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?