Updated: August 23, 2012 9:50AM
Prosecutors say the three men charged Saturday with plotting to attack President Barack Obama’s campaign headquarters, Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s home, police stations and squad cars were anarchists and “members of the ‘Black Bloc’ group.”
But a black bloc isn’t an organization. Rather, it’s a tactic for marches.
Participants wear black clothes, bandanas, masks and anything else to conceal their identities from police.
Black blocs first drew the attention of mainstream America in 1999 during demonstrations against the World Trade Organization in Seattle. A black bloc went on the offensive, bashing windows of many businesses in downtown Seattle including Starbucks, Gap and other businesses with a global reach.
Black bloc vandals also damaged property during the 2010 G-20 meeting in Toronto.
Black bloc participants say they conceal their identities for fear of reprisals from police, who often infiltrate black blocs during demonstrations to identify those committing crimes.
But in interviews over the years, black bloc participants have insisted they’re focused on defensive tactics — and providing medical aid to other demonstrators.