Editor’s Note from Rivera Sun
Is property destruction “nonviolent”? This is a frequent question that comes up around nonviolence. The short answer is that it’s complicated. It’s situational. Gene Sharp, a nonviolent struggle researcher, categorized destruction of one’s own property as nonviolent, but not destruction of others’ property. Many acts of property destruction are viewed differently from one culture (or subculture/community) to the next. When it comes to the gray area of property destruction, I ask participants in my strategy trainings to think about the effect of the proposed tactic, rather than trying to categorize it as nonviolent/violent. Will this action help the movement? Will it trigger backlash? Are the potential gains worth the potential risks? My personal experience is that this approach helps us stop judging and fighting over this tricky question. It helps us think about what will help or hurt our movements in our specific situations.
One reason this is on my mind is a recent news story. In Columbia, citizens responded to the assassination of 13 community leaders by police with mass protests. These actions included demonstrations, marches, protests, banner drops, rallies, and a national strike. Some protesters also set fire to a number of neighborhood police stations – where torture and rape were known to have taken place – and rebuilt them as community centers. This story forces us to ask: is this nonviolence?
It also forces us to ask other questions, too: if these police stations are paid for by the citizens through taxes, do citizens have the right to use direct action to dismantle and rebuild them into something new? Is this a form of popular democracy and community self-determination? Is it an act of nonviolence to use property destruction to directly dismantle the location of violence? Is this any different from anti-nuclear activists cutting through fences at nuclear facilities and pouring blood on nuclear war heads? Or housing justice activists breaking down the plywood that boards up vacant houses and occupying those houses? And, if this type of direct action is a tactic that is appropriately used by the Colombians, what about US cities where police repression, brutality, and murder targets people of color?
Nonviolence News is full of stories this week that provoke questions and thought. On Oct 9th, we’ll be hosting our “Nonviolence News Happy Hour Conversation”, where readers are invited to come discuss what inspires and challenges us in these stories. You are warmly invited to join the conversation. Here’s where to find out more and register>>
Other thought-provoking stories to read and ponder:
- Congolese activists reclaimed art from a French museum, claiming it was stolen during colonialism. Now they’re on trial. Was it theft or direct action?
- In Belarus, citizens held a Peoples Inauguration of the opposition candidate in the streets. Meanwhile, the president secretly inaugurated himself after a contentious election. Whose election is more valid?
- 6,000 US citizens are getting trained in nonviolent de-escalation in order to be “Election Defenders”, aiming to diffuse intimidation at polling places. Meanwhile, Trump gave a wink-and-nod to the Proud Boys at the debate to “stand by”. What’s a better way to protect voting rights and elections, nonviolence or guns?
- The Pebble Tapes revealed massive lies and collusion by an Alaskan mining company. An environmental group posed as mining investors to secure the interviews. Is concealing and misrepresenting your identity a form of nonviolence?
- In Scotland, rescuers are trying to herd whales out of an area scheduled for military exercises. Should they be trying to herd the naval ships out instead?
I hope you will join me in using these questions (and any others you can think of) to think more deeply about this thing called “nonviolence”. What is it? How does it work? When does it cross lines? How do we draw those lines based on our own perspectives vs. the experiences of others? This kind of question is what makes nonviolence more than a word – it’s a science, a philosophy, a line of inquiry, a way of life, a lens through which to examine the world, and, last but not least, an art.
Rivera Sun, Editor
Friday, Oct 9th, 4-5pm ET! Come join Nonviolence News Editor Rivera Sun and others to discuss the most interesting stories in the past couple weeks. Find out more and sign-up here>>
Philadelphia Agrees to Grant 50 Vacant Homes to Community Land Trust: The historic victory for unhoused people presents a model for tenant organizing and housing activism. (Photo from the Intercept.) Read more>>
Paris, London, New York, and Los Angeles Mayors Boycott G20 Summit In Saudi Arabia: CODEPINK and a coalition of peace organizations have been calling on mayors from all over the world to boycott the summit because of the war crimes and human rights abuses being committed by Saudi Arabia both in Yemen and internally. Read more>>
Hootsuite Backs Out Of ICE Deal After Public Backlash: The decision by Vancouver-based tech giant Hootsuite to abruptly pull out of a contract with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency following internal and public backlash should put corporate leaders on notice — be vigilant about who you do business with, experts say. Read more>>
How One Swedish City Grew The Commons By Foodsharing During The Pandemic: It’s more hands-on than soup kitchens or free-food giveaways, it strengthens the commons — and you can even do it during a pandemic. It’s called foodsharing, and the way it’s growing in Gothenburg, Sweden, just might be a model for the rest of the world. Read more>>
Libraries Are Giving Away Insane Amounts Of Free Food: Across America, public librarians are working with local, state, and national partners to bring food to those who need it during the COVID-19 Pandemic. Wait — librarians? Yes indeed. And, when librarians distribute food, they do more than merely give it away. Read more>>
Iraqi Protesters Gather To Mark Anniversary of 2019 Mass Demonstrations: A few hundred Iraqis gathered in Baghdad’s central Tahrir square on Thursday to mark the anniversary of anti-government unrest that erupted last year and to put pressure on the authorities to meet their demands. Protesters, most of them young, are demanding an overhaul of a political system they see as profoundly corrupt and keeping most Iraqis in poverty. In 2019, the police forces killed more than 650 protesters. This anniversary demonstration also commemorated those who were murdered. Read more>>
Colombian Protests Against Police Brutality Face Extreme Repression: Despite this repression, the protests continue. The people of Colombia have been resisting an extremely violent state apparatus for years. For decades, social movements have condemned the fact that the state seems to be spending less on the people and more on a war against them. Read more here. And watch a video of protest footage, including rallies, banner drop, demonstrations, marches, and more here>>
San Diego Soccer Team Halts Game, Walks Off Field In Protest Over Homophobic Slur: “We have to get this out of our game,” one of the players said. Read more>>
Polo Shirt Maker Withdraws Shirt Worn By Alt-Right Groups: The fashion brand Fred Perry has pulled one of its famous polo shirt designs after it became associated with a far-right organization. The company has halted sales of the black and yellow top in the US and Canada, after it was adopted by the neo-fascist organization the Proud Boys. Read more>>
Mass Protests Erupt After, Belarus’ Lukashenko Holds Secret Inauguration: After contested elections and the nation’s largest protest, Belarus’ incumbent president held a secret inauguration. Predictably, it sparked more protests, including one dubbed the “people’s inauguration of the real president,” was held Sept. 27 to declare Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya – Lukashenko’s main election rival – as the country’s legitimate leader. Lukashenko’s stunt has left him isolated, both locally and internationally. Read more>>
Artist Ai Weiwei Holds Silent Protest For Julian Assange: Artist and Chinese dissident Ai Weiwei staged a silent protest outside the Old Bailey Court in London as critics panned the media for largely ignoring the extradition hearing of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, whose trial was entering its fourth week of witness testimony. Read more>>
Myanmar Students Face Jail After Handing Out Anti-War Pamphlets: Myanmar student representatives said on Tuesday that 14 students had been arrested and charged with offenses carrying up to two years in jail after handing out pamphlets criticizing the government and the military. Read more>>
More Than 200 Writers And Publishers Sign Letter In Support Of Trans And Non-binary People: Described as ‘a message of love and solidarity’ and with signatories including Jeanette Winterson and Malorie Blackman, it comes days after a host of prominent literary names signed a letter defending JK Rowling. Read more>>
US Activists Launch Nonviolent Resistance Against Austerity: Decrying both political parties’ failure to care for the people, the campaign vows to use nonviolent actions, including boycotts and strikes, to demand justice. Read more>>
Netanyahu Uses Pandemic As Excuse To Ban Mass Protests Against Him: The weekly protests have grown in size, but now the Israeli government has banned assemblies over 20 persons, making the anti-Netanyahu protests illegal. Read more>>
US Citizens Mobilize To De-escalate Far-Right Violence and Intimidation On Election Day: A plethora of groups have organized 6,000 people to be “Elections Defenders”. This might be the largest mass training of nonviolent de-escalation skills in the United States to date. Read more>>
Ceremony To Stop A Pipeline: A group of Secwepemc people held a canoe and kayak ceremony Saturday morning in Kamloops in opposition to the Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion project drilling under the Thompson River. Read more>>
The Pebble Tapes – An Environmental Action Group Goes Undercover: An environmental action group posed as investors and launched a covert sting operation on a mining company. Recording their conversations, they discovered that the company had been lying about the size of the mining expansion and found out just how much the Alaskan government was colluding with them … and so much more. Read more>>
As The Smoke Subsides, West Coast Climate Activists Show What An Effective Response Looks Like: After a devastating wildfire season on the West Coast, climate activists are busy mobilizing mutual aid, young voters and a just recovery. Read more>>
The Walkers And The Renaissance Of Indigenous Culture In Peru: It took a pandemic to reveal that the most resilient communities are oftentimes the most overlooked. It’s time to listen and learn from indigenous knowledge and livelihoods. Read more>>
After Seeing Clear Ocean During COVID-19, Locals Move To Ban Cruise Ships: A handful of Florida locals formed the Key West Committee for Safer Cleaner Ships, with the goal of shrinking the footprint of cruise ship tourism in Key West. They wanted to limit the community’s exposure to Covid-19 and, frankly, to what they saw as destructive tourism. Read more>>
From the Front Lines of California’s Fires, Yolo County Joins 1,750+ Communities in Declaring Climate Emergency: The resolution’s success, said one organizer, “is a testament to the social movement power demanding both transformative climate action and concrete steps to remedy the legacy of systemic racism.” Read more>>
150 Activists Oppose German Construction Workers As They Cut Down Trees To Build Highway: Construction workers began felling part of a German forest so that a highway can be built despite efforts by around 150 environmental activists to stop them. Read more>>
Rescuers Race To Herd Whales Away From Military Exercises In Scotland: Rescuers are racing to herd a group of whales out of a Scottish loch ahead of major military exercises that conservationists fear could distress the giant cetaceans. Read more>>
On Chicanx Activists, and the Mexican-American History Lesson They Don’t Teach in School: “The Chicanx movement was at once an effort to define a national identity, as well as a national consciousness among Mexican-Americans.” Read more>>
Boycott Whataburger: A 19-year-old Black woman is calling for the public to boycott Whataburger after she filed a discrimination complaint against the company this week, claiming the company forced her out of her job last month because she wore a “Black Lives Matter” mask. Read more>>
Protests In Canada Decry the Cruel Taunting of A First Nation Woman On Her Deathbed: The Canadian province of Quebec said it had launched two investigations as outrage spread on Wednesday over a livestream made by 37-year-old Joyce Echaquan, a sick indigenous woman, before her death that showed staff verbally abusing her in a hospital. Read more>>
California Schools Launch Anti-Racism Plan: The California Department of Education announced new anti-racism lessons and teacher training for school districts on Monday, days after President Donald Trump decried the notion of teaching slavery as a founding tenet of the U.S. and called for a more “patriotic education.” Read more>>
Let’s Talk About Racism & Health: One aspect of systemic racism that merits greater attention is the inherent racism in our healthcare system. Cities across the country are beginning to recognize that racism is a public health issue. On top of that, social determinants such as wealth inequality, access to housing and education and discrimination in the workplace, as well as other factors, also impact health resulting in worse health outcomes and higher death rates for black people. Read more>>
The US Justice System Is Violent To The Core. Transformative Justice Is Nonviolence – And Will Only Happen Outside The Box: After the appalling verdict in Breonna Taylor’s case, this Black writer makes a pointed case for why we need to think outside the box and beyond the structural violence of the justice system to find transformative and restorative justice. Read more>>
Pittsburg Medical Students Rewrite Hippocratic Oath To Include Systemic Racism: We’ve all heard the calls to declare racism a public health crisis. Well, a group of medical students in Pittsburgh, Pa., have taken things a step further and rewritten the Hippocratic Oath to include acknowledgments of racism, the pandemic and victims of police violence and racial violence. Read more>>
Minneapolis Citizens Reclaim Space After Uprising: Without waiting for permission, growers began planting vegetables and herbs in an empty lot on Lake Street and 17th Avenue. Their aim was to reclaim the dormant land on behalf of the community who lived nearby, in whatever way they saw fit to put it to use. ‘Lake Street Open Growth Space‘ was the name chosen for this squatted garden. Read more>>
Where Does Feminism Go Next? The feminism movement in the US could learn from feminist movements in places like Iran, India, and Tunisia where women ground their feminism in solidarity at all costs. Read more>>
Digital Activism – Empowering Women, Creating Change, Demanding Human Rights: Movements like #MeToo demonstrate the power of solidarity and collective digital action, but they also reveal that feminist activism is not a monolithic movement with a shared mission. Read more>>
Indians Protest Over Gang Rape Of A Woman Of Marginalized Caste: Demonstrations erupted across India over the attack on a woman from the country’s most marginalized caste. The woman died in a hospital, and four men from a dominant caste are under arrest. The rape was done in retaliation to the whole community, intended to terrorize the Dalit caste. Read more>>
Reclaiming Life and Housing In An Era Of Collapse: With a catastrophic eviction crisis looming, longtime activist Cheri Honkala discusses housing reclamation and the solidarity we will need to navigate an era of collapse. Read more>>
Next Steps For Portland, OR, Anti-Eviction Efforts: The Portland activists are connecting the issues of the housing crisis, systemic racism, and police brutality. This article offers reflections and frameworks that many communities can benefit from. Read more>>
Congolese Activists Attempted To Repatriate Stolen Art From A French Museum. Now, They’re On Trial For “Stealing” Art: Is dislodging African artwork from a European museum a political statement, or a criminal act? That’s the question a French court weighed Wednesday in an emotionally charged trial centered around a Congolese activist campaigning to take back art he says was plundered by colonizers. Read more>>
Artists Create Mock Stamps As Resistance Art: As the USPS finds itself embroiled in the US democracy crisis, a timely new project sees 50 artists and institutions designing stamps to make a statement in a crucial year for US politics. Read more>>
Lovecraft Country Is Protest Art, Says Lead Actress: The show “has found a way to reimagine this genre [of horror] in such a radical way, and to center Black voices and have us explore our joy, have us explore the love, the secrets, the demons that we struggle with, fighting for family, and then the hurt that you’re capable of experiencing within your family,” Jurnee Smollett muses. “Seeing Black folks swim and dance and fight off demons and participate in magic, it’s an honor to be a part of something that feels so disruptive.” Read more>>
Practicing Nonviolent Resistance In The Time of COVID-19: We may be physically distanced, but we can stand united through nonviolent action during this pandemic. Read more>>
The Hero Who Refused To Leave A Pub And Helped Desegregate Britain: When he sat down in a pub that banned black people, Stephenson helped change Britain’s discrimination laws. He talks about organizing the Bristol bus boycott, attacks from the National Front – and why Muhammad Ali composed a poem about him. Read more>>
‘Our Love Is Radical’ – Why Trans Activists Lead The Way In Protest Movements: Though their legacies have often been overlooked, trans Americans have been central to the country’s battles for justice, from racial equality to anti-fascism. Read more>>
Black Artist Recreates Paintings By Putting Black Lives In A Renaissance Framework: A new exhibition by African-American painter Titus Kaphar challenges its audience to see pictures in a new way – by literally adding black faces. Read more>>
The Complete History of the Delano Grape Strike – In Pictures: This visual history details how Dolores Huerta and Cesar Chavez helped found the United Farm Workers and led one of the most successful union boycotts in American history. Read more>>
Education Of A Climate Activist: In 2012, hardly anyone had heard of fossil fuel divestment. Today, more than a thousand institutions with more than $14 trillion between them have divested in one form or another. The impossible became conceivable, then inevitable. Change can and does happen, with sustained effort. Read more>>
Gandhi’s Influence On the US Civil Rights Movement: A detailed look at the numerous connections between Gandhi and the Indian Self-Rule Movement and the US Civil Rights Movement. Read more>>
Teach Central America Week Oct 5-11: Educators are invited to join Teaching For Change in bringing knowledge of Central American history, culture, and justice struggles into the classroom. Learn more>>
Back By Popular Demand! Nonviolence In Action: Planning & Strategy Webinar
A 2-hr webinar with Rivera Sun that introduces strategy and planning for nonviolent action. This webinar is fun, friendly, and open to people of all experience levels. You’ll learn the guiding principles of how to make change with nonviolent action, how to think strategically, and how to design powerful campaigns for change. From local campaigns to national issues, you can apply these ideas and tools to every issue you care about. (Oct 6) Learn more and sign-up here>>
People Power: COVID-19 and Beyond: A webinar series hosted by Waging Nonviolence and Solidarity 2020 and Beyond: Organizers from Brazil, Pakistan, Kenya and the United States will delve into women’s rights and gender justice campaigns, as well as the importance of a feminist lens for all movements. Click here to register or get more information. (Oct. 7) Learn more>>
Nonviolence News Happy Hour, Friday, Oct 9, from 4-5pm ET: Join a community of readers as we gather to discuss what’s been happening in Nonviolence News. What was your favorite headline? What was the most inspiring story you read in Nonviolence News this week? This is a place to learn more about nonviolence by discussing the ways it’s being used around the world. Come! It’s fun. Cosponsored by MK Gandhi Institute, Backbone Campaign, Metta Center, and Nonviolence International. This event is free, but registration is required. Donations are appreciated. Learn more and sign up here >>
Black People’s March On White House: The Black Is Back Coalition calls on all to march, rally and convene in Washington, D.C., during the “Black People’s March On White House.” Registration is required. (Nov 7-8) Read more>>