Last month, at the riots surrounding the TUC protest on March 26th, I was surprised to keep bumping into groups of masked teenagers. I've known lots of the old anarchist guys who've been fighting the police for decades, but this was something different. Seeing young members of the black bloc at protests in Europe is very common, but in England it's totally new.
I went to meet some of the new kids on the black bloc as well as some of the old guard to find out why anarchism in the UK is getting an adolescent kick up the ass.
Andy is 16. He spends his life hanging around his friends' apartments. He rolls a mean skunk spliff. Michelle is 17 and she lives with her mom. She's studying for her A-Levels.
Hello Andy and Michelle. What made you get into anarchism and the black bloc? Isn’t politics all a bit BORING for teenagers?
Andy: I’d never been to a demonstration in my life until I started going to some of the schoolkids' protests last year. We just went for fun really, and because we’d heard protestors would fight with the cops. We saw a few of the gangs from our neighborhood hanging around Trafalgar Square, but when we saw the black bloc arrive, all masked up in their hoodies we thought, “Fucking hell! Now THAT’s what you call a gang!” Especially when we saw them giving it back to the cops when they were charged. You don’t even see football hooligans that eager to fight.
So it was the student protests in 2010 that politicized you?
Yeah, if you’d spoken to me a year ago I wouldn’t have had a fucking clue about politics or anarchy or any of that, but after we spoke to a few guys in the black bloc, we figured they were OK and not chumpy student. Me and a couple of my friends went along to meet up with them at the start of the next protest so we didn’t miss any of the action. We got to know each other and it all started from there I suppose.
How about you Michelle?
Michelle: My experience is pretty similar to Andy’s really. I also knew a few black bloc anarchists from the student and schoolkids' protests. They seemed like good guys and dedicated to what they were doing. I suppose what really did it for me was when I went to the Climate Camp at the G20 and the cops attacked it. It was terrifying. And a lot of the black bloc folks I knew--I’m not sure they called themselves the black bloc then--were there fighting back, which gave a lot of other folk some strength and probably saved someone there from being killed.
That was a bad day for the cops.
When you see something like that it really makes you realize, “Yeah, it really IS an 'us versus them’ situation now.” Seeing the way the cops just went mental attacking folks, and then killed Ian Tomlinson, turned a lot of people toward the black bloc in the same way I’ve read the events on Bloody Sunday turned a lot of folks toward the IRA. So you could say they’ve only got themselves to blame when people get angry and want to attack the cops on other demonstrations. It’s us getting our own back.
Obviously you're too young to vote, but what made you turn your backs on mainstream politics and take to the streets?
Andy: All I can remember of politics is Tony fuckin’ Blair. He’s meant to be Labour; the party of the working class. Now we’ve got two rich cunts in power and I can’t see any difference. They’re all lying, corrupt bastards who are out for themselves. How are they going to speak for me? That Clegg only lives a few miles from where I’m from, but it may as well be on the other side of the world for all he knows about how we live. If you ask me, the only thing that gets the attentions of politicians is the sound of smashing shop windows and police sirens.
Continued on page two.