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Nonviolent Direct Action

Our Pledge of Solidarity

We, the Tar Sands Blockade and associated individuals, committ to this pledge of nonviolence and solidarity.

  • With respect for our community, our opposition, and ourselves, we affirm that we will engage in nonviolent, community building tactics.
  • With a need for professionalism, all participants will be well-trained and abide by our code of conduct.
  • With awareness that our opponent is a system, not any single individual, we affirm that all those we come into contact with will be treated as if they are our own brothers and sisters. Because in the end, we are family.
  • With the knowledge that future generations will look back on our current moment in time, we pledge that nonviolence will be the legacy we leave to our children.
  • With solidarity for our brothers and sisters, we denounce law enforcement use of entrapment on vulnerable individuals. We oppose any state repression of dissent, including surveillance, infiltration, disruption and violence.
  • With sincere gratitude, we will work in solidarity with all those who are fighting for a more just, peaceful, and sustainable planet.

Why Nonviolent Direct Action?

We choose to engage in nonviolent direct action because it is a proven method for resisting violence, empowering people and building communities that can change the world. It is a way of seeking justice that is strategically successful and celebrates the values that move us to action. The bottom line is that nonviolent direct action works. History shows this to be true and so does our collective personal experience inside of various movements for justice across the globe.

Nonviolent direct action has been the engine of social movements seeking a more just society throughout human history. When our society’s usual means of making change fail or prove inadequate, people turn to direct action to collectively change their world. For centuries, nonviolent direct action has been one of the most successful ways that we have raised our voices, found each other, celebrated our humanity and solved our problems together.

Nonviolent direct action is about recognizing and harnessing our power by bringing people together to make a united change. Examples of successful nonviolent actions in our past can fill libraries with stories and is intertwined throughout all of our history. These are just a few examples of causes in American history that been advanced through nonviolent direct action.

  • Expanding voter’s rights
  • Worker’s rights
  • Women’s rights
  • Children’s rights
  • Ending segregation
  • Ending wars
  • Gay rights
  • Indigenous people’s rights
  • Protecting wildlife

In recent history, campaigns for social change use nonviolent direct action as a tactic to pressure a decision maker to agree to negotiate in good faith or capitulate to a concrete demand. In these circumstances, we look at actions not as isolated events, but as part of a larger campaign. Direct actions have the ability to pressure power holders and shift the balance of power in a whole society.

Nonviolent direct action is more than just a tool to help us win campaigns; it’s a moral high ground from which we can build community in a broken world. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once called nonviolent direct action “the sword that heals” because taking action, despite the consequences, is a fundamentally healing act. Often, standing up to injustice and taking action heals pain and empowers people more than just talking about it ever could.

Nonviolent direct action is known by many names. Gandhi called it satyagraha, “truth or soul force”. Judaism calls it Tikkun Olam “to heal the world”. Henry Thoreau called it civil disobedience. Others just call it people power. Underneath all of these definitions there is a history of tactics that lie outside of our orthodox political institutions and shares a commitment to refraining from violence in order to resist violence.

In essence, people turn to nonviolent direct action after the institutionalized ways of settling disagreements have failed. In the civil rights movement, people turned to nonviolent action after years of fighting in the courts to end institutionalized segregation. The courts did not provide the relief needed, and so the people organized nonviolent direct action to exercise their power. This is how ordinary people organize their resources into collective power. Through direct action we directly confront, disrupt or disobey situations, institutions, or laws that we oppose as morally unjust.

“An unjust law is itself a species of violence. Arrest of its breach is more so.” -Mahatma Gandhi

“I became convinced that noncooperation with evil is as much a moral obligation as is cooperation with good.” -Martin Luther King Jr.

(Some parts of this post were adapted from the 99% Spring Participant’s Guide section on nonviolent direct action. The full original document can be read here)

Permanent link to this article: http://www.tarsandsblockade.org/about-2/non-violent-direct-action/