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Nonviolent Activism

Nonviolent Activism Training for the Animal Rights Movement

“My dear friends: Your vote is precious, almost sacred. It is the most powerful nonviolent tool we have to create a more perfect union.” ~John Lewis, 2012 speech in Charlotte, North Carolina

On Nonviolent Campaigns
"Prepare, think, study, plan, and be very careful what you do, and don't start out trying to bring down everything quickly. Start out with small goals and objectives. Defeat the regime in small case after small case. Get the record settled that you are really competent to make things [change]. You get more participation and great courage from the masses of people, and then you get the big prize."
Gene Sharp, PhD, author of The Politics of Nonviolent Action

New York City March for Animal Rights, September 2017
Photo credit: Paula Zoe

Nonviolent Activism Contents

Nonviolent Overview
Motivations for Nonviolent Action
Motivations Against Using Violence
Nonviolent History and Training in Videos
Government Tactics for Delegitimization of Peaceful Protests
Government Tactic to Turn a Peaceful Protest into What Appears to be a Riot with the Use of Tear Gas
News site on Nonviolent Resistance Against Oppression
Peace Songs
Books on Nonviolent Activism
Nonviolent Resources and sources
Nonviolent Activism Training Course

Nonviolent Overview

There are different types of activism in which animal rights activists (ARAs) can engage. This page explores nonviolent activism. It includes sections on benefits, videos, and articles and resources.

Nonviolence activism does not necessarily mean being passive. Nonviolence activism can mean active resistance, which can include public protests, boycotts, buycotts, and in some cases of self (or innocent victim) defense, destruction of property (swords into ploughshares).

This page does not suggest, that of the many approaches to animal rights social change, that this approach is the only or even the best approach. This page focuses on explaining the role of nonviolence in social change and is intended to better prepare ARAs for nonviolent public protests.

Martin Luther King, Jr. March on Washington, Aug. 28, 1963

Motivations for Nonviolent Action

It's more effective according to a book, Why Civil Resistance Works: The Strategic Logic of Nonviolence Conflict, by Erica Chenoweth and Maria J. Stephan. After reviewing 323 campaigns, they conclude: “The most striking finding is that between 1900 and 2006, nonviolent resistance campaigns were nearly twice as likely to achieve full or partial success as their violent counterparts.”

Maintains the ethical high ground showing the opposition to be in the wrong, and the movement to be on the right side of history.

Provides safety for the protesters, which is important since families with children sometimes participate. This safety reduces the risk of arrest, which affords the opportunity for professionals to participate.

Creates an opportunity for increased participation in the protests and movement. Safe protests organically invites more people to join in the protests. To borrow from the Zimbabwean liberation movement's Women's League slogan: "Liberation Through Participation."

Provides safety for community, bystanders and law enforcement, which compels support for the cause. This prevents additional injustices to happen to innocents not involved with the movement.

Inspires thoughts of conscience and ethical behavior in the general public. It is not ego-based activism.

Reduces criticism of the movement in the press and in the general public.

Provocateurs are revealed quickly in a nonviolent protest, and they can be expelled from the group. This protection against infiltration protects people from the violence of the opposition.

Presents itself as being fully aligned with the cause of calling on pre-vegans to be nonviolent toward animals.

Keeps communication lines open between different parties, which can motivate the opposition to make concessions and abandon their program over time. As Frederick Douglass, writer and speaker activist against slavery and for suffrage, pointed out, "Power concedes nothing without a demand.”

Motivations Against Using Violence

Violent protests undermine support from the general population for the movement. The public are pre-disposed to oppose violence, and will, at least to some extent, oppose the side using it.

Violent protests justify the use of force against the protesters in the public's eyes. The media give excuses for, and explain away, violence regularly.

Violent protests are likely to cause violence against protesters, which would limit participation. This is why the opposition's provocateurs try to instigate violence, which is why activists need to be trained in nonviolent training so such situations can be handled nonviolently.

Violent protests often lead to arrests. This can cause expensive, protracted legal entanglements, bad press, and the potential of the loss of some activists to prison for considerable periods of time.

Violence isn't necessary. Our position is noble. We are on the side of justice, and history will favor us, not our opponents.

Nonviolent History and Training in Videos

The Secret to Effective Nonviolent Resistance, by Jamila Raqib at TED Talks. She explains the value of nonviolent actions, that actions extend beyond public protests, and she gives examples from around the world. 9 Minutes.

How to Be An Effective Activist: A Training on Nonviolent Action. NYU Wagner conference with many speakers covering many topics edited together. Many topics covered including "Values > Problem > Solution." 17 Minutes.
Extended version of the above video. 1 Hour 27 minutes.

US Civil Rights Movement Benefits From Nonviolent Strategy. Summary of civil rights movement gains using nonviolent strategy. 4 Minutes.

Non-violent Resistance Training - NAACP. Brian McCoy interviews Field Directors Carmen Watkins and Kevin Myles. What to do and not to do before and during the protest. Some practical tips are included. What to do if you get arrested including contact information, general first aid, post-event rendezvous location, and medications. Plan for the long haul. 17 Minutes.

London, England march, 2017

Greenpeace Summer of Resistance Non-violent Direct Action Training with a number of Greenpeace staff workers. Goals, tactics, planning, types of events, legal support and more all discussed in this video. 28 Minutes.

Gene Sharp, PhD, author of The Politics of Nonviolent Action, interviewed by Professor Arne Ness in Norway. Discussion about different nonviolent movements in history including some movements that have used Gene Sharp's works on nonviolence. 27 Minutes.

Nonviolence and Peace Movements in World History by Crash Course John Green. This video discusses the world history of nonviolence movements and their successes. Historical photos included. Excellent overview. 12 Minutes.

Nonviolent Civil Disobedience Training, by Tafarai Bayne, Sharon Lungo, and Andrea Bowers. This is fairly conventional protest nonviolent training. Different purposes of protests, approaches of protests, decision making, affinity groups and more are discussed. Interesting split screen presentation. 17 Minutes.

Training for Nonviolent Resistance, by James Lawson. Examples of nonviolent resistance from the American civil rights movement. 7 Minutes.

On Contact: Non-Violent Resistance. Chris Hedges ON CONTACT interview of George Lakey. George Lakey, author of "Viking Economics: How the Scandinavians Got it Right and How We Can Too," discusses nonviolent resistance against the corporate state. Anya Parampil looks at successful non-violent tactics used in the civil rights movement. 28 Minutes.

The Nature and Cost of Civil Disobedience: The Catonsville Nine Chris Hedges ON CONTACT interview of the director of a play, Jack Cummings III, and one of the actors, Eunice Wong, who happens to be married to Chris Hedges. The nature and cost of civil disobedience is explored in the play The Trial of the Cantonsville Nine, written by the Catholic priest Dan Berrigan. Berrigan along with 8 other Catholics, entered Local [Viet Nam War military draft] Board No. 33 in Cantonsville, Maryland on May 17, 1968, and seized the Selective Service records. They carted them outside to the parking lot in metal trash cans and lit them on fire with napalm made from a recipe in the US Special Forces Handbook. They stood and prayed around the bonfire until they were arrested. They were protesting not only the war in Vietnam but “every major presumption underlying American life.” 28 Minutes.

Art and Freedom in the Hong Kong protests by DW Documentary. Hong Kong is an example of people fighting for their freedoms while their puppet government work to erode those freedoms. These protests were initially sparked by a bill introduced to send dissidents to China (who would probably never be heard from again). This documentary shows how some of the protesters are using art, and flash mobs to creatively protest in Hong Kong. 27 Minutes.

Government Tactics for Delegitimization of Peaceful Protests

How to Engineer a Crisis video by James Corbett of the Corbett Report. Historical and contemporary examples used to show how the government suppresses dissent by turning a peaceful protest into a violent protest with agents provocateurs. Demonstrators with Nonviolent Training can counter some of these tactics by the police and others. 22 Minutes.

Government Tactic to Turn a Peaceful Protest into What Appears to be a Riot with the Use of Tear Gas

Tear Gas - A Chemical Weapon Chris Hedges ON CONTACT interview of Anna Feigenbaum, PhD, author of Tear Gas: From the Battlefields of World War I to the Streets of Today. Prepare for this government tactic by watching this video. This interview discusses the history of tear gas, and how it's used today to take a peaceful protest, and make it look like a riot by the use of tear gas. Learn how law enforcement can use agents provocateurs with tear gas to create chaos. Plan exit routes. "...these chemical weapons are used to attack and terrorize an opponent by attacking the senses simultaneously, “producing both physical and psychological trauma.”"

How Tear Gas Became a Favorite Weapon of U.S. Border Patrol, Despite Being Banned In Warfare. Democracy Now interview with Stuart Schrader, PhD, of Johns Hopkins University. "Tear gas" is a misnomer because it causes more ill effects than tears. It " banned in warfare but legal for federal authorities and police to turn on civilians." Schrader's forthcoming book is titled Badges Without Borders: How Global Counterinsurgency Transformed American Policing.

News site on Nonviolent Resistance Against Oppression

Waging Nonviolence
Website addresses issues of Economic Justice, Environment, Human Rights, and Militarism. Perhaps if enough vocal animal liberationists participate in this site/community, we could influence it to add "animal liberation" to its list of issues.

Peace Songs

Down By The Riverside, ballad by Sonny Terry & Brownie McGee
Gonna let down my sword and shield down by the riverside.
Ain't gonna study war no more.

What About Me? by Quicksilver Messenger Service
You poisoned my sweet water
You cut down my green trees.
I fill your penitentiaries
And your military too!
"If you stand up for what you do believe,
Be prepared to be shot down."
And I feel like a stranger
In the land where I was born
I believe the revolution
Must be very close at hand.
I smoke marijuana
But I can't get behind your wars.
Oh... oh What you gonna do about me?

Where Have All the Flowers Gone? by Pete Seeger
Where have all the young men gone?
When will they ever learn?
Where have all the flowers gone?
Girls have picked them every one.

Books on Nonviolent Activism

The Zinn Reader: Writings on Disobedience and Democracy, by Howard Zinn, PhD. "No other radical historian has reached so many hearts and minds as Howard Zinn.... Here, in six sections, is the historian's own choice of his shorter essays on some of the most critical problems facing America throughout its history, and today."

Growl: Life Lessons, Hard Truths, and Bold Strategies from an Animal Advocate, by Kim Stallwood. "For four decades, Kim Stallwood has had a front seat in the animal rights movement, starting at the grassroots in England and working his way up to leadership positions at some of the best-known organizations in the world, including Compassion In World Farming, the British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection, and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals."

Occupy: Reflections on Class War, Rebellion and Solidarity, by Noam Chomsky, PhD. "Occupy is another vital contribution from Chomsky to the literature of defiance and protest, and a red-hot rallying call to forge a better, more egalitarian future."

The Politics of Nonviolent Action, three volume set, by Gene Sharp, PhD. This 1973 work, researched over many years, is the definitive treatise on nonviolent struggle. This has been used in Egypt during Arab Spring, in Serbia and in other places.

A Manual for Direct Action: Strategy and Tactics for Civil Rights and All Other Nonviolent Protest Movements, by Martin Oppenheimer and George Lakey. "This book lays the foundation for non-violent direct action. Written in the early seventies the writer links the 21 century to the nonviolent thinking of the fifties and sixties that changed the world!"

Why Civil Resistance Works: The Strategic Logic of Nonviolent Conflict by Erica Chenoweth and Maria Stephan. "For more than a century, from 1900 to 2006, campaigns of nonviolent resistance were more than twice as effective as their violent counterparts in achieving their stated goals. By attracting impressive support from citizens, whose activism takes the form of protests, boycotts, civil disobedience, and other forms of nonviolent noncooperation..."

This is An Uprising: How Nonviolent Revolt is Shaping the Twenty-first Century by Mark Engler, Paul Engler.
This excellent book is about nonviolent campaigns. It covers the history of nonviolent struggle, stories from the front lines on successful campaigns, campaign ideas, victories, failures, context, etc. Very well researched. Cogently written.

From the promo: "With incisive insights from contemporary activists, as well as fresh revelations about the work of groundbreaking figures such as Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., Gene Sharp, and Frances Fox Piven, the Englers show how people with few resources and little conventional influence can harness the power of nonviolent movements to create lasting change."

Strategic Nonviolent Conflict: The Dynamics of People Power in the Twentieth Century by Peter Ackerman, Chris Kruegler. "Nonviolent action, well planned and implemented, is shown in this lucid, timely, and compelling work to effect dramatic outcomes against opponents utilizing violence. ...not all nonviolent efforts meet with success...a nonviolent approach involves great risks as well as opportunities. It is the effectiveness of the strategies employed which will determine whether or not those using nonviolent means can prevail against opponents who rely on violence in pursuit of objectives. Twelve strategic principles are established in this enhance the prospects of success in nonviolent campaigns."

Doing Democracy: The MAP Model for Organizing Social Movements by Bill Moyer. "Doing Democracy provides both a theory and working model for understanding and analyzing social movements, ensuring that they are successful in the long term." Review: This book is tedious, and repetitious. It includes far more complexity than is necessary. It is not recommended. It is included here as it is a serious book on the topic of nonviolent activism.

Tear Gas: From the Battlefields of World War I to the Streets of Today, by Anna Feigenbaum, PhD. This book discusses how the government uses tear gas against peaceful assemblies.

Disobedience and Democracy: Nine Fallacies on Law and Order, by Howard Zinn, PhD. "Cogent defense of civil disobedience...Zinn lays out a clear and dynamic case for civil disobedience and protest, and challenges the dominant arguments against forms of protest that challenge the status quo. Zinn explores the politics of direct action, nonviolent civil disobedience, and strikes, and draws lessons for today."

Nonviolent Resources and sources

The Benefits of Non-Violent Activism

Liberation Through Participation: Women in the Zimbabwean Revolution

How Nonviolence Succeeds, by Erica Chenoweth and Maria J. Stephan

Why Civil Resistance Works, Erica Chenoweth page

Value and Benefits of Non-Violence, by Cynthia Guajardo

Wikipedia on Nonviolence

Wikipedia on Swords to Ploughshares

The Politics of Nonviolent Action, three volumes, by Gene Sharp, PhD

The Power of Nonviolent Resistance, in The Atlantic , by Lee Smithey

Why Non-Violent Protests Work, in Psychology Today, by Jesse Marczyk, PhD

Nonviolent Activism Training Course

Nonviolent Activism Training Course by The Metta Center, online for 6 months, $300 fee.

Page maintained by Daryl Elliott. To contact, look in left column under "Organizers."

Table of Contents

Page title Most recent update Last edited by
WaterFasting May 5, 2021 3:25 PM Daryl E.
VeganHolidays December 10, 2019 3:11 PM Daryl E.
AnimalAgConversions May 17, 2020 6:20 AM Daryl E.
LasVeganBiz May 27, 2019 4:17 PM Daryl E.
PublicVeganPolicy June 24, 2019 6:59 PM Daryl E.
VeganArticles2 July 18, 2018 12:50 PM Daryl E.
VeganArticles July 3, 2018 3:00 AM Daryl E.
VegasFacebookGroups July 9, 2018 2:22 PM Daryl E.
Nonviolent Activism March 13, 2021 3:16 PM Daryl E.
Vids2 May 8, 2021 5:27 PM Daryl E.
PrivateVeganChefs October 16, 2020 2:21 PM Daryl E.
Calendar February 18, 2018 2:43 PM Daryl E.

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