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Non-violent direct action

Photo Courtesty of STRIDENT - Students against TRIDENT

Photo Courtesty of STRIDENT – Students against TRIDENT

“Nonviolence is a philosophy and strategy for social change that rejects the use of physical violence. As such, nonviolence is an alternative to passive acceptance of oppression and armed struggle against it. Practitioners of nonviolence may use diverse methods in their campaigns for social change, including critical forms of education and persuasion, civil disobedience and nonviolent direct action, and targeted communication via mass media.” : Wikipedia

History is littered with direct action and civil disobedience, proving pivotal in affecting change for the better – Diggers and Levellers during the English Civil War, Tolpuddle Martyrs, campaigners against the slave trade on both sides of the Atlantic, Suffragettes, Gandhi and the salt marches, Black civil rights movement, anti-Vietnam War protests, poll-tax riots, anti-road protests, direct action against genetically modified crops.

Confronted by temple power and corruption, the action of Jesus (driving out the money changers) is consistent with these teachings. His anger is justified. The poor are exploited. The temple, God’s house, is being abused. Jesus takes direct, symbolic, non-violent action. No one is hurt. Money and property are scattered – that’s all. But the voice of a prophet is heard right in the inner sanctum of authority.” : Jim Consedine

Ghandi, Emmeline Pankhurst and Martin Luther King

Ghandi, Emmeline Pankhurst and Martin Luther King

Hunger strikes, pickets, vigils, petitions, sit-ins, tax refusal, go slows, blockades, draft refusal and demonstrations are some of the specific techniques that have been deployed by nonviolent movements. Throughout history, these are among the nonviolent methods used by ordinary people to counter injustice or oppression or bring about progressive change.

“Civil disobedience, direct action, is often undertaken when all else fails, when rational debate achieves nothing, when the planning process has been exhausted. For a growing number of people it is where democracy starts, part of empowering the people, bringing responsibility and involvement direct to the people who are effected by the decisions. We don’t seek permission from those in power to do what we want to run our own lives, we just do it.” : Keith Parkins

Non-violent direct action has many dimensions: the destruction of something undesirable, the generation of publicity, part of a strategy to generate awareness, open up closed minds. Direct action is never an excuse for mindless violence.

“Those of us reared in the tradition of liberal, gradualist reform, and cherishing tranquillity, may have to learn to sacrifice a little of these in order not to lose all of them. Such a course may not be easy, but it is not a bad substitute for the world as we have known it up to now, a world of simplistic and terrible solutions, where we oscillated constantly between two alternatives: the devastation of war or the injustice of peace.” : Howard Zinn

Tiananmen Square protest, China

Tiananmen Square protest, China

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” : Margaret Mead

“If you go to one demonstration and then go home, that’s something, but the people in power can live with that. What they can’t live with is sustained pressure that keeps building, organisations that keep doing things, people that keep learning lessons from the last time and doing it better the next time.” : Noam Chomsky

Heathrow Protest

Heathrow Protest, London

“Nonviolent action may seem counterintuitive at first. How can nonviolence be as effective as violence? The key is to look at the degree of commitment of various individuals and groups. Violence tends to polarise a conflict, and each side’s violence provides a justification for the other’s. Nonviolent action, by contrast, is more likely to win supporters, especially when violence is used against nonviolent protesters. Furthermore, third parties are more likely to support a cause whose supporters are willing to suffer without violent retaliation. This is why aggressors try to paint those they attack as violent, as in the case of police use of agents provocateur, Hitler’s propaganda about the Reichstag fire and US President Lyndon Johnson’s use of the Tonkin Bay incident to justify increasing US military involvement in Vietnam.” : Brian Martin

Greenham Common Protest 1982

Greenham Common Protest 1982