INSURRECTIONS & INSPIRATION: 2006-2016
Bloc by Bloc is a strategy board game inspired by 21st century urban insurrection. Now that we have completed the design and production of the game, we want to take a moment to reflect on some of the struggles that millions have participated in across the world over the past decade. We want to share a few stories of the uprisings that this game is directly based on.
The local conditions and history that animate each revolt detailed in the following pages are unique. Yet all share a general anti-authoritarian orientation and a hostility to the state and police. Anti-capitalist tendencies run throughout these uprisings. A recurring feature in each example is the breaking down of social barriers between people of different backgrounds using solidarity as a weapon to combat oppressive forces.
The first set of examples cover the years up to 2010. It was during that summer when conversations between friends began to sketch out the contours of what a game based on contemporary urban insurrection could look like. The second set take us up through the end of 2014. During the first months of 2015, the game envisioned in those conversations nearly five years prior finally began to take shape.
Bloc by Bloc is dedicated to the ordinary people who put their lives on the line in cities near and far to rise up and strike a blow against our common enemies. Many of them have suffered grave consequences for their bravery, solidarity, and refusal to submit. May their memories continue to light the fires of future insurrections for years to come.
All Power to the Blocs
2006 – 2010
Photo: Clashes with federal riot police, Oaxaca 2006
Oaxaca City is the capital of the second poorest state in Mexico and it is located in the country’s heavily indigenous south. In the Summer of 2006, teachers camp out in the main plaza of the city’s touristic center to demand better wages and improved conditions in schools. When police are ordered by the corrupt state governor Ulises Ruiz to violently clear the teachers, people from across the city pour into the streets to resist the eviction
The uprising quickly grows into a generalized rejection of the state and neoliberal capitalism as well as Ruiz’s PRI party that previously ruled all of Mexico as a dictatorship for 71 years. Police are driven out of the city and many of the surrounding towns. For the next six months, the city is liberated. The Popular Assembly of the Peoples of Oaxaca is organized as a leaderless alternative to the structures of the state. TV and radio stations are occupied and transformed into voices of the movement. At the height of the insurrection in early autumn, thousands of autonomous barricades defend the commune and provide gathering spaces for people to meet and take care of each other.
The movement stands its ground as numerous people are killed by hit and run paramilitary attacks on the barricades. But on October 29, over 6000 riot police and soldiers sent by the federal government attack the Oaxaca Commune. Helicopters drop tear gas as troops move in to occupy key locations in the city including the ccentral plazas. On November 25, hundreds of thousands attempt to reclaim the center of the city from the police resulting in massive clashes and a violent crackdown. Young people fight back with homemade firework launchers. Many government buildings and fancy hotels are set alight.
The wave of repression that follows forces the movement off the streets for a time, but the spirit of the Oaxaca Commune continues to inspire movements across Mexico and beyond up to this day.
In the evening of December 6, 2008, police open fire on a group of young anarchists in the heart of the Exarcheia neighborhood of Athens, Greece killing 15 year old Alexis Grigoropoulos. Exarcheia has been the countercultural center of anarchist and youth movements in Greece since the end of the dictatorship in 1974. Clashes with police are common but this night is different.
Within hours of the killing, Alexis’ friends occupy the Polytechnic university in an act of rage and defiance. Anarchists march on Athens’ luxury commercial district burning down over 50 stores. Riot police retreat in a storm of molotovs. By the next morning, university campuses across the city are occupied and the insurrection has spread to many cities. During December, the state loses control of the streets as banks are torched, super markets are looted, and building occupations spread. Alexis’ name is forever burned into the collective memory.
While returning home after New Year’s Eve 2009 festivities, a young Black man named Oscar Grant is pulled off a commuter train by transit cops and shot in the back as he lies handcuffed on the ground. Cellphone footage of the incident goes viral.
The following week, hundreds march from the site of the murder into downtown Oakland, sparking rioting and clashes with police that last into the night. Oakland is a working class city in the San Francisco Bay Area with a notorious police force and a long legacy of resistance and social movements. An anti-police rebellion continues throughout January bringing together crews of young people from diverse backgrounds in their militant resistance to white supremacy and the police. When the cop who killed Oscar avoids murder charges during his trial in July of 2010, even larger riots and melees with police sweep across downtown. Across the country, a growing movement against police killings of Black and Brown people begins to take shape.
Early Sketches, 2010
Component Sketches, 2015
2011 – 2014
Photo: Barricade near Taksim Square, Istanbul 2013
The 30 year reign of Hosni Mubarak was characterized by the brutality of police forces and a series of punishing free market reforms that enriched a close circle of regime loyalists at the expense of Egypt’s 80 million people. Following the revolution in Tunisia on January 14, 2011, young revolutionaries in Egypt wasted no time in calling for a day of action on January 25 to bring down Mubarak.
By the 28th, millions are in the streets. Nearly 100 police stations across the country are burned along with the ruling party’s headquarters. Thousands camp out and defend the chaotic and vibrant occupation of Tahrir square in downtown Cairo. By February 11, Mubarak flees and the army rushes in to fill the power vacuum. Over the spring and summer, resistance against the interim military government slowly grows and is met with an increasingly deadly response. In October, soldiers massacre 28 people during a demonstration of Coptic Christians in front of the state TV station near Tahrir.
On November 18, the army attempts to evict a small encampment in Tahrir of those wounded in the revolution. Other revolutionaries rush to their aid and over the coming days, Tahrir is again transformed into a festive liberated zone. Only blocks away on Mohamed Mahmoud street, thousands of revolutionaries armed with molotovs and rocks fight nonstop to reach the Interior Ministry, a symbol of the old regime and its persistence within the interim government. Dozens are killed in the battles and many lose eyes to buckshot fired by soldiers and police. The conservative Muslim Brotherhood, whose decision to join those in the streets earlier in the year helped ensure Mubarak’s fall, now have their eyes on power. They denounce the continued insurrection. The next year, they are successfully elected before being overthrown by the army in a bloody coup in 2013 that culminates in the massacre of nearly 1000 people in Rabaa square.
The battle of Mohamed Mahmoud represents the moment when the Egyptian revolution came closest to undermining the deep state. The waves of democratic and authoritarian counter-revolution that followed are stark examples of what any sustained insurrectionary process in our time will likely face.
Gezi Park is the only green space in central Istanbul and it is under threat of being destroyed. The authoritarian religious AKP party of Tayip Erdogan wants to turn the park into a shopping mall as part of its neoliberal capitalist development plan for the city and country. On May 28, 2013, a small group of protesters attempt to stop the bulldozers. The ensuing clash with police becomes a flashpoint for an anti-capitalist uprising to Erdogan’s democratically elected dictatorship.
The diverse resistance occupies Gezi and nearby Taksim Square while protests erupt in many other cities. Football ultras join the uprising and help beat back the police in surrounding neighborhoods. Turkish flags, those of the suppressed Kurdish movement, and the LGBT rainbow flag all fly together over the Taksim Commune for ten days until police eventually regain control. The insurrection is the largest in Turkey’s history and becomes a defining moment for a new generation of revolutionaries.
The cops have killed another young Black man. Mike Brown is gunned down by a white police officer on August 9, 2014, in this suburb of St. Louis. Crowds at the murder scene say his hands were raised as he was shot. Protests escalate the following day as riot police, using equipment donated to them from the military, attack the crowds. Businesses are looted and people fight back. There are no squares or plazas in this poor suburban landscape, but the parking lot of a burned down convenience store is repurposed as a fierce and celebratory meeting point for a growing movement.
Additional high profile killings of Black people around the U.S. that year continue to expose the police’s role as violent enforcer of systemic white supremacy. When the state refuses to bring charges against Mike Brown’s killer on November 24, the spirit of Ferguson ignites a wave of revolt in cities across the country. Marches, highway blockades, and rioting grow in intensity and continue on and off throughout 2015 and well into 2016.
Draft illustration: The Workers, 2015
Draft illustration: Riot Cops, 2015
Development of the Random City Generator, 2015
A project of
Bloc by Bloc is a semi-cooperative strategy board game inspired by 21st century urban insurrection. The game features hidden agendas, deep strategy, area control, asymmetrical player abilities, and a special method for randomly generating billions of unique city layouts.