Another black bloc Michael Brown/Eric Garner protest downtown tonight. It’s mellower (so far) than their unfortunate Nov. 28 excursion. But at least two reporters have tweeted that protesters are planning to target Niketown tomorrow night. The Stranger’s Heidi Groover quotes one such source as saying, “We must disrupt capitalism. That’s the only thing they listen to.”
First of all, if you’re gonna do that, DON’T ANNOUNCE IT TO THE MEDIA. That smacks of an agent provocateur tactic.
More importantly, if this IS legit, the protester likely still wasn’t toilet trained when attacking Niketown became a symbol, in 1999’s anti-WTO protest, of everything wrong with protesters. The window-breaking (notably at McDonald’s and Niketown) and video of protesters “looting” Niketown (in a very cursory way) were what legitimized, in the eyes of much of the public, the overwhelming police violence used before, during, and after those acts. For years afterward (until 9-11 made any other explanation unnecessary) it was what people thought of whenever cops beat the crap out of protesters in Seattle. Civic Seattle still has nightmares about protesters at Niketown. A similar incident during Occupy Seattle also signaled a sharp downhill turn in the public perception of those protests.
Most importantly, targeting “capitalism” (and Nike, a brand heavily promoted by black athletes – nice touch for #Black Lives Matter) is a complete distraction from why people across the country are protesting in the first place. Maybe you make that link, but 99.999 percent of the public doesn’t. To them, you’re masturbating. You’re not communicating a bold critique of the root causes of police violence; you’re communicating that you’re a thug (with all the racial overtones implied in that term) and a moron. And they’ve got a point. You’re also convincing them that police violence is legitimate when used against you AND ANY OTHER PROTESTER. And, quite often, it helps them conclude that the original police violence you’re ostensibly protesting must have been legitimate, too.
One last point: It’s not clear from media reports whether the protester/s planning to target Niketown etc. are white or not. And yes, it matters. The black bloc is overwhelmingly white. Because that sort of tactic discredits everyone else also protesting, if you’re not in the class affected in the original issue you have no moral right whatsoever to commit (or promote) acts that coopt and discredit the movement. And I don’t care how poor you are, or how much cops have harassed or hurt you, or how down you are with the cause. If you’re white you’re not the victim here. You still have a shitton of white privilege on this issue.
tl;dr: If the protesters being quoted here aren’t cops, they should be, because they’re doing the cops’ work for them. For free. And if they are cops, protest leaders need to get out in front of this and denounce those reports pronto.