So you’re all set for your Black block/Antifa protest. You understand the function of civil disobedience and how to plan a campaign. Here’s how to dress for the occasion.
Black Bloc/Antifa protest tactics and attire
Black bloc tactics are various methods to hide a protester’s identity (“black bloc” is a tactic, not a group). Hiding your identity makes it harder for the police to identify you while protecting protesters from being singled out or improperly surveilled by authorities. If you think there is no reason to worry about anonymity, consider the fate of J20 protesters in 2017.
Black attire works well for protesters. The shadows produced by black clothing hinder depth perception, particularly in photographs and CCTV video, which serves to hide your body form and shape. Unlike bright colors, it is also harder to track someone in a crowd who is wearing black clothing. And of course, it is harder to see a person camouflaged in black at night.
Black clothing for protests
Since the purpose of Black Bloc clothing is to remove all distinguishing features from your body, it goes without saying that everything you wear *must* be black. That means no visible logos, labels, or any other distinguishing feature. Gaffer tape or dye can be used to cover colored remnants on your clothing. Even something as minor as white tennis shoe stripes can be a dead giveaway of your identity.
Head and face
It is important to cover the hair and head since hair color and facial features are the primary distinguishing features of a person. A thin, black raincoat can be worn over or under attire and the hood pulled up and over the head. Black stocking caps and baseball caps can also be used (a baseball cap worn while looking down protects from overhead cameras). And of course, in cooler weather, a black hoodie is quite common attire for Black Bloc protesters.
A mask can be worn but if unique, could make identification easier. A good choice would be a Guy Fawkes mask or a plain black mask.
Most Black Bloc protesters wear material around their neck that can be pulled up and over the nose. A neck warmer can be used but by far, a black Balaclava works best since they can be worn around the neck, pulled up over the nose, or worn as a complete head covering.
A black scarf can be used and is harder for police to confiscate since you can argue it is used to keep warm. In a pinch, a black t-shirt can be quickly pulled up over the bottom half of the face.
Disguising eye shape and color is ideal but in reality, goggles and sunglasses often cause more problems than they are worth. They can fog up, be dropped, and hurt if struck in the face. Best advice would be to carry goggles with you but only wear when needed (e.g. gas attack).
Loose-fitting clothing is preferred. Black t-shirt and/or black coat. That’s all you need.
Arms and hands
Long sleeves are a must to hide skin color. Either a long-black long-sleeve t-shirt or outerwear and gloves.
Mechanix makes good black tactical gloves that wear good and are functional for active movement. They offer lightweight gloves for spring/summer and insulated gloves for colder weather.
Legs and feet
Many protesters will wear blue jeans but black jeans are preferred for Black Block attire. Black tactical pants are also comfortable and functional (loose fitting in the knees for movement, padded where needed, and lots of extra pockets). Black sweatpants are also common as are black track suit bottoms. Be careful that no identifying labels or decorative stripes are exposed (cover with gaffer tape or black dye).
Shoes should be black with no stripes and preferably comfortable and cheap. Go as generic as possible and cover any logos with black tape. Many protesters carry two pairs of shoes – one pair they wear when unmasked and another they wear when they mask-up.
Supplies and luggage
Plain black rucksacks are common and useful. Carry cloth bags inside – one for carrying your rucksack when you de-block and another that sensitive items can be placed in and pulled from the rucksack and discarded quickly. When layering clothing, unused items can be carried in the rucksack.
Note that fancy backpacks are typically not recommended because they can be easily identifiable. Black rucksacks are more generic and plain. A single strap sling design makes them easier to quickly take on and off.
The following items are suggested for carry inside the rucksack:
- Cloth bags or dry bags
- Extra masks (typically different styles that are switched out during the protests)
- Extra change of clothes
- Extra shoes
- Food and water
- Emergency AM/FM Radio, preferably one with a built in charger
- Walkie talkie (remember, they are easily monitored) and/or cellphone
- Medical supplies and/or medical kit
- Lightweight toolkit for emergencies
- Tear gas mask
- Small umbrella (optional but good for covering up when changing clothing)
Misc Black Bloc tips
- Practice masking-up so you can do it quickly when the time comes to go anonymous
- Don’t move around alone – stay in the group
- If violence erupts or criminal activities (rioting) take place, discard all clothing worn at the event. The normal rules of law and order seem to fail badly at protest events. It’s in your best interest to not get caught up in criminal investigations, whether you are part of the crime or not. The outcomes can easily be unfair, even to those who followed the rules. Best to get rid of (i.e. burn) all clothing you wore at the event.
- Be aware of all cameras around you and do not advertise your presence on social media
- Turn cellphones completely off – use walkie talkies for communication but make sure location and/or other sensitive details are not divulged over public channels
- Layer black bloc clothing with traditional clothing if possible so you can slip in and out of the protester ensemble
- If an ally gets in trouble, circle around them so they can mask-up, de-mask, or covertly change attire. Practice this so you can do it quickly.