We Know Active Nonviolence Works – Because They Are Making It Illegal

ACTIVISM, KUDANKULAM ANTI-NUCLEAR SATYAGRAHA, INDIA, 28 May 2012

Silvia Swinden – Pressenza International Press Agency

Americans do it, Spaniards do it, Mexicans do it, Israelis do it, even liberal Canadians do it, let’s do it, let’s criminalise peaceful protest. As many countries hurriedly pass new legislation – or simply apply “antiterrorist” laws – to forbid nonviolent action, this can only strengthen the resolve of the protesters to stick to it.

Quebec’s Government is making nonviolent protest illegal. In response to the students revolt against an 82% raise in tuition fees and deterioration of education Act 78 was passed, which violates the fundamental rights of citizens to non-violent dissent. Sadly enough, Quebec was the only North American zone that, on December 2, 2009, under Act 199, recognised the International Day of Nonviolence on October 2nd, anniversary of the birth of Mahatma Gandhi.

Chicago has increased penalties for protests and made it more difficult to secure permits for demonstrations and in California 11 students and one poetry professor are facing charges that carry 11 years of prison and million-dollar fines for a nonviolent sit-down protests against Bank of America.

Spain is tightening up legislation and increasing the repression in marches, sit-ins and assemblies.

Britain, Mexico, Israel, and many more, are responding to nonviolent demonstrations with harsh and unnecessary police brutality.

As many countries hurriedly pass new legislation – or simply apply “antiterrorist” laws – to forbid nonviolent action such as Occupy, Indignados, students protests, political dissent, etc., and penalise them with lengthy jail terms, this can only strengthen the resolve of the protesters to remain nonviolent.

The system is running out of ideas de face its crisis. It insists on the same measures – austerity, austerity, austerity, but not for the 1% – that led to the rise of extremist movements and a World War. It should listen to the nonviolent movements rather than suppressing them violently, for the answers may well be in the fresh ideas they are bringing.

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Silvia Swinden is the author of From Monkey Sapiens to Homo Intentional: The Phenomenology of the Nonviolent Revolution, Adonis & Abbey, London 2006.

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