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Nonviolent resistance (or nonviolent action) is the practice of achieving socio-political goals through symbolic protests, civil disobedience, economic or political noncooperation, and other methods, without using violence.

Nonviolent resistance advocates include Leo Tolstoy, Mohandas Gandhi, Andrei Sakharov, Martin Luther King, Jr, Václav Havel, and Lech Wałęsa.

From 1966 to 1999 nonviolent civic resistance has played a critical role in 50 of 67 transitions from authoritarianism. Recently nonviolent resistance has led to the Rose Revolution in Georgiamarker and the Orange Revolution in Ukrainemarker. Current nonviolent resistance includes the Jeans Revolution in Belarus and the fight of the Cuban dissidents.

Many movements which promote philosophies of nonviolence or pacifism have pragmatically adopted the methods of nonviolent action as an effective way to achieve social or political goals. They employ nonviolent resistance tactics such as: information warfare, picketing, vigils, leafletting, samizdat, magnitizdat, satyagraha, protest art, protest music and poetry, community education and consciousness raising, lobbying, tax resistance, civil disobedience, boycotts or sanctions, legal/diplomatic wrestling, sabotage, underground railroads, principled refusal of awards/honours, and general strikes.

History of nonviolent resistance

Dates Region Main Article Summary Refs
BCE 470–391 China Mohism The Mohist philosophical school disapproved war. However, since they lived in a time of warring polities, they cultivated the science of fortification.
around AD 26–36 Judeamarker Pontius Pilate Jews demonstrated in Caesareamarker to try to convince Pontius Pilate not to set up Roman standards, with images of the Roman emperor and the eagle of Jupiter, in Jerusalemmarker (both images were considered idolatrous by religious Jews). Pilate surrounded the Jewish protesters with soldiers and threatened them with death to which they replied that they were quite willing to die rather than see the laws of the Torah violated.
Before Chatham Islandsmarker, New Zealandmarker Moriori The Moriori were a branch of the New Zealandmarker Māori that colonized the Chatham Islandsmarker and eventually became hunter-gatherers. Their lack of resources and small population made conventional war unsustainable, so it became customary to resolve disputes nonviolently or ritually. Due to this tradition of nonviolence, the entire population of 2000 people was enslaved, killed or cannibalized when 900 Māori invaded the island in 1835.
1765–75 North America American Revolution Before the US War for Independence started with the Battles of Lexingtonmarker and Concordmarker, the American Revolution was mostly nonviolent. Revolutionary actions during the first ten years of the Revolution included: tax resistance, boycotts of British imports, organization of committees of correspondence, petitions to the king and parliament and publication of pamphlets and newspapers.
1819 Englandmarker Peterloo massacremarker Famine and chronic unemployment, coupled with the lack of suffrage in northern England, led to an peaceful demonstration of 60,000–80,000 persons, including women and children. The demonstration was organized an rehearsed, with a "prohibition of all weapons of offence or defence" and exhortations to come "armed with no other weapon but that of a self-approving conscience". Cavalry charged into the crowd, with sabres drawn, and in the ensuing confusion, 15 people were killed and 400–700 were injured. Newspapers expressed horror, and Percy Shelley glorified nonviolent resistance in the poem The Masque of Anarchy. However, the British government cracked down on reform, with the passing of what became known as the Six Acts.
1834–38 Trinidadmarker End of Slavery in Trinidad The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Irelandmarker, then the colonial power in Trinidad, first announced in 1833 the impending total liberation of slaves by 1840. In 1834 at an address by the Governor at Government House about the new laws, an unarmed group of mainly elderly Negroes began chanting: Pas de six ans. Point de six ans ("Not six years. No six years"), drowning out the voice of the Governor. Peaceful protests continued until the passing of a resolution to abolish apprenticeship and the achievement of de facto freedom.
1838 USAmarker Cherokee removal The Cherokee refused to recognize the fraudulent Treaty of New Echota and therefore did not sell their livestock or goods, and did not pack anything to travel to the west before the soldiers came and forcibly removed them. That ended tragically in the Cherokee trail of tears.
1860-1894, 1915-1918 New Zealand Tainui-Waikatomarker Māori King Tāwhiao forbade Waikatomarker Māori using violence in the face of British colonisation, saying in 1881 "The killing of men must stop; the destruction of land must stop. I shall bury my patu in the earth and it shall not rise again ... Waikato, lie down. Do not allow blood to flow from this time on." This was inspirational to Waikato Māori who refused to fight in World War I. In response, the government brought in conscription for the Tainui-Waikato people (other Māori iwi were exempt), but they continued to resist, the majority of conscripts choosing to suffer harsh military punishments rather than join the army. For the duration of the war, no Tainui soldiers were sent overseas.
1879–1880 New Zealand Parihakamarker The Māori village of Parihaka became the center of passive resistance campaigns against Europeans occupying confiscated land in the area. More than 400 followers of the prophet Te Whiti o Rongomai were arrested and jailed, most without trial. Sentences as long as 16 months were handed out for the acts of ploughing land and erecting fences on their property. More than 2000 inhabitants remained seated when 1600 armed soldiers raided and destroyed the village.
1908–62 Samoamarker Mau movement Nonviolent movement for Samoan independence from colonial rule in the early 20th century.
1919. 2.8, 3.1 Koreamarker March 1st Movement This movement became the inspiration of the later Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi's Satyagraha—resistance and many other non-violent movement in Asia.
Egyptmarker Egyptian Revolution of 1919 A countrywide non-violent revolution against the British occupation of Egypt. It was carried out by Egyptians from different walks of life in the wake of the British-ordered exile of revolutionary leader Saad Zaghlul and other members of the Wafd Party in 1919. The event led to Egyptian independence in 1922 and the implementation of a new constitution in 1923.
1919–21 Irelandmarker Irish Non-cooperation movement During the Irish War for Independence, Irish nationalists used many non-violent means to resist British rule. Amongst these was abstention from the British parliamentmarker, tax boycotts, and the creation of alternative local government, Dáil Courts, and police.
1919–present Palestine Mubarak Awad

First Intifada

Third Intifada
Palestinian groups have worked with Israelis and foreign citizens to organize civilian monitors of Israeli military activity in the West Bankmarker and Gaza Stripmarker. Peace camps and strategic non-violent resistance to Israeli construction of Jewish settlements and of the West Bank Barrier have also been consistently adopted as tactics by Palestinians. Citizens of the Palestinian village of Beit Sahourmarker also engaged in a tax strike during the First Intifada.
1920–22 British India Non-cooperation movement A series of nationwide people's movements of nonviolent resistance and civil disobedience, led by Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi (Mahatma Gandhi) and the Indian National Congress. In addition to bringing about independence, Gandhi's nonviolence also helped improve the status of the Untouchables in Indian society.
1923 Germanymarker The Occupation of the Ruhr With the aim of occupying the centre of German coal, iron, and steel production in the Ruhr valley; Francemarker invaded Germanymarker for neglecting some of its reparation payments after World War I. The occupation of the Ruhr was initially greeted by a campaign of passive resistance.
1930–34 British India Civil disobedience movement Nonviolent resistance marked by rejecting British imposed taxes, boycotting British manufactured products and mass strikes, led by Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi (Mahatma Gandhi) and the Indian National Congress.
1933–45 Germany German Resistance Throughout World War II, there were a series of small and usually isolated groups that used nonviolent techniques against the Nazis. These groups include the White Rose and the Confessional Church.
1940–43 Denmarkmarker Danish resistance movement During World War II, after the invasion of the Wehrmacht, the Danish government adopted a policy of official co-operation (and unofficial obstruction) which they called "negotiation under protest." Embraced by many Danes, the unofficial resistance included slow production, emphatic celebration of Danish culture and history, and bureaucratic quagmires.
1940–45 Norwaymarker Norwegian resistance movement During World War II, Norwegian civil disobedience included preventing the Nazification of Norway's educational system, distributing of illegal newspapers, and maintaining social distance(an "ice front") from the German soldiers.
1942 British India Quit India Movement The Quit India Movement (Bharat Chhodo Andolan or the August Movement) was a civil disobedience movement launched in India in August 1942 in response to Mohandas Gandhi's call for immediate independence.
1945–71 South Africa Defiance Campaign

Internal resistance to South African apartheid
The ANC and allied anti-apartheid groups initially carried out non-violent resistance against pro-racial segregation and apartheid governments in South Africa.
1955–68 USA African-American Civil Rights Movement

Chicano Civil Rights Movement

Mass protest in the United States
Tactics of nonviolent resistance, such as bus boycotts, freedom rides, sit-ins and mass demonstrations, were used during the African American Civil Rights Movement. This movement succeeded in bringing about legislative change, and making separate seats, drinking fountains, and schools for African Americans illegal.
1957–present USA Committee for Non-Violent Action Among the most dedicated to nonviolent resistance against the US arsenal of nuclear weapons has been the Plowshares Movement, consisting largely of Catholic priests, such as Dan Berrigan, and nuns. Since the first Plowshares action in King of Prussia, Pennsylvaniamarker during the autumn of 1980, more than 70 of these actions have taken place.
1959–present Cubamarker Cuban opposition since 1959 There have been many nonviolent activists in opposition to Cubamarker's authoritarian regime. Among these are Pedro Luis Boitel (1931-1972), Guillermo Fariñas Hernández ("El Coco"), and Jorge Luis García Pérez (known as Antúnez), all of whom have performed hunger strikes.
1968 Worldwide Protests of 1968 The protests that raged throughout 1968 were for the most part student-led. Worldwide, campuses became the front-line battle grounds for social change. While opposition to the Vietnam War dominated the protests, students also protested for civil liberties, against racism, for feminism, and the beginnings of the ecological movement can be traced to the protests against nuclear and biological weapons during this year.
1970–81 Francemarker Larzac In response to an expansion of a military base, local farmers including José Bové and other supporters including Lanza del Vasto took part in nonviolent resistance. The military expansion was canceled after ten years of resistance.
1979 Iran Iranian Revolution The Iranian Revolution of 1979 or 1979 Revolution (often known as the Islamic Revolution), refers to events involving the overthrow of Iranmarker's monarchy under Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi.
1980–present Polandmarker Solidarity

Orange Alternative
Solidarity, a broad anti-communist social movement ranging from people associated with the Roman Catholic Church to members of the anti-communist Left, advocated non-violence in its members' activities. Additionally, the Orange Alternative offered a wider group of citizens an alternative way of opposition against the authoritarian regime by means of a peaceful protest that used absurd and nonsensical elements.
1986 Philippinesmarker People Power Revolution A series of nonviolent and prayerful mass street demonstrations that toppled Ferdinand Marcos and placed Corazon C. Aquino into power. After an election which had been condemned by the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines, over two million Filipinos protested human rights violations, election fraud, massive political corruption, and other abuses of the Marcos regime. Yellow was a predominant theme, the colour being associated with Corazon Aquino and her husband, Benigno S. Aquino, Jr., who was assassinated three years prior.
1987–90 Estonia Singing Revolution A cycle of mass demonstrations featuring spontaneous singing in Tallinnmarker. The movement eventually collected 300,000 Estonians who sang national songs and hymns, which were strictly forbidden during the years of the Soviet occupation of Estonia, as Estonian rock musicians played. In later years, people acted as human shields to protect radio and TV stations from the Sovietmarker tanks, eventually regaining Estonia's independence without any bloodshed.
1989 Czechoslovakiamarker Velvet Revolution During the 1968 Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia, the Czechoslovak citizens responded to the attack on their sovereignty with passive resistance. Russian troops were frustrated as street signs were painted over, their water supplies mysteriously shut off, and buildings decorated with flowers, flags, and slogans like, "An elephant cannot swallow a hedgehog."
1989–90 East Germanymarker Monday demonstrations in East Germany The Monday demonstrations in East Germany in 1989 and 1990 ( ) were a series of peaceful political protests against the authoritarian government of the German Democratic Republicmarker (GDR) of East Germanymarker that took place every Monday evening.
1990–91 Azerbaijan SSR Black January A crackdown of Azeri protest demonstrations by the Red Army in Bakumarker, Azerbaijan SSR. The demonstrators protested against ethnic violence, demanded the ousting of communist officials and called for independence from the Soviet Union.
2004–05 Israelmarker Israel's unilateral disengagement plan of 2004 Protesters opposing Israel's unilateral disengagement plan of 2004 nonviolently resisted impending evacuations of Jewish settlements in the Gaza Stripmarker and the West Bankmarker. Protesters blocked several traffic intersections, resulting in massive gridlock and delays throughout Israelmarker. While Israeli police had received advance notice of the action, opening traffic intersections proved extremely difficult. Eventually, over 400 demonstrators were arrested, including many juveniles. Further large demonstrations planned to commence when Israeli authorities, preparing for disengagement, cut off access to the Gaza Strip. During the confrontation, mass civil disobedience failed to emerge in Israel proper. However, some settlers and their supporters resisted evacuation non-violently.
2004–2005 Ukrainemarker Orange Revolution A series of protests and political events that took place in Ukrainemarker in the immediate aftermath of the run-off vote of the 2004 Ukrainian presidential election which was marred by massive corruption, voter intimidation and direct electoral fraud. Nationwide, the democratic revolution was highlighted by a series of acts of civil disobedience, sit-ins, and general strikes organized by the opposition movement.
2009–present Iran 2009 Iranian election protests A series of protests and political events that took place in Iran after the initial vote in the 2009 Iranian presidential election, which opposition supporters decried as fraudulent. Opposition leaders pushed for non-violent and peaceful demonstrations, including days of mourning for people attacked by police during the protests.

Current and recent nonviolent resistance organizations

See also


Notes and References

  2. The Unconquerable World
  4. James Cowan, The New Zealand Wars: A History of the Maori Campaigns and the Pioneering Period: Volume II, 1922, page 478.
  5. The Legacy of Parihaka
  7. Nashville Student Movemen ~ Civil Rights Movement Veterans
  8. Rootes, Christopher. "1968 and the Environmental Movement in Europe." [1] Retrieved 02-2008
  9. [2]

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