The rhetoric from some civic leaders is escalating against the Black Bloc groups that set fires, damaged property and for a short while ran riot at the tail end of an otherwise peaceful May Day march in Portland on Monday. Oregon Senate Republican Leader Ted Ferrioli (R-John Day) calls them Nazi "brownshirts." The Oregonian's editorial board calls them "punk fascists," and compares them to "parasites hungry for a host."

Setting aside the indiscriminate charge of fascism at a time when resurgent neo-Nazi groups have been carrying out their own acts of intimidation around the state, it's clear that a number of important questions remain unanswered about the radical turn in Portland's longstanding culture of street protest.

Among those questions, although perhaps not foremost among them: What was up with those big black spider puppets the Black Bloc kids were pushing around the streets?

An answer can be found in a lengthy article published in the online anarchist journal Crimethinc, which says the photogenic spiders symbolized "mutual aid, solidarity, and direct action."

The idea of using the spider as an icon of resistance is that spiders are always there watching, waiting, and keeping the environment free of pesky insects and other parasites that consume resources without supporting their fellow beings. While we may look scary, we’re here with you and for you. We are the spiders, and the insects are the societal ills that we fight against.

It probably won't hold up in court, but there you go.

How to build a Black Bloc May Day spider (Crimethinc)
How to build a Black Bloc May Day spider (Crimethinc)

More importantly, the Crimethinc article includes instructions on building a giant spider at home with PVC tubing and chicken wire. One key element is a shopping cart, which, the article says, can be "found literally anywhere on the street."

It turns out the May Day spiders were also stocked with "fliers, water, LAW (liquid, antacid, water, the eyewash with which street medics treat pepper spray), ear plugs, and snacks." Additionally, the anonymously authored Crimethinc piece reports, the spiders were stuffed with "a few other party favors, because anarchy needs revelry!"

Party favors like smoke bombs and Pepsi cans, perhaps?

Finally, while the Black Bloc spiders stole the spotlight, Portland Tenants United's own May Day puppet, the Big Bad Landlord, was an impressive craft project in its own right. Witness:

The “Big Bad Landlord” marched with Portland Tenants United on May Day 2017 (Corey Pein).
The “Big Bad Landlord” marched with Portland Tenants United on May Day 2017 (Corey Pein).