Nonviolent action has played a key role in the struggle for social change all over the world. It has a long and proud history, but it is not only something from the past, it lives on in many struggles for freedom, equality and justice. It seems there is a current running from group to group, movement to movement. Women suffragists learned from the abolitionists; early labor activists borrowed from both of them, adding their own contributions. Civil rights activists, anti-war protesters, people with disabilities, battered women and farm workers (to name a few) all continued the process. Chinese students in Tianamen Square held signs saying "We Shall Overcome." Sometimes nonviolent direct action responding to oppression or abuse of power seems to spring up spontaneously in apparently unrelated times and places. One of the reasons that these discoveries amaze and inspire us is that official histories and media accounts don't generally record these events. .
Nonviolent civil disobedience requires discipline and preparation, as well as burning commitment and desire for change. Contrary to popular mythology Rosa Parks did not just sit down one day on the bus because she was tired. She was a woman trained for this nonviolent action which changed the course of history. Thousands of people, whose names we will never know, made the same preparations for various actions in the campaign for civil rights. Very few of the people we do hear about acted alone.
The linked handbook continues a tradition of sharing and passing on beliefs, strategies, values and tactics. By the time of its third printing, the handbook had been used by activists using nonviolent direct action concerning a variety of issues, including: AlDs-activism, toxic waste protests, disabilities awareness, battered women protests, gay rights, abortion clinic escorts, weapons protests, anti-Gulf War actions, anti-violence protests, and more. It offers the combined experience and wisdom of many people who have struggled to make the world more just. It is not the final word, but falls on the people who read it, to honestly reflect on the guidance offered.
Thanks to SOA Watch providing this manual.
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