Ask three activists for their definition of a non-violent direct action (NVDA) and expect three distinct answers – depending on the context they’re speaking from and the strategy/tactics they adhere to. Even within activist circles, NVDA is often misunderstood and taken to be too exclusive, radical or risky. Some of those voices often ignore peaceful direct action’s breadth, which includes noncooperation (boycotts, strikes), creative solutions (community gardens, Food not Bombs initiatives) and protests (rallies, letter writing), as much as it does intervention (blockading roads, disrupting business as usual).
That said, History (not the conventional history taught in school by those who have seized power) shows us that social movements’ effectiveness and longevity has relied on a diversity of tactics, and that success rests upon the populace’s willingness to escalate in the face of injustice and to match the threats of the day with appropriate action. Looking back, who can refute that the Suffragettes securing the passage of the 19th amendment was only made possible after months of picketing and valiant hunger strikes from prisons? Who can ignore the essential place that Civil Disobedience has held in affecting social change?
And this is our reality today: laws on the books representing Industry and its profits over basic human rights and needs. Our species’ survival being genuinely threatened, by an infinite growth model that will soon leave us with too few resources. In these times of environmental degradation and economic collapse, the urgent need is for a radical paradigm shift — away from a culture of consumption to one rooted in our humanity and wholesome values.
We’d like to invite you to our community two-day NVDA training on April 21st and 22nd. We’re not inviting you with the pretense of giving you all the answers, but rather with the intention to initiate a deeper conversation while pushing ourselves beyond our comfort zones. Because that’s what it will take to win.
Our training will be followed by the launch of our 2012 Community Audit initiative on the week of April 23rd, which will be the first of four weeks of action this year. The purpose of a community audit is to identify and erode the pillars of support for injustice (Hot Spot) while identifying and strengthening new structures that inspire hope for our future (Cool Spot). This quarter’s audit began at our March general meeting, which brought together environmental, labor, social, economic and immigrant rights activists. The results indicated a community that wants to halt Tar Sands extraction (April hot spot), while standing with vulnerable communities, too easily scapegoated in these times of economic and environmental collapse, like the Salt Lake Dream Team who is advocating for immigrant rights and the passage of the Dream Act (April cool spot).
SPECIFICS for the TRAINING:
On Saturday, we will explore social movement history and the context of civil disobedience. Sunday will be a more hands-on practical training on the specific skills and strategy of planning and executing a non-violent action.
Sat April 21st, 3-6pm. At the PeaceUp Warehouse (1361 S Main)
Sun April 22nd, 11am-5pm. North Earth Corner of Liberty Park (700 E 900 S)
Mon April 23rd. Community Audit Action — Tar Sands (Hot Spot)*
Wed April 25th. Community Audit Action — Salt Lake Dream Team (Cool Spot)*