The Black Bloc made a dramatic return to form, disrupting Bush's inaugural celebration and announcing to the world that "he's not our president." In three separate instances, protesters clashed with police, and at one point even brought the president's motorcade to a halt. Thousands more packed the parade route and clustered even among Bush supporters, often noted for their fur coats and cowboy hats. Protesters came from a variety of perspectives.
Militant tactics retreated after September 11. Concerned with popular perceptions of de-contextualized political violence and subjected to brutal policing, many activists focused on legal mass marches and educational work instead of direct confrontation. But after millions have marched and the war threatens to spread, it looks like the truce is off. Young people in ski masks declared their independence on the streets of D.C. Where they are going remains to be seen. This war won't stop itself.
Direct action is more than just smashing bank windows, even if that is one bright color on the palette. It is about making the changes we want to see instead of merely engaging in symbolic petitions and placard-waving. Militancy in and of itself doesn't escape that pitfall, but it does break the false "national consensus" of loyal opposition and let the world know that some Americans get it.