THE CHICAGO PRINCIPLES:
• Our solidarity will be based on respect for a political diversity within the struggle for social, economic and environmental justice. As individuals and groups, we may choose to engage in a diversity of tactics and plans of action but are committed to treating each other with respect and working towards a common goal of peace and justice.
• As we plan our actions and tactics, we will take care to maintain appropriate separations of time and space between divergent tactics.
• We oppose any state repression of dissent, including surveillance, infiltration, disruption, limiting our action to “free speech zones,” and violence, or attempts to divide our movement through the conscious creation of divisions regarding tactics, organization, strategies, and alliances.
• Any debates or criticisms will stay internal to the movement, avoiding any public or media denunciations of fellow activists and events.
I've been watching, waiting to see where "SOLIDARITY" would get tagged along the hundreds of articles out there from May 20th, the NoNATO or CAN/G8 March that drew over 15,000 protesters together in a stand against the North Atlantic Treaty Organization - the militant arm of first-world capitalist giants.
And I've been disappointed.
It's time that we cover Solidarity 101, and at no point in my life has the need been so glaring than on that big day.
Look at the picture here. It is from one of the pre-CAN/G8 actions, where hundreds of protesters gathered and walked a picket line in solidarity with migrant workers, victims of union busting by the Congress Hotel in Chicago. The workers were kicked out over 9 years ago, fallout from labor struggles in which the Congress decided in favor of canning people instead of improving human rights. Occupy Chicago and the many that sympathized had no idea that this had happened to them - but once they - once WE knew what was happening, we marched IN SOLIDARITY with them. We did not lead them - we did not co-opt them. We did not accuse them, and we did not drown them out in our issues. We simply saw them as friends, as people, as humans, and that is why we marched - because no matter what, we stand in solidarity with our brothers and sisters. This was their job - it could be yours next. I didn't judge. I just walked. And as they spoke to us later, we shared a teary moment... SOLIDARITY inspired us all - and it was perhaps the best gift for them, as they shared with us, that they "...are not alone."
Solidarity is the strongest tie between humans. It's a form of love. That I will see you for who you are, and I will stand with you so that we can rise together. Solidarity is not standing up for people, taking their issues on your own. Solidarity is not handing out judgementation, and it doesn't discriminate.
These things should be obvious, right?
CAN/G8 is a "peaceful, non-violent" organization that gathers as many people as possible every year to protest G8 and NATO summits. They were the primary organizers for NATO this year, and they were the ones who picked the march route, provided "peace guides", permits, and other infrastructure to keep things going.
The problem was when they started to denounce violence, people, tactics, and places. They spread hate and fear through their ranks, which swelled in the general public so that people would despise anything that didn't keep in line with the perfect image of a hippie, or better yet, a white, middle-class protester out for a lovely stroll against The Man.
Non-violence is fine, but denouncing people because of it is not. It's fine to want a peaceful march, but to enforce it by alienating groups you don't like is not fine. It's not solidarity.
We can argue the merits of the Black Bloc until the cows come home, but the fact is, is that the Bloc tactics (any of them, such as clown bloc or pink bloc, etc.) have come in handy. The Bloc has prevented many a illegal arrest, has provided security for protesters, and provides a real-time accountability for police brutality. Any march I'm in with a Bloc, I feel safer. The Clown Bloc, internationally, has done an amazing effort at de-escalation tactics as well. The Pink bloc, or Queer bloc, has been one of the only places where those identifying as queer or LGBTQ have been able to come together without having to conform or divide their identity.
When the Black Bloc showed up at the CAN/G8 march, they immediately faced heavy discrimination and hatred... from other protesters. Not from the police, not from residents. A organized effort to make the Bloc feel unwelcome. It started as media heckling, which CAN/G8 had every ability to stop in its tracks.
The main reason why the Bloc does not get photographed (any bloc) is because the Bloc stands for solidarity. All the same. All equal. All as one. And when you photograph and individualize people, its a direct attack on one's wishes to stand in solidarity. Because few in solidarity can do what thousands of individuals cannot, photographing people can also create an unsafe and hostile environment for people, whether they support a diversity of tactics, or whether they choose non-resistance.
It stung when CAN/G8 got up in front of the huge crowd, on the microphones at the rally, and shouted that everyone MUST be peaceful, non-resistant, and kind. Such a demand and statement directly violates the Chicago Principles, which gathered thousands in solidarity. The CAN/G8 statement served to divide, despite best intentions. (You know what they say about the best intentions, right?)
As the bloc moved to the street, non-bloc people scowled at them, shouted at them, and the bloc was moved 3 times because nobody wanted to stand by the bloc. At one point, the bloc was even moved to the side, out of the march formation. Eventually, people in the bloc put their foot down towards the front while "peace guides" heatedly denounced, shouted at, and insulted members of the bloc and the tactics in general - when the "peace guides" stopped listening to them, members of the Bloc got heated as well, directly stating that the CAN/G8 inhospitality was violating the Chicago Principles more than the bloc trying to hold a spot in the march. Eventually the "peace guides" stomped off. The presence of "peace guides" in the first place suggests how unwelcome a diversity of tactics were.
As the march persisted, the bloc was repeatedly cut off, blocked out, shoved away, intentionally divided, and persecuted by people in the march. Banner holders attempted to use banners to block people from holding the integrity of the bloc formation. At least 3 times, the bloc had to march to the edges of the streets to reform because CAN/G8 kept spitting them out of the march. For the entire duration of the march, the bloc had done nothing but walk together - no violence, no corporate destruction... but people were giving them the looks as if they were baby killers. This is not what solidarity is about.
When the march route ended with the veteran ceremony (throwing back ribbons to the warlords), the bloc was again segregated. When, after 20 minutes, it became glaringly apparent that the entire 15,000 person march was supposed to culminate in some overly-long ritual, the bloc decided they would try to march to the actual NATO summit. They were cut off by police, and returned to the ceremony. The bloc tried to tell people that the whole march was getting kettled, but people shouted at them to "shut the fuck up" and "be respectful for once". As the police closed in, the bloc used the People's Mic (a person says phrases, everyone repeats so all can hear) to tell people that "we need to move, we're being kettled". When the ceremony was finally over, the police were on all sides. The Bloc wanted to march on NATO, and many agreed - but CAN/G8 allowed a line of over a dozen police officers to come between CAN/G8 and the bloc. This is the most horrible treason against solidarity that I have ever seen. What happened in the march was one thing... but letting your supposed comrades get kettled and surrounded - so much as stepping aside to let the riot cops in... is a perversion of Solidarity, a perversion of the Chicago principles, and a perversion of the movement.
Once the police had cut off the bloc and supporters from the rest of the march, the police were able to gather what was necessary, knowing that there would be no flow of re-enforcements from outside the line dividing CAN/G8 from everyone else. The bloc charged forward to break the kettle, but was not equipped to break three lines of police - which had been assembled during the perfunctory ceremony.
Meanwhile, as CAN/G8 aided the Chicago Police Department in surrounding the people they didn't like, CPD also surrounded them and kettled them. It was irony. Eventually, the police opened up two narrow dispersement routes along the sidewalks, but blocked nearly everyone from the initial kettle (thanks, CAN/G8) from leaving. Now completely surrounded, the Chicago Police Department gave dispersement orders, with no way to disperse. By the time that the announcement came over the LRAD (Long Range Acoustic Device), the police had blocked the sidewalks and were pushing the crowds along the main street away from the trap. Nobody would have been able to go in or out, media or not, medic or not, and the legal observers were also ejected from the kettle. This meant that because of the blatant lack of solidarity from CAN/G8 and their actions, the people that were left in the trap had no legal representation or observation, no media coverage, and no first aid. They were abandoned, left, ditched by CAN/G8 - and I honestly doubt CAN/G8 organizers lost a wink of sleep over it. The police were left unaccountable for their actions, and from the few pieces of footage which survived the day, you can tell that all those things were needed.
Many were arrested. All that were arrested, shouldn't have been. There is no such thing as a good arrest, and there is no such thing as a meaningful arrest. While many of the arrestees were not charged, rule number 1 was violated: DON'T GET CAUGHT.
Solidarity means standing with your brothers and sisters as one, ceasing to be a handful of individuals, and become one force for change. NATO is a huge, rich organization. CAN/G8 needed all the help it could get, but they chose a campaign of fear and hatred that divided people and broke solidarity.
Some may like to think of the Black Bloc as a gaggle of hooligans... but it's not true. Many of the black bloc are non-violent. Bloc is a tactic, not a group. No two Blocs are the same. What unites them is solidarity - that's all. The Bloc at NATO had no intention (for the whole weekend, even) of raising an undue amount of Hell upon Chicago, in respect and solidarity with the Chicago Principles. The respect, as proved by CAN/G8 was not a two-way street.
I admire everyone who dressed in black on May 20th, for their courage to stand up for freedom, equality, justice, and solidarity... even when they were forced to stand up to their friends.
CAN/G8, it's time to retire. You have failed in your mission to unite the people. You have failed in your mission to end NATO and G8. You are a capitalistic and cannibalistic non-profit organization playing by the cards of the 1% in favor of your grant-writers, your campaign slogan-ers, your public affairs officers, and your executive directors. Your organization has no place in the revolution, and you'd do well to stay out of it from here on. All you touch has been tainted by your treachery, and your lack of solidarity for your brothers and sisters in arms. Your propaganda turned thousands against fellow revolutionaries, and for that, you have proved your character. You have been outed.