Le Tute Bianche, W.O.M.B.L.E.S., Black Blocs, and Police Confrontation

What is Le Tute Bianche / Ya Basta!?

Ya Basta! began in Italy in 1996 as a solidarity network supporting the indigenous campesino uprising of Chiapas in 1994. With it’s roots in Mexico, and following the Zapatista uprising, many Italian Activists gradually created coalitions with the centri sociali (social centers) of Italy, including the Italian squatting movement. Ya Basta became a generation's attempt to affirm free space and it’s own visibility, a place in which it would be possible for radical politics to grow outside of any form of institutionalization. The squats provided a space, in many of these cities, for autonomous politics and everyday "free" organizing. In 2000 alone, beginning with the anti-EU and other anti-globalization movements, Ya Basta! Milan organized actions mainly in collaboration with squatters and the so called "tute bianche" or white overalls, a non-institutional anonymous group, who act dressed in white workers overalls and chemical suits. Their wish is to symbolize the invisibility of citizens with no rights, no power, all the same, masses of bodies rendered ghosts by neoliberal policies of the "Global North". Their tactics are hardly passive, however, and usually involve large crowds, utilizing horizontal organization and decision making. They attend demonstrations with pads, shields and helmets, as protection from police brutality. They usually have no pre-defined strategy, instead leaving the decision open to the moment, with the only criteria being not to do anything that would alienate the mass of people involved.

W.O.M.B.L.E.S: White Overalls Movement Building Libertarian Effective Struggles

Since the liberation of humanity and creation of global freedom and equality is not to be stopped by a few thugs with big sticks, it is time to provide self-protection from the depredations of the constabulary.

A large white overall group, padded, helmeted, with breathing protection acting together in a non-hierarchical but self-disciplined way can achieve the following aims:

  • To facilitate free movement and communication during protests

  • To stop attacks on demonstrators such as baton charges, horse charges, CS gas and sprays

  • Be living examples of our libertarian solidarity, organization and humor

  • To promote mutual respect and protection among demonstrators

The white overall movement has no leadership; everyone involved participates equally in its organization and actions. Open meetings will be held to discuss the ideas, possible tactics and decision-making.

What are Black Blocs?

A black bloc is a collection of anarchists and anarchist affinity groups that organize together for a particular protest action. The flavor of the black bloc changes from action to action, but the main goals are to provide solidarity in the face of a repressive police state and to convey an anarchist critique of whatever is being protested that day.

Is the black bloc an organization?

Some people are under the mistaken impression that one can join the "black bloc organization." There is no standing black bloc organization between protests. There is the anarchist movement which always exists (and has been around for over a century). You can think of the black bloc as just a temporary collection of anarchists that represent a contingent in a protest march. The black bloc is a tactic, similar to civil disobedience.

Why a black bloc?

There are several reasons why some anarchists do black blocs at demos. These reasons include: 1) solidarity - a massive number of anarchists provides cover against police repression and it demonstrates the principles of working class solidarity; 2) visibility - the black bloc as gay pride march; 3) ideas - a way to present an anarchist critique of the protest du jour; 4) mutual aid and free association - provides a visual example of how affinity groups can come together in a larger group and articulate common goals; and 5) escalation - a method for ratcheting up a protest so that it goes beyond mere reformism and appeals to the state to remedy injustice.


<<Back to Organizing and Action
<<Back to Table of Contents