Tag Archives: nonviolent action

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.

frenchmanure

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.

https://www.google.com/maps/place/The+White+House/@38.8976763,-77.0365298,15z/data=!4m5!3m4!1s0x0:0x715969d86d0b76bf!8m2!3d38.8976763!4d-77.0365298

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Method 20: Prayer and Worship

If the words “prayer” and “worship” from Method 20 of 198 Methods of Nonviolent Action give your secular bones a shiver, I get it – it’s hard to walk willingly into a place that tells you you’re wrong. Instead, think of Emma Gonzalez’s 6 minutes at 20 seconds of silence at the podium at the March For Our Lives. Consider the thousands who gather in Hong Kong on June 4 every year in honor of those massacred at Tiananmen Square in 1989. Or the communities across the nation who gathered for a prayer vigil after the violence at the Tree of Life synagogue in October 2018.

I’m a new fan of Sister Susan Francois, a nun at the Sisters of St. Joseph of Peace in Englewood Cliffs who tweets prayers at Trump every day.

SisterSusanFrancois

Finally, I loved this recent NPR interview with Moby, especially when Stephen Kallao described elements of Moby’s latest record, Everything Was Beautiful, and Nothing Hurt as a kind of prayer. Of his new song, “This Wild Darkness,” Moby said:

“… we’ve found ourselves as these bald, scared monkeys essentially in control of a planet and, looked at with some sense of objectivity, doing everything in our power to destroy the only home that we have.”

The refrain:

Ooh, in this darkness

Please light my way

Light my way

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Method 19: Wearing of Symbols

Step 19 of Gene Sharp’s 198 Methods of Nonviolent Action comes from the list of Symbolic Public Acts. As I covered in Step 18, the resistance has used flags and symbolic colors as a form of protest throughout history.

Pussy hats, peace signs, rainbow flags.

Umbrellas, three finger salutes, hoodies, flowers.

Flowers epitomize peaceful protest. They were offered to soldiers at the Pentagon in 1967 and handed out to demonstrators at the Women’s March in 2017. They were worn by Dr. King, a way of saying, “I will meet your hate with dignity and grace.”

A botanical “When they go low, we go high.”

photo: Michael Jarecki

symbols_threefingers

Protesters against military rule gesture by holding their three middle fingers in the air during a brief demonstration at a shopping mall in Bangkok. (Erik De Castro/Reuters)

symbol_umbrella

A protester raises placards that reads “Occupy Central” in a standoff between riot policemen and a sea of protesters and their umbrellas outside the government headquarters in Hong Kong, Saturday, Sept. 27, 2014. (Vincent Yu/AP)

symbols_treyvon

Speakers at a gathering in Minneapolis to remember slain Florida teen Trayvon Martin said his death should be a rallying cry for racial justice in the country.

rainbow-flag-banner-big-toulouse

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Method 13: Deputations / protests, sex strikes

In less than 24 hours after the midterm elections:

  • Trump fired Jeff Sessions and replaced him with a man who wrote a 2017 op-ed that said Mueller’s investigation was “going too far.”
  • Trump revoked CNN Reporter Jim Acosta’s press pass for questioning the president’s characterization of a migrant caravan of roughly 4,000 Central American immigrants who are walking through Mexico to claim asylum in the U.S.
  • 13 people are dead after a mass shooting at a bar in California.

I went to bed worried and woke up crying. Today, this feels insurmountable, but we cannot give up. Trump’s actions yesterday were a diversion from the positive gains made during the midterms, and I won’t give him airtime because I want to focus on what we can do to address gun violence in America. This may be the most important post I’ve written about nonviolent action, and I hope you’ll take the time to read it and share it with people who might work with us to make change.

Method 13: Deputations

Method 13 in the Methods of Nonviolent Action is called “Deputations,” a critical step to making widespread change. Similar to a delegation, a deputation is a group of people organized around a social concern who engage in specific actions to make change.

A brilliant example of this comes from the year 2000, when a group of Christian and Muslim Liberian women joined together to protest against the outbreak of Liberia’s second civil war. In reaction to the conflict, social worker Leymah Gbowee brought the women from her church together to protest the war. Within the first week, 2,500 women staged protests on the lawn of the local fish market. Every day, President Charles Taylor’s motorcade passed the women as they joined hands, sang and danced for peace.

Like the Greek play Lysistrata, the women decided to hold a sex strike, denying their partners intimacy until the war had ended.


Seeing that men were the perpetrators of the violence, the Liberian women felt that if they were to withhold sex, their partners would also pray for peace and support an end to the war.

The women named themselves the Women of Liberia Mass Action for Peace and issued a position statement on the crisis. The women stayed outside the political realm for fear of persecution, stating that their goal was simply that of peace. (Read a brief case study here.)

Over the next two years, the Women of Liberia Mass Action for Peace group worked with the government to bring about democratic elections. They registered voters and set up polling stations, and on November 23, 2005, the Liberian people elected their country’s first female president, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.

Immediate Action

It is estimated that between 3,300,000 – 4,600,000 of us participated in the Women’s March, and up to 5 million worldwide.

Imagine what could happen if 1.1 million of us3.5% of the U.S. population – worked together until the gun laws are changed to protect our children and friends from being killed in schools, in places of worship, in places of celebration? What would it take?

There are delegations working to enforce stricter gun control in every state. Support them in whatever way you can. Share, donate, join.

Don’t give up the fight.

 


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photo credit: Greg MacVean 

 

Step 6: We will not yield

It’s the eve of the vote that may confirm Brett Kavanaugh as Supreme Court Justice, and if the collective wave of rage and grief is about to pull you under, I’m here to ask you to hang in there. Not because I want to try to convince you that what seems inevitable won’t happen – but because our voices deserve to be heard.

In the words of Senator Maxine Waters, “I will not yield.”

Thirty years from now, I want to look be able to look back on this night and remember that I didn’t stay silent. Here are the calls I’m making, and if you want to join me, stop by and tell me what happened when you called.

Call these Senators tonight

Lisa Murkowski: 202-224-6665

to urge her to stay the course / VOTE NO on Kavanaugh

Susan Collins: 202-224-2523

to tell her she has just betrayed every survivor, and she can still VOTE NO on Kavanaugh

Jeff Flake: 202-224-4521

to remember the women in the elevator, and he can still VOTE NO on Kavanaugh

Joe Manchin: (202) 224-3954

to remind him that he can change his mind VOTE NO on Kavanaugh

Lindsey Graham: (202) 224-5972

to remind him that John McCain is watching

Joe Donnelly: (202) 224-4814

to ask him to VOTE NO on Kavanaugh (and grow a pair while he’s at it)

Then I’ll call my own senators, one Democrat (“thank you”) and one Republican (“Pennsylvania will vote you out”) and call it a night.

No, I will not yield.

 

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Why do I keep posting these steps? Because research shows that no government can survive if just 3.5% of the population maintains:

active

sustained

non-violent

participation.

 

There’s a playbook, and I’ve got a copy. Societies have passed it around the globe, and it works. Every time.

Call your Senators, then pour yourself a drink or order a pizza and come tell me about it.

We are here for each other.

 

 

Step 4: Signed Public Statements

To offset Trump Suck, I promised myself to keep looking for examples of the progress we’re making. By now, you’ve heard of Stacey Abrams, who won the Democratic primary for the Governor of Georgia in May. This video made me stand up and cheer:

Read TIME Magazine’s profile of Stacey Abrams here.

Step 4: Signed Public Statements

Step 4 of Gene Sharp’s blueprint for removing a dictator is listed as one of six formal actions that can be taken to oust a corrupt leader. In June, the CEOs of major companies like Google, Uber, Airbnb, Facebook, Chobani, and Cisco released a statement speaking out against the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” border policy, which separates immigrant children from parents at the border. In addition, more than 100 Microsoft employees signed a letter pleading with the company to end its contract with ICE:

“We believe that Microsoft must take an ethical stand, and put children and families above profits,” stated the letter. “We request that Microsoft cancel its contracts with ICE, and with other clients who directly enable ICE. As the people who build the technologies that Microsoft profits from, we refuse to be complicit.” [read more]

History has shown that when institutions and organizations with power and agency make formal statements against a leader’s policies (among other nonviolent actions), this resulted in the overthrow of a government. And as consumers, we have the power to put pressure on companies to use their influence to keep the pressure on.

No matter what we’re led to believe by the Tweeter in Chief, we have the power.

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