Tag Archives: nonviolent action

New column at The Rumpus!

I’m excited to share that the first installment of my new political column, TURNING PURPLE, is up at The Rumpus! I’m a longtime fan of The Rumpus and thrilled to be a part of the team. The Borderland is the first of many hot button election issues that I’ll cover between now and November 2020.

“The personal is political” is a phrase that was popularized by feminist Carol Hanisch in 1969, and this first installment is a walk through my own story as a border-dweller and the deep roots of this country’s dehumanizing immigration policies. Artist Dara Herman Zierlein’s vivid artwork captures the energy of the border crisis and the beauty of the desert.

Read it at The Rumpus.

“I just poured myself a big mug of mofo…” Read it on Instagram.


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Method 31: “Haunting” Officials

Sometimes I wonder what it will feel like to read these posts in 5 or 10 years. Honestly, I started the this project because I needed to do something with the daily barrage of overwhelmingly bad news. In a short time, it’s becoming a record of how much we’re all managing on a daily basis.

I am doing this because we are NOT helpless.

These methods work.

Method 31: “Haunting” Officials was used in India 1928 during the Bardoli Satyagraha, a peasant-led campaign of civil disobedience. In response to the government’s unresponsiveness to widespread famine, farmers, peasants, and other volunteers “haunted” government officials. They camped out in the roads in front of their homes in silence. When the activists were arrested, they were immediately replaced by others. Eventually, authorities tired of the process. Members of the governments of Bombay and across India were furious about the treatment of the protesting farmers and resigned from their offices in open support of the farmers.

Yesterday in New Zealand, citizens gathered in silent protest outside Gun City, a gun store that sells the military-style semi automatic reportedly used by the man responsible for the massacre in Christchurch. Prime Minister Jacinda Adams’ response to the massacre puts other leaders to shame:

“She fought from the start like a real politician, scorning the killer, attacking racism and slapping back at Turkish president Erdogan’s revolting election propaganda – which used the murderer’s own video – then hitting out at US president Trump. And insisting that New Zealand’s gun laws would change forever.”– Robert Fisk, Independent

Got a tent? Pitch it here.

I’ll bring snacks.

Mueller, please hurry up.

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Method 30: Rude Gestures

Wasn’t Method 29 a breath of fresh air? Today’s must-watch video of Anderson Cooper is not that. The piece below aired last week, but in today’s news cycle, it’s already old news. That’s the danger of the time we’re in. Paul Manafort is up for sentencing today, 45 is already tweeting about campaign contributions and the wall, and in the meantime in North Korea:

Satellite images appear to show the North is rebuilding a facility that had been previously used to test long-range missile engines. Analysis of the images suggests the work on the facility, which had been dormant since August, began right around the time Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un met up for their second summit, which ended last week without an agreement. 

– via CNN, March 6, 2019

Watch Anderson Cooper’s response to 45 calling Kim Jong-un, the leader of the world’s most repressive dictatorship, “my friend,” “an interesting guy” and a “real leader.” North Korea – the country where failing to keep the presidential portrait dust-free is a punishable offense.

This offers some context for Professor Gene Sharp’s warning that Method 30 should be used only rarely in situations of political or international conflict. What would happen if North Koreans mooned Kim Jong-un’s palace, like Trump’s protestors did in Chicago? By law, three generations of a protestor’s family could be sent to labour camps.

In September 2017, The Telegraph provided a concise list of “brutal and inhumane laws North Koreans are forced to live under.” I’ve provided a condensed version, below:

Three generations rule

In North Korea, if one person is convicted of a serious crime and sent to a prison camp, their immediate family can also be sent with them. Then the next two generations born in the camps can also remain there. The 1972 edict says that up to three generations must be punished to wipe out the ‘seed’ of class enemies.

Access to non-state-controlled media

Listening to unauthorized foreign broadcasts, watching foreign TV shows and possessing dissident publications are considered “crimes against the state.” Those caught face execution or being sent to labour camps.

Freedom of movement

It is a criminal offense for North Koreans to leave the country without government permission. That doesn’t stop thousands making highly treacherous journeys in attempts to escape every year. Even those who successfully make it out of the North can still be pursued by government agents and there are reports of defector’s families being punished in their absence.

Practising Christianity

Although the North Korean constitution officially allows freedom of religion, the state has a hostile approach to religions, particularly to those it sees as western faiths such as Christianity. Those discovered practicing Christianity face arrest and being sent to a labour camp. (I wonder how the half of pastors who approve of Trump feel about the endorsement of Kim Jong-un?)

Economic rights

Private enterprise of any kind is officially banned in North Korea. Those caught face arbitrary punishment even though the black market remains one of the only ways for people to get the food, medicine and other necessities the government often fails to provide. 

Mueller, please hurry up.

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Method 28: Symbolic Sounds

NOTE: Today’s post comes with a challenge, so feel free to skip to the hashtag at the end.

Way back in July 2018, Trump returned to the White House after a summit with Putin during which he refused to denounce any Russian interference in the 2016 election. Former Clinton advisor Adam Parkhomenko took to Twitter in protest.

In less than 30 minutes, a crowdfund campaign covered the costs for a mariachi band to play outside the White House during a night when Trump was already jet lagged. The concert went on to become part of a multi-day protest called Occupy Lafayette Park:

Is it me, or do the mariachi days of July seem cheerfully naive in light of this week’s reports that migrant children are being handcuffed and transferred to adult detention centers on their 18th birthdays? While “weaponizing” mariachi bands, opera singers and bagpipers may seem harmless, the use of oral or mechanical sounds has been used throughout history to convey a message during oppressive regimes.

In May 1917, the French army had already staged mutinies against the government, but when some units were forced to return to the trenches, the soldiers began “baaing” in protest, to signify that they were lambs to the slaughter. “The officers were helpless to prevent it.” (Source: The Methods of Nonviolent Action, Part Two, Gene Sharp.)

In 1968, in protest of forcible occupation, Czechoslovakian bishops called on churches to ring funeral bells. Soon, the city filled with the sound of sirens, car horns and train whistles. Soviet troops were so unnerved that they drew their pistols, terrified that an attack was about to begin.


Today, on what is apparently #InternationalMargaritaDay, imagine what would happen if we used that hashtag to enlist the resistance to blare our car horns in time to “Impeach the President” on the hour, every hour for the next week? Or month? Or until 2020?

As my beloved Lidia Yuknavitch says, “we are nothing without each other.”

Impeach the President” is a single by funk band The Honey Drippers, released on Alaga Records in 1973 and re-released to iTunes by Tuff City Records in 2017, after being sampled many times. The protest song advocates the impeachment of then president Richard Nixon.

“Impeach the President”

Ladies and gentlemen
We have the Honey Drippers in the house tonight
They just got back from Washington, DC
I think they got somethin’ they want to say

[Verse 1]
Some people say that he’s guilty (that he’s guilty)
Some people say I don’t know (I don’t know)
Some people say, give him a chance (give him a chance)
Aw, some people say, wait till he’s convicted (till he’s convicted)

Impeach the President
Impeach the President
Impeach the President
Impeach the President

Impeach the President
(Aw nah, we can’t do that, man—nah, nah)

Impeach the President (Shut up, fool!)
Impeach the President
Impeach the President
Impeach the President
Impeach the President

3.5% Project




A Very Mueller Valentine’s Day

Ukulele Challenge: Part III “A Very Mueller Valentine’s Day”

Who can turn the world on with one file?
Who can take an endless case and suddenly make it all seem worthwhile?
Well it’s you, Bob, and you should know it
With each glance and every little news breaking moment
The truth is all around, no need to worry
Still I have to say, we wish you’d hurry
You’re gonna make it after all
You will convict him after all


(Method 37)

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“Researchers used to say that no government can survive if just 5% of its population rose up against it, but what the research showed is that no single campaigns failed during the time period after they’d achieved the active sustained participation of just 3.5 percent of the population.” – Erica Chenoweth

Method 27: New Signs and Names

Before I move on to Method 27, two words:

Brandy Carlile.

61st Annual Grammy Awards, Show, Los Angeles, USA - 10 Feb 2019

Photo by Rob Latour/REX/Shutterstock (10095018ic) Brandi Carlile 61st Annual Grammy Awards, Show, Los Angeles, USA – 10 Feb 2019

Carlile’s performance of “The Joke” at last night’s Grammy awards has been on repeat all day. It’s one of the most powerful, timely performances I’ve seen, and I just can’t get it out of my head. Watch the performance.

They come to kick dirt in your face
To call you weak and then displace you
After carrying your baby on your back across the desert
I saw your eyes behind your hair
And you’re looking tired, but you don’t look scared

Artists are leading the revolution.

Method 27: New Signs and Names

IMG_5203Method 27 can take many forms, but the approach is to take signs that have been used against people and to turn them into something new. The signs can be repurposed, they can disappear or be replaced with something new.

When I was researching this method, I came across today’s LA Times, “Last of iconic illegal immigration crossing signs has vanished in California.” After years of debate, the last of 10 yellow “immigrants crossing” signs that once stood on either side of the 5 and 805 freeways near the U.S.-Mexico border disappeared. The department of transportation stopped making the signs and constructed fences to prevent people from crossing highways instead. (See slideshow, below.)

Method 27 was used in 1942 in occupied Poland by a group of young resistors who called themselves “The Little Wolves.” They stole the signs reading “Nur Für Deutsche” (FOR GERMANS ONLY), signs that were posted in front of Warsaw’s best cafes, hotels and theaters. One morning, hundreds of the signs reappeared on city’s lamp posts and trees where the Germans often hung Polish patriots. Overnight, street signs, placards and inscriptions throughout the city were replaced with the names of the heroes of the revolution.

I featured the artist Banksy in Method 26: “Paint as Protest,” and he’s back again today. A warning that the images in the slideshow below are triggering, but they end on a note we can all live by. I recommend listening to Brandi Carlile as you watch. [Listen.]

Let ’em live while they can
Let ’em spin, let ’em scatter in the wind
I have been to the movies, I’ve seen how it ends
And the joke’s on them.

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“Researchers used to say that no government can survive if just 5% of its population rose up against it, but what the research showed is that no single campaigns failed during the time period after they’d achieved the active sustained participation of just 3.5 percent of the population.” – Erica Chenoweth

Method 26: Paint as Protest

Tuesday night’s State of the Union was a gorgeous example of the effectiveness of Nonviolent Method 18. The sea of Congresswomen in white couldn’t be overlooked – not by the viewing audience and especially not from the podium.

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The rest of the SOTU caused me to flip between CNN and old episodes of Survivor after my partner asked, “Are you really going to curse at the screen every fifteen seconds?” (Answer: “F*&K YES … the likes of which has never been seen!!!”)

Former CIA Director John Brennan, a frequent critic of 45, said this of the State of the Union address: “I think Donald Trump raised to a new level,” he said, “the demagoguery, the hyperbole, the chauvinism, and even the misrepresentation on a lot of the issues, including on the foreign policy and national security front.”

For more on how how the rhetoric of dictators can bring down democracies, check out this article.

Method 26: Paint as Protest

Paint as a tool of nonviolent resistance can take many forms – as graffiti, on buildings, walls, or bodies, or symbols drawn on official portraits. In August 2017, graffiti resembling the work of the illusive artist Banksy appeared on Israel’s security barrier in the West Bank city of Bethlehem.

In June 2018, six new murals appeared in Paris to protest the French government’s anti-refugee policies. The first image in the slideshow below depicts a young girl spraying a pink wallpaper pattern over a swastika on a wall next to her sleeping bag and teddy bear in an attempt to make her patch of pavement more homelike.

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Art historian Paul Ardenne said it does not matter if the murals are by Banksy, but they do “show that the Banksy effect, and its ability to manipulate the media, works.”

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“Researchers used to say that no government can survive if just 5% of its population rose up against it, but what the research showed is that no single campaigns failed during the time period after they’d achieved the active sustained participation of just 3.5 percent of the population.” – Erica Chenoweth

Method 23: Destruction of Own Property

Last night, in a magnanimous effort “to make sure that everything is right” during the government shutdown, Trump treated the Clemson Tigers to 300 hundred hamburgers and “many, many french fries.”  According to the WaPo, burgers and chicken nuggets were distributed on platters in the style of servers at an elegant cocktail party. “Another Big Mac, sir? Please, help yourself.” The buffet cost about $3,000.

Due to the 25 day partial government shutdown, the White House catering staff is on furlough, along with about 800,000 federal workers are affected – 420,000 working without pay, according to an estimate last month from the Senate Appropriations Committee

If we followed Method 23 of Gene Sharp’s 198 Methods of Nonviolent Action, the streets would be filled with American hamburgers today.

Tea parties, draft card burning, the destruction of Stalin’s statue during the Hungarian Revolution. During the nonviolent revolution in India, imported cloth was burned to reject dependence on foreign nations. In 1918 and 1919, suffragist members of the Women’s Party publicly burned copies of President Wilson’s speeches to demonstrate that while he spouted promises of democracy and freedom, he did nothing to help women get the right to vote.

Hamburger strike?

That’s “hamberder” in Presidential speak.


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“Researchers used to say that no government can survive if just 5% of its population rose up against it, but what the research showed is that no single campaigns failed during the time period after they’d achieved the active sustained participation of just 3.5 percent of the population.” – Erica Chenoweth

Method 22: Protest Disrobings (CONTENT WARNING)

Note: images at the end of this post may be inappropriate for some work environments. 

My senior year in high school, I was given two weeks of detention after playing a song I wrote on the morning radio show. I cued up “Get Naked,” and then I bolted. I spent the rest of the morning getting screamed into a corner by my advisor:

“For the rest of your life, you will be nothing. You are nothing. No matter what you do from here, this is the best you will ever be.”

I didn’t even GET naked, I just used the word because I knew its power in my hometown of Churchville, New York. It was like my own Footloose moment – I was going out with a bang.

Public disrobing is an effective method of nonviolent protest because it gets people’s attention – but it’s only effective if the wobbly bits draw attention to the intended cause. A recent example of this was on Tuesday night, when Stormy Daniels folded her laundry and listened to Taylor Swift in her underwear live on Instagram for 8 minutes. Exactly 8 minutes – the time it took Trump to “formally” advocate for building a 5.7 billion dollar border wall.

The Russian punk art collective Pussy Riot and activists from the Ukranian group Femen (video above) have been leading the charge against Putin’s repressive state since 2008. Femen regularly stages topless protests against sex tourism, homophobia, religious institutions, and underage marriages. In 2012, they protested against voter fraud in the 2012 Russian elections. (ARE YOU READING THIS?) In 2013, members of Femen disrupted the visit of Russian President Putin and Chancellor Merkel at a tech show shouting obscenities, with anti-Putin slogans written on their bodies.

In 2012, two members of Pussy Riot were arrested for singing the punk protest song Putin’s Prayer in Moscow’s main cathedral. They spent two years in a Russian prison for “hooliganism,” something member Nadya Tolokonnikova described was a time of “endless humiliations.”

After their release, the activists pledged to devote their energies to changing the political system in Russia and improving conditions inside its prisons – but they haven’t stopped protesting. In 2018, members of Pussy Riot crashed the World Cup and were arrested for 15 days.

Public disrobing is not new: in the 1800’s, pacifist Ukranian immigrants called the Doukhobors (“spirit wrestlers) staged naked protests when the Canadian government wouldn’t give them the land they were promised, and this continued into the 1970’s.

The annual Running of the Nudes in Pamplona, Spain, protests the cruelty of the centuries-old tradition of the running of the bulls. PETA’s “Lettuce Ladies” dress in lettuce bikinis and hand out flyers about veganism. Breasts Not Bombs, Naked for Peace, Bare Warning – all protests against war.

Women in Uganda have protested naked because their farming land is under threat of being acquired by the government as a game reserve. For the Acholi people of northern Uganda, a woman stripping in public is more powerful than fighting because it’s believed that these actions bring worst of curses on the woman’s enemy.

Today’s Action Item: #ballstothewall 

Today is Day 22 of the government shutdown. Drop’em, guys. See what you can do about this shutdown. If it goes viral, please send cash.

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“We believe that if women are left with little more than satisfying sexual desires as a life purpose, then our sexuality must become politicised. We are not denying our potential to be treated as sex objects. On the contrary, we are taking our sexuality into our own hands, turning it against our enemy. We are transforming female sexual subordination into aggression, and thereby starting the real war.” – Inna Shevchenko, Femen, for The Guardian

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Method 21: Delivering Symbolic Objects

When Nancy Pelosi was reelected as Speaker of the House for the second time last Thursday, her return to power was symbolized by a return of the gavel. Watch the moment here:

The delivering of symbolic objects is a favorite method of peaceful protest, and has been used throughout history as a way to send a message to those in authority that they’re not backing down. The French are famous for this – farmers are fond of delivering fresh manure and rotten vegetables to government offices to protest depressed wages or overburdensome taxes. When Chicago’s rat problem overwhelmed the city, a housing improvement program piled dead rats against the mayor’s door.


There are risks to this kind of protest – they can contribute to increased animosity between groups – but the message gets across.

On Valentine’s Day in 2017, “Readers are Leaders” hosted the event “Bury the White House in Books on Valentine’s Day,” encouraging people to send books they thought Trump could stand to read. Some suggestions:

  • Silent Spring, by Rachel Carson
  • Animal Farm, by George Orwell
  • The Art of Power, by Thich Nhat Hanh
  • The Man Without a Face: The Unlikely Rise of Vladimir Putin, by Masha Gessen
  • The Lorax, by Dr. Seuss: A children’s tale about the environment
  • Night, by Elie Wiesel: An iconic account from a Holocaust survivor and Nobel Laureate
  • The Jungle, by Upton Sinclair: A piece of investigative journalism that explores the conditions and treatment of poor factory workers
  • Somebody Loves you, Mr. Hatch, by Eileen Spinelli, a children’s tale about the power of kindness

What book would you send Trump?

I know, I know, he doesn’t read – but maybe someone close to him can give him the important points. Let me know if you need the address – I’ll be there on the 19th.


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