Strike against pension reform: who are the black blocs?

Strike against pension reform: who are the black blocs?


At demonstrations like the one against the pension reform this Thursday, January 19, the black blocs are regularly discussed. Who are you ?

Radicalized and violent youth. The black blocs are a nightmare for law enforcement at demonstrations and are sometimes mentioned at large mobilizations

During the Paris anti-pension reform rally this Thursday, January 19, 2023, Black Blocs at the head of the procession threw trash cans, bottles, smoke bombs and various objects at police.

The mobile units intervened to disperse the group with tear gas just a few steps from the Place de la Bastille. The Black Blocs, wearing helmets, balaclavas and black clothing, confronted police on Boulevard Beaumarchais after booing them when they saw them in the adjacent streets. “Everyone hates the police,” they also intoned in unison.

These youth, hostile to the institutions, are known to the authorities for regularly taking spontaneous, sometimes violent, actions during demonstrations.

“The black blocs form ephemeral groups in the demonstrations whose aim is to carry out illegal actions by forming an unidentifiable anonymous mass,” said Pierre-Henry Brandet, then spokesman for the Ministry of the Interior four years ago.

“From the Anarchist Movement”

They first appeared in West Berlin in the early 1980s and formed resistance groups against police violence. Armed with sticks and dressed in black, these far-left activists violently resisted the police. These characteristics earn them the nickname “black block”.

“As a result, these individuals wear black or very dark clothing, making identification and arrest difficult. They dress like this at the last moment and immediately change their outfit as soon as the abuse is over,” continued Pierre-Henry Brandet. According to him, they “are part of the anarchist movement for many” and, in particular, take part in “all violent struggles against globalization”.

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And for good reason, the now largely democratized “Black Bloc” movement can be found almost everywhere in the world. In particular, they had caused fires and damage on the sidelines of the World Trade Organization (WTO) summit in Seattle in 1999 and ten years later in Strasbourg and Kehl (Germany).

In France, “around a thousand” (2014) people were part of the broader “autonomous” movement – from which the “black blocs” originated – estimated Rémy Piperaud, author of a paper on the subject at Versailles-Saint-Quentin University. “The rejection of the principle of representation is one of the rare unifying ideological elements” of the movement, which “consists essentially of squatters and students,” he analyzed.

Cautiously avoiding coordinated actions in general, the “Black Blocks” still communicate via information or social networks on the Internet. Your action should be spontaneous, outside the trade union or political framework.