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Discussion following my report "NATO Demo in Strasbourg ends in disarray..."

Dear Friends,

I am forwarding some of the comments I received following the eye-witness report that I wrote on April 5th, the day after the demonstration in Strasbourg. (“NATO Demo in Strasbourg ends in disarray following attacks by ‘hooligans’ and police”

The comments I received suggest that we ought to consider analyzing what happened in Strasbourg within an international and historical framework. For a more detailed and reflective report on Strasbourg that raises some of the same issues, see “Ingredients for a Disaster: NATO, Strasbourg and the Black Block” by Diana Johnstone (http://www.counterpunch.org/johnstone04072009.html). Maybe she, also, has received some interesting comments?

Bild: Logo

Many of the comments below address the speculation that possibly some of the Black Block in Strasbourg may have been police agents.  It may in fact not be all that important to establish whether and how many police may have been masquerading as Black Block. What is important for our future work is to address the fact that the form of Black Block organization endangers the movement because it COULD be used by police, etc. and it DOES provoke a lot of anxiety and mistrust among large numbers of demonstrators. Further, the Black Block provide the police with an further excuse and cover to curtail our civil liberties, while at the same time justifying their anti-democratic procedures to the media.

If there is ever again to be an attempt at integration of such a broad spectrum as we attempted in Strasbourg, there must be clear and binding and ongoing communications between all groups as well as a common strategy.  And in my personal opinion, there should be no masks at all.  Masks and disguises should neither be allowed nor encouraged by us at broad-based peace demonstrations, nor at the camps and other facilities supporting them.

In contrast, perhaps, to some leaders of the traditional peace movement, I personally do see a role for attacks on certain property, such as dismantling of military aircraft in Shannon Airport.  But these activities must be, in my opinion, clearly demarcated and separate from the mass mobilizations that should and must grow larger.


On Apr 15, 2009, at 3:47 PM, Lawrence McGuire wrote:

There is a lot of documentary evidence about police dressing up as Blac Bloc in Italy (as well as other places).  The whole strategy in Strasburg was VERY similar to Genoa (blocking off the city center, using tear gas to split up the demonstration at a very strategic point, fake blac block who appeared just before police attacked a peaceful group of demonstrators, stopping protestors at the border, etc).  I would say it was the SAME strategy in fact.

“It is Saturday afternoon and there are as many as 200,000 people marching on Genoa against the G8. It is not a combative march. As they swing onto the seafront, a group of agent provocateurs began throwing stones at the police. These are undercover cops, or secret police, or mercenaries or nazi’s. They are used by the police same way the paramilitaries are used by the state in Chiapas or Belfast, or even how they used them in Italy in the 1970’s. The police want to pick the time and place of the confrontation. They are ready and prepared. This was planned. This is how the Police work: a few stones fall harmlessly into their ranks and they open up with tear-gas. The canisters fly deep into the multitude, immediately creating panic and chaos. People flee, young and old, babes in arms, but there are too many people, nowhere to run, they are hemmed in and poisoned from the gas. It is horrific.This is how the people resist. The militants stream through the crowd to the front. There they attempt to build barricades, hold back the advancing cops. The sky fills with stones. They hold the police and the people behind have a few moments more to retreat. Those who needed to get away from the zone could. "

With hindsight, and more importantly photographic evidence, it is now apparent that many of the arseholes engaged in this behaviour were agent provocateurs. Many later commented on the fact that large numbers of those engaged in the most senseless acts of destruction were left well alone by cops, indeed people dressed as Black Block members were seen freely making their way across police lines and talking to cops.


From: George Pumphrey
Date: April 9, 2009

I would like to give you an example of how NATO/the US staged a “terrorist” attack against NATO/US forces in Europe in order to criminalize and split the movement against the installation of the Euromissiles in the ‘80s.
We’ll take the case of the bazooka attack against Gen. Frederik James Kroesen 15. Sept 1981, in Heidelberg Germany. Kroesen was riding in the back seat of the car taking him to work at US Army Hqtrs. in Heidelberg where he was the Supreme Commander of the USAEUR (US Armed Forces Europe). Beside him in the back seat was his wife – a fact not without importance. How many generals’ wives ride to work with gen. hubby?.

The car stopped at a traffic light and was promptly hit in the rear by a shell supposedly fired from a Soviet made RPG-7 grenade launcher. Just as promptly the Red Army Fraktion (or RAF) was accused of having made the attack. RAF had already been dormant for 4 years only to be spectacularly raised from the dead for this attack.

(This note from George included attachments with substantiating evidence George gathered in 1981 and an excellent analysis he wrote in 2003 called “Types of Terrorism and 9/11”: http://globalresearch.ca/articles/PUM306A.html)

From: “acdn”
Date: April 6, 2009 10:04:20 PM GMT+02:00

Dear Elsa, Loring, and others,

First, thank you, Elsa, for your precise and precious testimony. May I put it on the website of ACDN? With the signature of “Elsa”?

Second, thank you, Loring, for the important questions you are raising. Personally, I disagree with the “confusion des genres”. Non-violence is non-violence, that is, it should refuse any kind of violence. But I agree with you: that needs to be worked out.

Best regards.

Jean-Marie Matagne, ACDN (Action of Citizens for the total Dismantling of Nukes), France

Envoyé : lundi 6 avril 2009 17:04

Elsa and GN list,

There is an interesting reaction to Black Bloc anarchist protesters that I see in the U.S., which also may be true in Europe.

Many peace activists say their commitment to nonviolence is non-negotiable, but at the same time they have a certain “romantic” attachment to black-bloc provocation actions.  At one WTO meeting in Washington, DC, for example, two thirds of the crowd at an outdoor festival stood and cheered when the black-bloc contingent entered the field.  I understand where this comes from, in part – I support anarcho-syndicalism as a political and economic philosophy, and there is a feeling sometimes that anarchists and autonomen groups are the only ones truly challenging the state.

However, as you pointed out in this post, the police often use the provocations as an excuse to use extreme crowd-control tactics against peaceful crowds.  We saw it in Strasbourg, we saw it in London on April 1 and 2.  And here in Colorado Springs, we saw the police tear-gas a group of 5000 at the start of the Iraq War in 2003 because a dozen anarchists were blockading cars and wielding sticks to break windshields of cars.  I don’t think all black-bloc actions are police-agent actions by any stretch of the imagination, and in fact, COINTELPRO-type actions may be a very small percentage of what we see.  But it is worthwhile to ask, when are the anarchist groups doing preceisely what the police want to see?

The extreme security measures used by the London police show that police forces will use extreme crowd control regardless of whether provocateurs are in the crowds or not.  But I think the events of Strasbourg show that there must be an open dialogue in the peace community regarding our feelings on black-bloc actions.  Are they always wrong?  Are they OK if only property is damaged but people are not hurt?  If peoplein the peace community want to pre-arrange civil disobedience with police all the time, are we allowing police to turn protest into pre-arranged theater, and does this end the spontaneity and unpredictability we see in black-bloc protests?  I remain committed to nonviolent philosophies, but I am still trying to work out how I feel about these sort of actions.  Thanks for your report.

Loring Wirbel
Citizens for Peace in Space/GN
Colorado Springs, CO, USA

From: Janet Larson
Date: April 6, 2009 8:51:52 PM GMT+02:00

Elsa, this is just horrendous. Thank you for your detailed report! I look forward to the rest.
Is the mayor of Strausbourg considered a ‘friend’ of sorts because of his statement that there must be
and explanation of police behavior? Have other officials joined this call?
Noticed the press report didn’t mention the gassing or the grenades.
A similarly huge force was assembled against the anti-trade ageeement demonstrators in Miami several years ago,
with police riots and shooting of pellets that severely injured people of all sorts, including labor movement retirees and journalists.
This hardly got into the news here.
I hope some of your peace people had cameras.
Black Bloc should be pressed to drop the disguises to show good faith that they’re not infiltrated by police.
In solidarity with all antiwar people of courage and principle like yourselves,
Janet Larson, New Jersey Peace Action & UFPJ Af/Pak Working Group

Begin forwarded message:
From: Janet Larson
Date: April 13, 2009 7:32:58 AM GMT+02:00

The pellets in Miami, as I recall, were pepper pellets. Add if you want.
The Miami police chief made efforts to intimidate and prevent the protest ahead of time (another parallel). They also assembled a huge number of police, intel, and counter-terrorism forces from other states—some coming as ‘observers’ to see how this would be done (and, presumably, could be replicated elsewhere)—as well as military vehicles and hardware, to project overwhelming force.
The New York Times front page photo of Strasbourg April 5 pictured the smoke from the burning hotel, with inside photo of police wrestling with demonstrators. A statement by an organizer about the peaceful purpose of the march was at the very end of the report.

Janet Larson

From: Ward Reilly
Date: April 6, 2009 7:06:26 PM GMT+02:00

Sounds like a COINTEL Pro operation to me…

Source: email