Understanding Violent Black Bloc Protests and Their Objectives

Hamburg official warns of largest left-wing dissent 'of all time' as unrest kicks off at G-20

Hamburg’s interior minister, Andy Grote, warned in an interview with the German broadcaster ZDF that the “militant far-left” is planning “to organize the biggest black bloc of all time” in response to the G-20 meetings being held in his city this week.

Authorities in Hamburg have pulled in roughly 20,000 police officers to deal with the expected threat to the conference, which is being held on Thursday and Friday. “It will be the biggest operation in the history of Hamburg’s police,” the city’s police spokesman, Timo Zell, told Germany’s The Local newspaper.

Police expect between 7,000 and 8,000 “left-wing extremists” to show up to protest the event, reports indicate, and indeed bouts of violence have already erupted as radical leftists stream into Hamburg in preparation for the summit.

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On Sunday, police were forced to resort to using pepper spray in order to clear out a small tent city established by roughly 600 radical leftists on the banks of the Elbe river. There were “scuffles that saw at least one protester injured,” reported The Local. On Thursday evening, violence seemed to begin in tandem with the G-20 meetings themselves, as black bloc protesters squared off with police officers and blocked traffic.

So aggressive was Thursday night’s mob that police were forced to bring in water cannons to dispel the violent crowds.

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“Praise the water cannons. First shower some of the ‘black bloc’ protesters have had in weeks. #stinky,” joked LifeZette Editor-in-Chief Laura Ingraham on Twitter.

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Organizing black bloc groups is a favorite pastime of the militant left, especially among anti-capitalist and anarchist groups.

While pundits and journalists may frequently refer to “black bloc protesters,” black bloc is not a movement or organization but a tactic. Black-clad, masked activists will take cover in otherwise peaceful protests and, on a given signal, break out into orchestrated acts of violence against authorities and in destruction of private property.

In the United States, the black bloc tactic has become almost entirely synonymous with Antifa — “anti-fascist” — groups, who have used the tactic repeatedly on college campuses and at pro-Trump rallies. Antifa activists’ use of black bloc tactics led the loose network to be designated a violent extremist group by New Jersey’s Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness in June.

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“Beginning in March, the Philadelphia Antifa Chapter used Facebook to encourage followers to disrupt a ‘Make America Great Again’ event in Philadelphia, resulting in over 300 participants,” notes a June 12 memo. “Antifa’s presence resulted in law enforcement shutting down the event early for safety concerns. As of May, a manual on how to form an Antifa group—posted on a well-known anarchist website in February — had approximately 13,500 views,” the memo explained under the headline “ANTIFA: INCITING VIOLENCE TOWARD FAR-RIGHT EXTREMISTS.”

Outside of the U.S., black bloc activities are most often seen being perpetrated by anti-capitalist anarchist groups, and G-20 meetings are a particularly favorite target for the group. At the 2010 G-20 meeting in Toronto, police arrested 560 people after black bloc agitators destroyed private property throughout the city. In 2007 at a G-8 summit in Rostock, black bloc rioters injured over 400 police officers.

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