The line between violent and nonviolent protest


    The Guardian‘s Bibi van der Zee wrote an interesting piece about the collision off the coast of Australia last week between the anti-whaling Sea Shepherd boat and Japanese whalers. The activists claim they were rammed by the whalers and nearly drowned, which if true, is certainly quite horrific. But van der Zee raises an important point regarding the Sea Shephards own past:

    Frankly, if the Sea Shepherd boat was rammed by the whalers, it’s hard to get too hot under the collar about it when in the past Sea Shepherd have openly admitted deliberately ramming and sinking whaling boats themselves. Violence (against property or people) breeds violence. Once you step outside the legal framework you lose all protection for yourself.

    This, of course, touches on one of the biggest questions facing nonviolence: Is property damage really nonviolent? I tend to agree with van der Zee that it isn’t, especially when it stands the chance of hurting people. But even when it doesn’t, the effect of largescale property damage tends to work against the perceived righteousness of the cause. What do you think?

    Recent Stories

    • Analysis

    Will the real Gene Sharp please step forward?

    July 16, 2019

    Recent criticisms calling the founder of nonviolent theory a Cold Warrior are way off the mark. To rightly evaluate him, we need to understand the role he chose for himself.

    • Feature

    Professors and students unite to oppose cuts to Lebanon’s only public university

    July 12, 2019

    A six-week strike by teachers has bolstered a movement against proposed austerity measures targeting Lebanon’s dangerously underfunded education system.

    • Column

    How movements can use drama to seize the public imagination

    July 9, 2019

    Drama helps movements draw attention to their issues, but it won’t come without creativity and direct action tactics that reach beyond the choir.