The most vexing and important question for the next generation of Occupy is what do we think about violence as a part of protest.
There is a philosophical framing of this argument as the acceptance or rejection of the strategy of a diversity of tactics. The unofficial spokes persons for the black block are the CrimethInc Kids who have a tight case for the activist right to violence
What is violence? Who gets to define it? Does it have a place in the pursuit of liberation? These age-old questions have returned to the fore during the Occupy movement. But this discussion never takes place on a level playing field; while some delegitimize violence, the language of legitimacy itself paves the way for the authorities to employ it.
The case against violence in the context of Occupy’s daughter movements is one of parasitism and culture. The black block attends events in which the principal organizers have declared that the philosophy of the event is a non-violent one. The event maybe family friendly, it might even be a permitted protest (something i would not recommend, but happens). So hundreds or perhaps even thousands of people show up expecting to have a certain type of experience. They come planning to express their political descent with a certain personal risk.
The black block is often seeking confrontation with the police. They are generally a small fraction of these larger events. By fighting with the police, they are basically using the other protesters who signed on to a different set of agreements as there shields and foils. Children might get tear gassed, grannies might get beat up by the cops, pacifists might end up in jail unexpectedly.
Of course if the black block wants to organize an action where the agenda of fighting with the police is explicate and is known to the participants, i have no problem with this. i might not choose to attend, or might choose to support it in some indirect way (i’ve done plenty of fighting with the police, i am currently retired from this sport), but i would not feel like a larger group of non-violent protesters was being used.
The real problem with the black block at Occupy and other non-violent identified events is that they damage the movement. It is often a stretch for people to come out and protest, they are taking personal risks to do this type of activity. Generally movements succeed by being persistent, by growing and by being clever in their tactics. If a minority of protesters, violating the spirit of the events agreements causes other protesters not to return to future events, they are setting the cause backwards.