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By davidswanson - Posted on 21 January 2008
Please discuss nonviolent resistance here, including plans for http://resistinmarch.org
Have the cities around the nation been chosen yet by http://resistinmarch.org, David? Or do they do their own thing independently?
is just a website listing and linking to things. We would all like to see an action on 3/19 in every congressional district.
I'll pass link around list-servs :o)
There is an important distinction between the two phrases. Max O. with NCNR does the best job explaining the two I've seen so far. A lot of activists are not "getting it" but I think this will help...
I am always confused when I read that a peace group is calling for civil disobedience. It causes me to wonder what unjust law the group intends to break. Of course, the group actually is calling for civil
When we engage in civil resistance, we are taking action to uphold the
law. Civil resistance challenges a government which consistently
breaks the law. Since March of 2003, we have been involved in civil
resistance to end an illegal war in Iraq.
Use of the term is very important for several reasons. First, in
every statement we should point out that our government is breaking
innumerable laws. Second, when a citizen becomes aware of government
lawbreaking, s/he has a Nuremberg obligation to act against the
illegal activity. Finally, there is the matter of speaking in court
after the action. A defendant who states s/he was engaged in civil
disobedience not only is pleading guilty, but is letting the
government off the hook for its failure to prosecute the real
criminals, in this case those who fund an illegal war.
Promoting civil disobedience confuses activists new to resistance.
Such an activist would assume first that the rationale is to get
arrested in order to change the law, and second that one is guilty as
I could not count how many reporters and prosecutors over the years
have asked me, You wanted to get arrested? No, I wanted to end
torture, close down nuclear power plants or abolish apartheid. One
reason the prosecutor asks such a question is that most charges have a
"mens rea" [guilty mind] component to the charge. The government will
argue that the defendant's intent was to get arrested. No, our intent
was to try to get a meeting with a senator who consistently votes to
fund an illegal war.
Any action I take has a First Amendment perspective--for example,
carrying a coffin to the steps of the Capitol. With the current
erosion of the Bill of Rights, I think it is important to argue in
court, after actions, that we were engaged in Constitutionally-
On January 3, twelve activists arrested on September 15 outside the
Capitol had their case dismissed. Over 180 people arrested that day
pled guilty and paid a citation fee. Once the case came to court, it
became evident that the police line was illegal. If possible,
activists should take these "open and shut" cases to court. Not only
is the Bush administration breaking innumerable laws, but police
consistently violate First Amendment rights.
Doing "civil disobedience" forces you to abandon a First Amendment
argument. Doing CD removes the onus from the government to prove a
defendant was engaged in criminal activity. Doing CD will only cause
the vast majority of the people to plead guilty and pay a protest tax.
Doing CD diminishes your argument that the government is the
There were 34 arrests inside the U.S. Capitol on September 20, and 31
of us went to trial. We were initially charged with disorderly
conduct, and it would seem to the uninitiated that we were guilty as
we did a die-in inside a government building. However, we were found
not guilty of that charge, but we were convicted of unlawful assembly,
a charge added later at the arraignment. In order to convict us,
the judge had to make a fool of herself by claiming that our action
might have caused a tourist to get violent. Of course, there was no
testimony to that effect, and the case is on appeal.
During the trial, we argued an international law defense. Of course,
the government and judge disallowed it. But such a decision is an
indication of the cowardly refusal of the Justice Department and the
courts to charge Bush, Cheney and the other war criminals. The
absurdity is obvious--prosecute the activists who state that the war
is illegal, but ignore the criminality rampant in the Bush
In closing, I will reiterate the importance of using appropriate
language. Those of us with lots of experience have a duty to mentor
those who are just now contemplating acts of resistance. I had the
great luxury of living in Baltimore and learning from the likes of Dan
and Phil Berrigan and Elizabeth McAlister. I welcome your comments.
I can sum up your reply in one sentence:
"The entire U S federal, state, and local lawmaking, law enforcement, judicial, legal defense "system" has been corrupted beyond belief."
Going up against any one or all the aforementioned parts of "the system" individually or as a group, using any word name you wish for it, civil resistance, civil disobedience, civil protest, etc., can be and as often as not is turned against you, twisted inside out, so totally out of its original perspective as to be unbelievable.
In two posts and several replies in this blog I have written as recitation, iterated, and will now reiterate P J O'Rourks clearly written very profound one sentence message in his best selling 1992 book "A Parliment of Whores" warning us of things to come, that have now come into full fruition and reality today 16 years after it was written.
"Any likeminded group, acting in concert, can steal anything they want, and get away with it."
Now rewrite or rethink this sentence using words and names in paraphrase like:
Is this NOT exactly what our own government lawmakers, law enforcement, judicial, legal defense representation have done?
Has not truth and justice been stolen and hidden within purposefully made inequitable laws like the Patriot Act among other similar laws?
Must we not prove ourselves innocent rather than to be presumed innocent?...the burden of proof lying upon ourselves rather than the state that has the authority to accuse without the remotest shred of evidence? Anyone paying attention that watches the myriad of "COP" programs running round the clock on TV sees this happening right before their own eyes as their minds get dulled to the effect and they get used to it, brainwashed to the effect that this is form of accusation and maltreatment before the fact is "normal" lawenforcement procedure.
Are we not aware "due process of law" is no longer in effect and no longer applies...that anyone can be arrested, foreigner or U S Citizen held without bail or trial and even denied access to legal defense council indefinitely?....or are prisoners being held at Guantanamo Bay and other secret prisons under the U S Government's automatic presumtion of guilt a figment of my immagination?
Have not our own congressional representatives nation wide become unresponsive to the will of their own constituants?...representing only the few in the elite rather than the millions in the masses....if this is not true then bush and cheney would have already been impeached and brought to trial on charges of high crimes they have committed. The lowest poll numbers, Zogby's latest poll reflects the will of 53% of ALL adult voting age U S Citizens and their desire to impeach. Yet our congress remains silent.
Has NOT our Constitution been usurped by this current president, a man that calls our Constitution "just a piece of paper, so many times that it HAS to have been noticed by our national lawmakers, our congress that is responsible for its side of checks and balances and have they not failed to legally estop this criminal in the white house but in actuality aided and abetted this criminal president in both action and misdeed?
You tell me PetainDC, just what avenues of resolve do the citizens, the majority bulk in population of this nation have left to them to turn this nation around in a positive direction?
Tell me what protests, civil resistance, and/or civil disobedience peaceful or otherwise has resulted in over the past five decades and finally tell me if this nation is better off now than it was five decades ago. Right along with the name ALamo I remember the names Kent State, Ruby Ridge, and Waco and the people that died in the santitiy of their own homes under direction and siege of our own national government law enforcment officials that chose to attack in haste under pretensive special rules of engagement as if those people were an invading force rather than waiting until they ran out of food and surrendered peacefully. The Kent State student weren't even armed yet they were fired upon with automatic weapons by the United States National Guard. So much for for the 1st Amendment and organized peaceful protest eh?
In your reply you had a lot to say, much of it I totally agree with.
So please advise me with answers to my questions because from my seat and the rate this nation is going down the drain,I can see only one or two futures eventuality occuring which for the moment I will hold in reserve with the exception that the word "peace" will not be involved.
The political party I belong to is the entire body politic of the United States of America and our Constitution that I support without bias which neither states or implies any allegiance with any other socalled organized political party.
I have no idea if this will be an adequate response. But I think we have control over our own actions, and many of us will choose not to drop the word "peace" from our movement.
Again, civil resistance is about resisting the evil policies of a government. Attempting to bring the true criminals to justice in any small way. Civil disobedience is breaking unjust laws in order to hopeful repeal or change them.
You response is similar to many responses I've received. People are completely downtrodden, and many cling to hope that an election will somehow change things. I have full confidence that the people will make the difference. We need to start believing in our dedicated collective efforts to bring about change.
I think maybe you are relying on the Constitution more than I would, to me this is more about people's hearts and beliefs. This struggle is in many ways more spiritual than political for myself. I tend to feel that the good nature inside people will outweigh the bad, and that there will be less and less need for government in the future.