Newsweek

Inside the Black Bloc Tactic That Roiled Berkeley

The tactic that demonstrators used against Milo Yiannopoulos is one that’s existed for decades in countries such as Germany.
People protest controversial Breitbart writer Milo Yiannopoulos at UC Berkeley on February 1. A scheduled speech by Yiannopoulos was canceled after the protests became violent.
02_24_BlackBloc_01 Source: Elijah Nouvelage/Getty

It was the first black bloc for Neil Lawrence, a third-year undergraduate student at the University of California, Berkeley. He had demonstrated with Black Lives Matter and seen people in bandannas show up at events and smash things. But after the Berkeley College Republicans announced controversial Breitbart News editor Milo Yiannopoulos would be speaking on campus, Lawrence decided it was time for a more aggressive form of protest. “It became clear to me and my close friends that the tone of living in America is changing, and in order to stop being scared, we started organizing,” he says. “I, a transgender Jew, don’t have a problem with violence against fascists.”

Through a friend who was involved in the local Antifa (anti-fascist) group, Lawrence learned activists were planning a black bloc. As a 5-feet-2-inch person who has never been in a fight, he says he wanted the safety that comes from being part of an anonymous mob. On February 1, hours before Yiannopoulos was about to speak, Lawrence and around 150 others gathered off campus where Antifa told them to meet. They got their gear and outfits ready. He was dressed in all black and had a T-shirt wrapped around his face, leaving a slit for his eyes. A person with a megaphone told the group the route they

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