Things That Go Bang in the Crowd

Be Aware of Those Around You

Photo Riley Sparks

If you are in the fray of a peaceful protest and find yourself thinking ‘who are these assholes throwing shit for no reason’? The answer is probably the Black Bloc. Like the name suggests they dress all in black, come in groups and fuck shit up.

Their tactics involve use of assorted paint products, smashing things and generally undermining any sort of protests with violence. They have been present at several student protests against tuition hikes including the recent Mar. 13 mobilization.

They always make the news, and make all demonstrators look bad.

The general consensus is to avoid them—and their associated violence outbursts—at all costs. However, if there are more than one of you around who really want to keep the peace, try some of the following de-escalation techniques.

Keeping the Peace

De-escalation techniques are non-violent methods to move towards negotiation and reconciliation.

The first thing to remember is that third- fourth- and fifth-party roles are essential here to talk people down from violence and come to a mutual understanding. So after you have a group of peaceful protesters behind you, clearly communicate your intentions.

Second point is to film the thing. Really. Whip out your phone, camera, whatever. This is crucial in case anyone questions what happens afterward.

Other tactics include announcing your gang is about to “Block the Bloc” to keep the movement peaceful. Some have used the ‘encircle tactic’ as a method to both identify, shame and deter potential shit disturbers. Obviously use your judgment, but it worked on March 13.

Another method is to stand between them and their targets, but again it really depends on what the situation is.

Finally, be smart. Be clear about your intentions to maintain non-violence, and be firm about your actions. Be peaceful. Try to be kind (wherever you can) and know that these people are the minority.

Most demonstrators are perfectly normal people, so speak up if you need help. The troublemakers are a couple of bad apples feeling smashy, but they can be stopped—and shamed—to keep things peaceful and to the point.

How to Recognize Undercover Cops:

You also might notice a few odd-looking folks who, at first glance, seem to be part of the Black Bloc. But these people—almost always men—are way too beefy and well-fed to be anarchists. These are undercover cops.

If nothing else, their Oakleys and huge, non-Doc Martens work boots, should be a dead giveaway.
Typically sporting Lavalois-esque faux hawks, bandannas and bad attitudes, they usually cluster together in the middle of the crowd, looking for troublemakers. They usually hide extendable batons and pepper spray under their military-surplus, thrift-store-chic getup.

Pro-tip: avoid these people. They’re the source of all kinds of trouble. At several rowdy protests in Montreal, we’ve seen them snatch protesters and arrest them or drag them away into unmarked cop cars. I don’t know what happens to these unlucky people after that, but on weeks after major riots I have noticed that the Chartwell’s burgers taste extra soylent-green-ish.

If you spot any undercovers, back up a bit and spread the word to people around you. If you think it’s safe, snap a picture and move away.