Protesters in the streets who are clashing with law enforcement are making a huge mistake. For weeks the public protests related to the killing of George Floyd and more broadly against police brutality and systemic racism were peaceful and there was little violence. Then the Federal administration deployed unidentified/secret police in riot gear, with assault weapons, to Portland, Oregon. The excuse given for their deployment was to protect Federal property, even though that hadn’t been a problem during the previous weeks of peaceful protest.
The only conclusion I can come to is these Federal police were sent to provoke the violent responses from the protesters. Unfortunately their efforts worked. The president is now referring to that violence as anarchy, and using these violent clashes to justify sending more secret police to more cities. He is making this a partisan issue by targeting “Democrat” cities. And we are now seeing Republican ads using video from these “riots” for fearmongering in hopes of improving the president’s low poll numbers as the election approaches.
The point of civil disobedience is to confront injustice nonviolently. That can generate a certain amount of conflict. The goal is to create a space, to step back from violence, so the underlying issues can be identified and addressed. It is up to the protesters to try to make this happen. Up to the protesters to refuse to react to the provocations. That is how we maintain the moral high ground. Nonviolence is a matter of us maintaining our discipline. We can look back on, for example, students sitting calmly at the segregated lunch counters, not reacting as they were taunted, as food was dumped on them. These are the things we remember. Not conflict and violence.
It is sad to see these failures to maintain discipline in the face of violence occurring at the same time we honor the life of John Lewis, who led the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). John Lewis who taught nonviolent tactics. And who used every opportunity to talk about love and creating beloved communities.
Language matters. Those working against pipelines call themselves water protectors, not protesters. That defined our work together as working for something, as opposed to against something. Using this language changed the orientation of the work, keeping attention on the concepts of nonviolence. What might be a new, nonviolent term for the current movement?
Following are a number of statements about nonviolence.
“One day we must come to see that peace is not merely a distant goal that we seek, but that it is a means by which we arrive at that goal. We must pursue peaceful ends through peaceful means.—Martin Luther King, Jr.
“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
You shouldn’t make this pledge lightly. We certainly don’t ask lightly. We ask in the belief that there are tens of thousands of people out there who feel as strongly about this as we do; who believe that these circumstances call for extraordinary action, and want to be part of that action in their community. And we ask with the faith that those who commit to participate and organize actions will participate only in the most dignified manner.
NON-VIOLENCE GUIDELINES AND PRINCIPLES
- With the recognition that history is on our side in the fight against the fossil fuel industry, that we are a part of the proud and successful tradition of nonviolent civil disobedience, and that our actions also reflect on tens of thousands of others standing together across the country, we will conduct our behavior in only the most peaceful and dignified manner.
- We are each firmly committed to the safety of all participants and the surrounding community, and will not bring with us any weapons, drugs or alcohol, or participate in any acts of vandalism or destruction of property.
- We will work to protect everyone around us from insult or attack, including those who may oppose or disagree with us.
- We will remember that irresponsible actions could endanger others, or lead to the arrest of people who do not want to go to jail, and will not use threatening language or threatening motions toward anyone.
- We will act and communicate in a manner of openness, friendliness and respect toward everyone we encounter, including police officers and members of the community at large.
- As members of this action, we will follow the directions of the designated organizers.
- If an individual has a serious disagreement with the organizers of the action, the individual will withdraw from the action.
- If an individual does not respect these guidelines and principles, that individual cannot participate in an action as part of the Pledge of Resistance to the Keystone XL pipeline.
Rainforest Action Network (RAN)
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.
First Nation-Farmer Climate Unity March https://firstnationfarmer.com/
“Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, those ripples build a current that can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.”—Robert F. Kennedy
“Nurturing hopes is meaningful in and of itself. It is worth working towards them, regardless of the outcome. When we make this shift away from the results, we will find greater courage to act on our own aspirations for the world. We will find our nobility of heart.”—the Karmapa
“We must do what we conceive to be the right thing and not bother our heads or burden our souls with whether we will be successful. Because if we don’t do the right thing, we will be doing the wrong thing and we will just be a part of the disease and not a part of the cure.”—E. F. Schumacher, Author of Small Is Beautiful
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