The Occupy movement celebrated Martin Luther King, Jr. Day in force. There was a worldwide candlelight vigil on Sunday night, and then, on Monday, nationwide protests in front of Federal Reserve locations under the banner of “Occupy the Dream.” With the moniker “Occupy 4 Jobs,” protests in four East Coast cities called for a new initiative to counter unemployment. In New York, the vigil was a celebrity-studded success; the next day, Occupy the Dream attracted a lackluster showing in the morning cold. The several hundred who turned out at Union Square to Occupy 4 Jobs made their point by way of a maddening, roving sparring match with the NYPD, by the end of which protesters had distracted themselves from the banks and stores they were targeting with vicious verbal assaults on their police escort. What force they mustered, really, became diluted by fury.
This kind of behavior is not an exception carried out by an errant Occupy copycat, but the rule for the movement as a whole; we at Waging Nonviolence have contended with it again and again. Eventually this movement needs to grow out of its debilitating reactiveness, to grow up, to learn discipline, and to realize that its real power begins where this kind of mayhem ends. I think King would say so too.
By the time I arrived at Monday’s Occupy 4 Jobs rally for its announced 1 p.m. starting time, people were already gathered at the steps of Union Square around a brass band. It was a somewhat more colorful crowd than most Occupy events, ethnically, though there were a good number of regulars too. Jersey City-based organizer Monica Moorehead explained to me that Occupy 4 Jobs is “independent from the Occupy Wall Street movement, but inspired by it.” As I approached the rally, I met several offers to take a free socialist newspaper. “Young people don’t have hope under capitalism,” Moorehead added.
The police presence was far heavier than what I’d seen that morning downtown at the Fed; cops seemed almost as numerous as protesters. By 1:45, a march was called, and off it went, circumambulating Union Square’s busy sidewalks counterclockwise alongside motorcycle police, vans, commanders and Community Affairs officers in friendly blue windbreakers. I asked one officer why there were so many of them. “I just go where I’m told,” she replied, with a smile.
After one lap around the square, the march came to the Bank of America ATM storefront at the corner of 14th Street and University Place. Several protesters entered with signs, while the rest picketed out front. (“What do we want? Jobs! When do we want it [sic]? Now!”) About a dozen police officers followed. For almost 20 minutes, the police kept the storefront open, allowing customers to use the ATMs. Metal barricades were brought in to surround the picketers and keep a section of the sidewalk clear for pedestrian traffic. (Picketers: “We! Are! Pedestrian traffic!”) When four of those who’d entered the storefront were arrested, those outside started singing “We Shall Overcome”—certainly a Kingian moment. But as police ushered the arrestees outside and past the crowd, the protesters themselves were overcome. They started shouting, as is common Occupy practice during an arrest, “Shame! Shame! Shame on you!” And “Your pensions are coming soon!”
But “shame” for what? The protesters were conducting an act of civil disobedience by attempting to occupy bank property. Surely they expected to be arrested. The police officers carried out their orders with far less shouting than the protest directed at them, taking care to ensure the whole thing was as orderly as possible. The protesters seemed intent on making it a mess.
One older man holding a cane and looking disturbed was caught in the ensuing scuffle, and several officers led him to one of the locked glass doors of the bank and began to arrest him. “Let him go!” some in the crowd chanted. A higher-ranking officer came to the scene to investigate. He quickly told the others to stand down, and to hand the man back his cane, and the man was indeed let go. Another point for the cops.
After Bank of America, the march continued on past the Whole Foods and toward the Chase location on 14th and Broadway. Seeing it completely surrounded by police (“Who do you serve? Who do you protect?”), they turned back to the Whole Foods, which several of them entered while chanting against the company’s labor practices. As police tried to drive them away from the store’s entrance and to keep part of the sidewalk clear, the marchers moved east, passing the Chase bank. They stopped in front of Walgreens, and then Trader Joe’s, decrying these businesses’ labor practices as well. (Policeman: “Are you union busters?” Flustered Trader Joe’s employee, standing outside: “Um, no.”) At each stop, police warned them to keep moving or be arrested. The marchers escalated their insults.
First it was “Tell me what a police state looks like! This is what a police state looks like!” Then “No justice! No Peace! Fuck the police!” And then, in a corruption of a well-known Occupy chant: “The pigs! Are not! The 99 percent!”
The police were shouting and barking orders and intimidating people; some of them were being outright jerks. But this kind of sloganeering made them actually look pretty good. As is the usual and questionable NYPD tactic, police were out in overwhelming numbers, and the protesters let that tactic get them all worked up. The NYPD has learned something since its early incidents of mass arrests and hideous abuse of pepper spray with Occupy. Protesters, evidently, have not. They use the same chants and insults that only carry the situation beyond their control and surely make any bystander—read: potential supporter—hope that the comparatively placid police officers will protect her or him from this vicious mob.
Which makes one wonder. What, instead, would Martin Luther King, Jr. do? How would he want his holiday celebrated?
King was constantly speaking out against police brutality against black communities. He experienced plenty of it himself. But he refused to turn the insults that police directed at him and his movement back against them. “To meet hate with retaliatory hate would be both impractical and immoral,” he wrote. “We must meet the forces of hate with the power of love.” Under conditions of police repression far more brutal than what the Occupy movement has experienced, he was always guiding his followers not to fight back in word or action. If they did, he knew, they risked turning the public against them. Civil rights leaders, he stressed, “have a responsibility to maintain discipline and guidance that no one is able to confuse constructive protest with criminal acts, which all condemn.”
After black protesters threw rocks at police in Albany, Georgia, in 1961, King declared a “day of penance” that put demonstrations on hold. He called for supporters “to pray for our Negro brothers who have not learned the way of nonviolence.” The nonviolence he’s talking about is not passivity or cowardice. It’s courage, unalloyed. When you exude calm and dignity while taking radical action, the violence directed against you looks all the more monstrous and absurd, and the justice of your cause shines through.
Learning to do this takes discipline. As Mary King wrote over the weekend, Martin Luther King always advocated James Lawson’s workshops in nonviolent action, and he would be sure to arrive at them early himself to stress their importance. He tried to make sure that as many people as possible who participated in his marches had gone through such training, which taught them how not to retaliate against clubs, fire hoses and dogs. The Occupy movement, which faces much less police abuse, needs to go to school like that.
There has been a growing discussion in the movement—growing since the first day, though with little result—that the usual style of protest actions needs to change. “I want us to challenge what it means to be badass,” said one woman at a recent meeting of the feminist bloc in Occupy Wall Street’s Direct Action Working Group. She and others felt it’s time to “find ways of doing direct action without it being so fucking macho.” They’re sick of what they see in the news reports about the movement—“it’s usually just men confronting the police.”
Too many people taking the streets as part of the Occupy movement have come to think, if they’re thinking at all, that their strength is in their rage. But it isn’t. Their strength has always been in their courage—the courage to think big, to take public spaces, and to create the glimpse of a better world within them. Rage has always been a weakness. Those in the movement who perpetuate the repertoire of fits and tantrums implicate everyone else in it too, as those at the feminist Direct Action bloc well know. King would stand in solidarity with such anger, as he did even with rioters, knowing that it comes from an honest sense of injustice. But every day that those setting the mood for these marches refuse to learn discipline, and even love, they take that shared cup of solidarity and spike it with poison.
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Hi Nathan! Thank you for clarifying that Occupy 4 Jobs is independent from Occupy Wall Street. OWS direct action has committed to non violent action. Let’s keep it that way, let’s put pressure on other organizations to do the same.
Thanks so much for your comment. While Occupy 4 Jobs and OWS Direct Action are separate, I’m not sure their approach is entirely different. The scene was indistinguishable from many OWS Direct Action events: no physical violence against cops, but lots of verbal aggression. Is it true that OWS Direct Action has made a more explicit statement of nonviolence than the march guidelines I cited here, which only renounce “physical violence” and call for a “diversity of tactics”?
Of course, as I argued here, the OWS GA has repeatedly infused its statements with a spirit of nonviolence.
Yes, indeed. Good knowledgeable writeup.
Dr. King’s “Day of Penance” in 1961 is one key to understanding what he brought to the Civil Rights Movement. Without his contribution, provocateurs and petty attacks by KKK sympathizers would have made a mess of the whole process. “Niggerlover” and “Black monkey” are hard to hear.
Occupy cannot be “Jackass” and succeed.
“Gandhi + King + Occupy” is the route to continuity and survival.
Occupy4Jobs strategy is outreaching to the unemployed, underemployed, and exposing the real crisis in this city. A large amount of people, occupywallstreet hasn’t successfully reached out too 4 months in NYC.
There were attempts to reach out to #ows for more strategic support, but not sure if those calls were heard.
I helped with the livestream for Occupy4Jobs and media stuff. Batteries died on laptop while streaming and totally missed the verbal back and forth, etc. Even missed the BoA action. But just seems to me,some people are really frustrated and not going to come in to an event glowing like Buddha. Just the reality, if we want more and more new people from all walks of life to join this occupy movement. Just have to better support each other and learn from each other. #occupy
You’re absolutely right that Occupy 4 Jobs represents an important new step in broadening the Occupy movement. This was the first time I saw a poster for an Occupy action in my largely African-American neighborhood. That’s why I went. And the criticisms I make here, as I make clear, are of the Occupy movement as a whole, not just Occupy 4 Jobs. The reason I focus on Occupy 4 Jobs in particular is that its action happened to be on MLK Day.
From people I talked with who are central organizers in Occupy Wall Street, there seemed to be concern that Occupy 4 Jobs was too much driven by a sectarian socialist agenda. The OWS Demands Working Group’s attempt to call for a massive jobs program, very much like one Occupy 4 Jobs proposes, was blocked by the General Assembly, after all.
This has mimesis written all over it…a common story I’m afraid. Happens here in Australia too.
On of the problems with Occupy is the (also very mimetic, in terms of reaction against) revulsion of any form of leadership means that calling people to something better rarely wins out in the multiplicity of voices. It ends up being lowest common denominator stuff. Discipline is non-existent, because it’s confused/conflated with authoritarianism. Even if most agree with nonviolent discipline, it only takes a few others to undermine the rest of the group. To me it speaks loudly for small groups which have more of a sense of responsibility for one another, and can be trained in good discipline.
Very true—but there is lots of potential, especially in small and medium-sized groups. For instance, the group involved in actions in solidarity with the Teamsters who do art handling for Sotheby’s has done some fine, structured actions, which they designed by consensus.
In any case, the WTO ’99 protests (minus the black bloc role) should stand as a perfectly good reminder that powerful, structured, disciplined actions can be designed through a horizontal process.
part of the struggle is not to become like those we protest against. sometimes this can be the hardest part. when I feel myself gritting my teeth, clenching my fists, I know I need to get some solitude & center back into where I originally connected to this cause. we all feel like this –that’s ok. acting in menacing or disrespectful manner is not ok. it’s ok to ask someone you trust to help move past these feelings too. solidarity & thanks Nathan for bringing this up.
There are over 198 different methods of nonviolent action outline in Gene Sharp’s 1973 book: “The Politics of Nonviolent Action” or in the handout from his website at http://www.alberteinstien.org. There is also the Global Database of Nonviolent Action at: http://nvdatabase.swarthmore.edu/. And for strategies to combine these 198+ tactics into meaningful, creative and nonviolent campaigns, visit and read:George Lakey’s “Strategizing for a Living Revolution” at:http://www.historyisaweapon.com/defcon1/lakeylivrev.html and Bill Moyer’s Movement Action Plan.(not the PBS guy) at: http://www.historyisaweapon.com/defcon1/moyermap.html. Many actions make up a nonviolent direct action campaign, ex, Occupy Wall Street, Occupy the Federal Courts, Occupy K Street, Occupy the Board Room, Occupy the Banks withdraw your accounts and transfer to credit unions and small savings and loan local banks, and Occupy Congress. Both Gandhi and King engaged in many campaigns. Ganhdi, the Salt March, rallies, marches. King engaged in the Montgomery Bus Boycott, the March from Selma to Birmingham. The Freedom Riders, the Mississippi Freedom Summer Voting Rights Campaign, the March on Washington. Others, like the lunch counter sit-ins in Greensboro, North Carolina were inspired and joined in the movement. And the movement took off. But so much of it was “acting our way into thinking”. Hopefully the General Assemblies will learn from this. history and do more training and planning so that the movement will continue to grow, not be co-opted and by sustained campaigns, setting up alternative businesses, economies and government structures such as the General Assemblies, we withdraw out consent and the take power away from the corporations running our government and our economy. So as the saying goes, “Occupy Everywhere” but keep it nonviolent and find roles for everybody, especially people of color, women and LGBT people. As Gandhi once said, “be the change you want to see in the world.”
What would Martin Luther King do? Because he’s the man solely responsible for the Civil Rights Movement. He singlehandedly won civil rights for African-Americans.
We all need to bow our heads and allow the police to crack our skulls open. They’re just doing they’re job. They really want to be our friends.
I’d love to hear how you plan to prevent cops from cracking skulls by insulting and abusing them.
you can’t. that’s what they’re gonna do. that’s why they exist.
you know there is more to the civil rights movement than MLK? It’s getting to be really annoying when people white wash (pun intended) history by leaving out the black panthers, george jackson brigade, malcolm x, or whatever “violent” group that actually achieved a lot without any ideological belief in pacifism. instead of real discussion with real people, we get pathetic attempts of putting up a shield by quoting or speaking for MLK.
Clearly Bob agrees and is being facetious. But if one is opposed to quoting or speaking for MLK, perhaps it’s best not to hold one’s rallies on his holiday and quote him constantly. Regardless of the variety of the civil rights movement, which nobody here denies, nonviolence was part of the essential character of King’s work, and accusing people of “white washing” doesn’t change that.
Dr. King heard a lecture in 1950 that explained what Mohandas Gandhi had accomplished in India.
What King did was to translate Gandhi’s work to an Americanized version of the “Nine Principles.” That acquisition was what allowed the whole of the Civil Rights Movement to grow apace.
I was there. I was it work in horrid conditions.
Dr. King was the greatest American of my generation.
To add to Nathan’s report, here in Seattle our local Occupy group has been taken over by the same angry young men. On Dec 20th a GA motion favoring nonviolence was defeated by more than a 3 to 1 margin, 54 to 16 following a Neanderthal-ish discussion from another planet and obvious packing of the meeting. OS’ last protest managed to mustered 75-100 under the banner “All Cops are Bastards” (http://www.centraldistrictnews.com/2012/01/16/cdn-pics-protestors-march-against-police-brutality). People are scrambling to distance themselves from this nonsense. Lessons learned? Organizations need to begin with ironclad nonviolent boundaries. But also I think we need to rethink the GA endless meetings model. Is it proving to be a recipe for burning out the good people and setting the stage for hostile takeovers?
Thanks, Wayne! I think it’s important to remember that most of the decisions about these actions were never agreed upon in a general assembly. They’re orchestrated by small groups acting autonomously, in coordination with the rest of the movement. What’s needed is less a binding decision by a GA than a new surge of people interested in organizing actions who do so with an insistence on a spirit of nonviolence.
Same thing in New York. It’s heavily infiltrators and the mentally disordered.
Only people working Occupy as a paid hourly job want multiple (billable) meetings.
Well said. It sounds like you have a fair bit of access to the inner circle of the movement, hopefully this is a message that can get through to them. It would be nice to see Occupy Wall Street(NYC) take some leadership on this issue, such as simply posting a message on occupywallst.org. For better or worse, they’re the big fish everyone else is looking to.
I was really hoping OWS would take the winter off; maintain a light presence around the country and really work at identifying specific, constructive goals for the spring. Then the real work of mobilization, educating, lobbying, etc. begins.
To go on and on and on with demonstrations without clear and specific goals and strategies – will only lead the public to tire and turn away.
King, et al were very focused with specific demands and strategies to accompany them. Protesting anything and everything does little good.
The movement is, in many respects, taking the winter off. Many of these actions, including this one, are being run by groups outside the main OWS committees. (Though keep in mind that this action had a very specific demand: a NYC emergency job-creation program.) A great deal of energy is being spent right now on organizing around matters like anti-eviction work, student debt and neighborhood assemblies.
Dr. King said “A riot is the language of the unheard” NOT “stop rioting”
worry about yourself. if you think you can gain any ability to change what those in power are doing without the threat of “vicious verbal assaults” (and much more than that) than you are IN DENIAL about the nature of power in the U.S.
You will surely USE the fear in the ruling class created by violent outbursts to negotiate as the “moderates” who power can speak with when they try and quell the anger that inspires their fear, but don’t delude yourself into thinking they’d talk to you people for any other reason.
You should be thanking those who are willing to risk more than you are so that people like you may have the shot at getting power to change its ways.
And if you think you can create change through violence (fear) you are also in denial about the nature of power. You have been marginalized because you act out. You cannot win anything without mainstream support and that’s who you scare. Fuck the police will get you nothing. Learn from history.see A Force More Powerful. With friends like you we don’t need enemies.
Andy Rose, just what precise “nature” of power is the above commenter in denial about? Power (Latin: Potenza, potential or Postesta, command) acts as force. It effects, it affects. Power is almost never symmetrical and in all cases, at the level of the political, power involves the real threat of violence. Even a strategy of non-violence, or an ethics of pacifism, assumes the violent nature of political power–there could never be sovereignty or government without it. These practices intend to reverse the affects of violence as political power, but never does it assume anything so absurd that there is ever a political power without the real threat of violence. If you look to the “mainstream” as a measuring stick for approval of force, you’ll be overwhelmingly assured that no matter what their political position be, in the US, despite how frightened citizens are of violence, force, which threatens or does violence is the common element, not the marginal one. This is most clear in our stupid system of policing and control. Even the most tolerant systems employed to deal with at trouble youth or their sociological antonym, the wizkids at young art schools, even such systems always have the threat of reprisals for naughty behavior. Overwhelmingly the mainstream doesn’t object. In many ways all of the rage and repressed anger gets channeled into these forms, and ironically reflected back on us by means of police bullets, less than lethal weapons, poverty, or the act being ordered as insane.
Now that we’ve established a summary of what is power and sovereign power, we can return more to the point at hand. “fuck the police” may not get us everything, but it certainly won’t get us nothing. We already get that…”Fuck the police” practically, will make far more friends then enemies, but the struggle’s concept of “the police” can’t be limited only to those in uniform. Policing as a whole is the contemporary real set of hostile practices and techniques which literally everyone is subjected to. “Fuck the police” is at first somewhat “violent” or posses by rage, because it is this generation’s first taste of what has been stolen from them by docile citizenship and capitalism.
So what have we learned in this short reply? (TLDR)
1) Political power is always a real potential (potenza) of violence–whether its masochistic or sadist.
2) Violent practices–physical, psychological, structural or otherwise–are the norm not the exception
3) Violence, that terror outside of civil society, is what has been stolen from us by citizenship and capitalism, and held hostage by the police; thus, a struggle’s first attempt to breathe will sting a little bit.
The assumption in this comment that force is equivalent to violence is something that I think we refute every day on this site, as we report on stories of people all over the world engaged in struggles for justice by nonviolent means. That violence is “the norm not the exception” is a story that so many in this world want you to believe—in the police forces, the militaries, and the media—that the only way to defeat a wrong is by killing the people one associates with it. But this is being proven wrong again and again. Compared to the power the movements we report on wield, as Gandhi said, “violence is the weapon of the weak.”
Citizenship and capitalism do not steal our violence, they infuse our lives with violence; violence enforces the borders of citizenship, and violence protects the fiction of capital. What citizenship and capitalism do steal is our capacity to speak the truth to power, and to recognize the nonviolent power inherent in ourselves and our collectivities. They break up or co-opt our unions, they pen our protests in “free-speech zones,” they replace real politics with political parties.
One thing I can’t help but agree with: “a struggle’s first attempt to breathe will sting a little bit.” Nonviolent force is still force, and it isn’t always appreciated by those whom it opposes, because they know it has the capacity to actually win.
Nathan, Examples of struggles for justice by non-violent means doesn’t change the nature of power, force, and violence. I’m not saying that all force is “violent” as in “does harm”, or that all violence has strength behind it, but force at the level of the political always assumes the arena in which it takes place. St. Paul in his Letter To The Romans remarks upon the force of the Messiah, who’s violence fulfills God’s Law by suspending it, as characterizing it as “weak.” Speaking of those who dwell in the Messiah, Paul says:“For when I am weak, I am Strong.” The Pauline text is not speaking of non-violence per se, but of a violence that suspends the violence of Law. One thinks of the weak force associated with the figure of “cowardly” rioters and looters, even the phantom construct of Governments the world over, “terror.” Or more historically, the mythical General Strike. Eitherway, the point here is that while you can speak of force without strength, its impossible to speak of force without violence. Because violence is the rain by which force is comes into bloom.
You say that police forces, militaries, and media want us to believe that “the only way to defeat a wrong is by killing people one associates with it.” I think those apparatuses aren’t concerned with “belief,” but rather with instilling the technical feedback loops that realize their operations. They would prefer that “wrong”(Illicit) is separated out from “right” (licit) and defeated over and over again by the proper actors. The means which the actors use aren’t that important—like I mentioned before the police are happy to beat us, kill us, wag their fingers, or help us along the way with rewards—but your right that at their center is the threat of pure exclusion i.e: murder.
I Think I’ll make sense of your Gandhi quote for you. “Violence is the weapon of the weak”
Yes, we are weak, all of us. Why? Because what the power to decide on life and death has been extracted from us. Because this catastrophic paradigm of existence is that of government, and at the expense of life. It requires an ordinary operation on endless repeat: that living and being must continuously and carefully be made separate. And to complete the axiom for Gandhi: Violence is the weapon of the weak; the strong no longer need violence to administer control.
“What citizenship and capitalism do steal is our capacity to speak the truth to power, and to recognize the nonviolent power inherent in ourselves and our collectivities.”
There could only be such an absurd speaking figure “the citizen” with an equally absurd notion of politics and power extracted from life. Aristotle spoke of the life of all beings (zoe) and the life of particular beings (bios). Even zoology today collapses into biology. How could anyone ever speak “truth” if they use the grammar of an absurd fiction, in a world whose language is lies? The citizen is the only creature that attempts to beg its environment to be more comfortable. In many ways this is a remnant of the theology at the center of the modern state—an insidious and ridiculous practice that came to front of the historical-stage some time during the reformation, and who was theorized by Bodin in Six Books on the Commonwealth and later completed by Hobbes in Leviathan. Here we have the sovereign, the only figure allowed access to the decision over life and death who promises “the good life”, and the citizen-subject, the living being whose vitality was their taken from them in order to gain access to the good life. The ironic paradox is that what gives the sovereign his power is precisely what has been extracted from the citizen-subject, and what he promises “order, and safety” can never be provided because since the violence excluded from civil society is embodied through the sovereign, the outside is at the center—never mind the fact that Law needs crime to justify itself. In this insane theater, if one recognizes the “nonviolent power inherent in ourselves and our collectivities,” one merely observes or at beast affirms the ridiculous framework of sovereignty, that is governmentality. In such a framework, if one were to speak to truth to power, what could one achieve? Doesn’t power already know exactly what its doing? I recall sometime ago, some February 15th 2003, when quite a few million people revealed how if they could vote about the US going to War with Iraq that they would vote against it. I remember the president of the US politely disagreeing with them, and referring to their demonstrations as a “focus group,” and then invading Iraq. It would seem to me, in the framework in which you uphold, everything went as planned. People recognized their nonviolent power inherent in themselves, and revealed the truth of this to Power, and…I guess that’s it.
Nathan, being that you speak of the terms citizenship and capitalism with a bitter taste in your mouth, we can assume that you believe that a revolution that abolishes capitalism, class society, and the state would be the first step toward a different life. I’m curious, unless I’m mistaken, or perhaps you understand these terms different than I, what you mean by “winning.” I think in my somewhat long reply I’ve demonstrated how your particular strategy of nonviolence—that of speaking truth to power—is limited at best. How, as in by what means, does nonviolence as you’ve described it have the capacity to win? For one, how could capitalism be abolished without the material destruction of (probably most) property? For example: The arms factories, the nuclear reactors, the bioengineering facilities, the nanotechnology centers—much less, the real material resources of armed counter revolution. I’m not really for violence or whatever, but I think your particular strategy of nonviolence is wrong and juvenile.
Thanks for the rich comment, Liam. (I’ll ignore the insult at the end.) Much there to contend with—and theology, to boot! I just can’t imagine how you can think there is no force without violence. We use it all the time. Moral force. Social force. Rhetorical force. Noncompliance. Solidarity. Unless you’re defining violence as “having any effect at all on anything,” I don’t see the logic. Positive nonviolence means having a profound effect on the structures of power without needing to destroy one’s opponent in the process, and indeed seeking reconciliation rather than retribution. We could have a very interesting discussion about law and suspension in Paul, but not right now. I’ll give you a hint: grace.
One need not guess how Gandhi finished that statement; he said, “non-violence the weapon of the strong.” Nonviolence is, for him, “truth force,” a means by which to struggle for justice in which, through speech and especially action, injustice is made bare and the power to perpetuate it is undermined. The 2003 Iraq War protests, for instance, could be called “focus groups” because they did not undermine the power of the president to carry out the war. They weren’t strategic. They mobilized millions of people… for a day of protest. That was about it. Nothing was seriously threatened, so the war could go on as planned.
Winning can mean many things to many people. We don’t need to agree on an anti-statist or anti-capitalist position to recognize that, if we want a world in which violence is not tolerated (though conflict, of course, is), we should work for it through nonviolent conflict.
Liam, I’m feeling compelled to weigh in on this thread as someone who has witnessed force without violence. I’m not sure what it is in a crowd of peaceful protesters that renders them forceful but certain crowds can stop the police in their tracks. And here I too quote King – One who acts nonviolently in support of justice “lives in the kingdom NOW, and not in some distant day.” You can feel it in such a crowd. They aren’t insulting their oppressors. They’re standing up to them but with empathy. Mandela said, “Bitterness would be in conflict with the whole policy to which I dedicated my life.” And as Jonathan Schell says of Mandela in his excellent book, The Unconquerable World, “Of his forgiveness, he once commented, ‘Courageous people do not fear forgiving for the sake of peace.’Commenting on this stance, Anthony Sampson observes, rightly and factually,’Forgiveness was an aspect of power.'”
Nathan, thanks so much; Your work, your site – contributing so much that anything I could say would be an understatement.
Shill postings, above, push violence.
That’s what right wingers do.
Pledge For Nonviolence
1. As you prepare for Occupy Wall Street, please open yourself to life, love and the blessings of faith, hope, and charity.
2. Refrain from violence of fist, tongue and heart.
3. Walk and talk in the manner of love; for truth and love are the core of life, neither ambition nor the temptations of control.
4. Sacrifice personal wishes that all might be free.
5. Observe with friends, with false friends and with your foes the ordinary rules of courtesy.
6. Perform regular service for others and the world.
7. Pray or simply ask within to be moved so that all men and women might be free.
8. Remember that nonviolence seeks Justice and Reconciliation – not victory.
9. Strive to be in good spirits and in good health. We are the 99% and we must go in peace.
“Nine Principles” adapted from Dr. M.L.King, Jr., and M.K. Gandhi
Just to remind folks how hard it is to generate a successful social movement. We have to avoid violence and even bad manners.
Justice and Reconciliation — not victory.