One common misconception about nonviolence is that it will be met with peaceful, gentle words and action by those to whom it is offered. This is rarely, if ever, the case, especially when one uses nonviolence — as one must — to challenge systems built on violence, such as police or military, on which so many rely for their sense of security. If we are not prepared for violent repression from the outset, not only will we be in for some unhappy surprises, we might even decide that nonviolence is ineffective because it cannot protect us from being harmed. But that’s the issue: nonviolence is not a tool to keep us from being harmed, it is a tool to teach us how to stop the harm of others and ourselves by putting ourselves in the way of it. James Lawson, during the African American freedom struggle of the 1960s for example, made it a point to train civil rights activists through role-plays to prepare them to maintain nonviolent discipline in the face of inevitable violent reactions; and lunch counters in the South were integrated more rapidly because of it.
But there is no need to court martyrdom. In addition to such training, in the planning of mass nonviolent resistance, we need to make sure that there are monitors on hand to deal with outbursts of undue violence, people present from the movement who are prepared to offer medical and psychological/spiritual support, journalists on hand to tell the story of nonviolence as it happens, as well as the ever practical ride home from jail.
If you were to plan a nonviolent demonstration, what are some tips or skills would you include in your training?
The Metta Center for Nonviolence, PO Box 98, Petaluma, California 94953 707-774-6299 firstname.lastname@example.org