Violence/Nonviolence

Recently I’ve been reading and thinking more about violence and nonviolence.

Reflecting on the recent first year anniversary of the white supremacy rally and deadly attacks in Charlottesville, North Carolina last year, I’m saddened to remember the violence on the part of the counter protestors who call themselves anti-fascists (Antifa), who believe in using violence against right wing protestors. As we saw, the right wing supporters, including the President, used the violence of Antifa at Charlettesville to deflect criticism of the violence of the white supremacists.

Engaging in any kind of violence surrenders the moral high ground, which is the heart of nonviolence. Training nonviolent techniques focuses on maintaining self control, especially in the face of verbal and/or physical attacks. In the video below, Nahko Bears talks to the youth at Standing Rock about this.

It will be important to work with Antifa groups to try to persuade them to stop their violent responses.


Nonviolent civil disobedience and direct action are fundamental tools used in the Poor People’s Campaign that I’ve been involved with this year. I’ve noticed a lot of different signs and banners during the Poor People’s Campaign events, many naming things I hadn’t been thinking of as violence. Which is one reason some friends say it is important to name the things we are talking about; poverty, voter suppression, racism, starving a child, separating children from their families, ecological destruction, global warming, denying healthcare, rotting infrastructure, attacking a free press, criminalizing rights of free speech and assembly, breaking treaties, poor public education, mass incarceration, state sanctioned violence, and on and on.


Last month I spent a little time with the kids attending Jr. Yearly Meeting to talk about peace. I’ve been trying  to engage our Yearly Meeting’s youth by finding out what their peace and social justice concerns are, and ideas they have about working on their concerns, in part because I am clerk of the Iowa Yearly Meeting (Conservative)’s Peace and Social Concerns Committee.  During that time, one of the kids taught me that “nonviolence meant there was zero percent chance of violence.” I was delighted to receive that definition even though I knew that was an oversimplification. It would be more accurate to say “(hopefully) zero percent chance of violence on my part,” but I thought the definition was pretty good, anyway. It would be irresponsible to not discuss the possibilities that violence against you might occur, and ways to respond/not respond if that happens.


Those of us who are going to march on the First Nation-Farmer Climate Unity March must agree to follow these guidelines:

Code of Nonviolence (First Nation-Farmer Climate Unity March):

  • There will be no cursing, no displays of anger, and no destruction of property. We will cooperate with police officers and other public officials.
  • We will act with love, openness, compassion, and respect toward all who we encounter and their surroundings. We will not be violent in our actions, words, or toward any person or property.
  • We will act fairly and honestly with people regardless of the situation or the role they play.
  • We will remain calm and aware at all times.
  • We will keep a clear state of mind and refrain from the use of alcohol or drugs, other than for medical purposes. We will not have any illegal drugs or alcohol with us while marching or while in camp.
  • We will carry no weapons.
  • We will seek dialogue with those who may disagree with us. We will maintain a spirit of openness, friendliness, and respect toward all with whom we engage.

The Keystone Pledge of Resistance is based on nonviolent direct actions. We spent a lot of time training local activists about nonviolence during our Keystone training sessions.

“I pledge, if necessary, to join others in my community, and engage in acts of dignified, peaceful civil disobedience that could result in my arrest in order to send the message to President Obama and his administration that they must reject the Keystone XL pipeline.”  Keystone Pledge of Resistance


Everyone who went to Standing Rock during the struggles to protect water, against TransCanada and the Dakota Access Pipeline was required to attend nonviolence training sessions.

Below is an amazing video of Nahko Bear performing solo at the Water Protectors Youth Concert at Standing Rock, Sept 8, 2016.  To put this in context, this was just 5 days after security forces used attack dogs against the water protectors.  He was speaking to these young people while they were in the middle of their nonviolent resistance.

He says the resounding message he hears during his travels is:

Remember that nonviolent direct action is the way to a successful revolution.  And that is a hard one, because they are so bad (chuckles).  When they come at us you just want to hit ’em, you know?  Just sit with that.  I know it’s tough.  They’re going to try to do everything they can to instigate you.  But remember what we’re here for.  We’re here to create peace for our Mother. We’re not here to create more violence.”

“When you’re feeling bad, when you’re feeling frustrated, put all your prayer into your palms, put them to the ground, put them back to the sky, honor the Father, the Mother, just know it will be alright.
Are you guys feeling proud, are you proud of yourselves?  Because the whole world is watching.  The whole world is watching.  So whatcha gonna do?  Gonna show love?  Are you gonna be smart?  You gonna think before you act?  Take care of each other?  Your gonna show ‘em what family does.  They don’t know what that’s like.
You gotta put down the weight, gotta get out of your way.
Get out of your way and just look around the corner at your real self and look at all the potential that this beautiful Earth and love has to offer you.”   Nahko Bear

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