as Black Bloc.
While the Black Bloc has been cited as an organization in the past, it’s actually a tactic, according to websites devoted to the method.
The Black Bloc strategy is simple: show up at demonstrations and attack symbols of capitalism. The hope is that police will react, while the protesters shed their black clothes and melt into the crowd.
One website claims it is used as a “security and safety measure.”
The idea of wearing the all-black uniform is that everyone in the “bloc” looks alike, so when a brick is tossed through a store window or a car is set ablaze, the group disperses, making it next to impossible for police to identify the perpetrator of the crime.
It also prevents them from being singled out in media photographs or television coverage.
The tactic has been around since the 1980s. But images of these aggressive protesters popped up in North America during the 1999 World Trade Organization ministerial meeting in Seattle.
Since then, the Black Bloc has been present at almost every world event, smashing, breaking and destroying stores, vehicles and anything else they come upon.
In Seattle, it was McDonald’s and Nike. In Vancouver, Black Bloc members smashed windows at Olympic sponsor HBC’s downtown store displaying Games merchandise and spray-painted the anarchist circle-A symbol on at least one bus and city vehicle.
Now, in Toronto during the G20 people wearing black balaclavas have smashed window on storefronts on Queen Street.
Black Bloc proponents notoriously avoid speaking to reporters, but in a rare interview in February, The Canadian Press spoke with a man who engaged in these tactics.
“I’m a father and a husband,” the soft-spoken man said during the interview. He didn’t want his name to be used.
At the time, he said the actions were intended to show people just how intensely they felt about the Olympics’ adverse impact on the poor.
With no structure and no purported leaders, it is difficult for authorities to track the group.