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The Making of a ‘Prolific Criminal’

8:32 am in Uncategorized by Eric Stoner

by Frida Berrigan

Originally published at Waging Nonviolence.

Bonnie Urfer exudes calm and strength. Her eyes twinkle and her voice stretches o’s like a Wisconsinite. On Wednesday, Judge Bruce Guyton called her a “prolific criminal.”

Prolific? Sure. Bonnie has been an activist since the 1980s. Working with a group called Nukewatch out in the forests of Wisconsin, Bonnie has tracked nuclear waste and materials shipments, cut down the Extremely Low Frequency poles that studded her sylvan landscape to communicate the first strike orders to nuclear submarines, and been arrested dozens of times. Criminal? Not when nuclear weapons are illegal (at least according to international law—which by treaty is our law too), immoral and just plain useless.

But Bonnie is prolific in her artistic gifts as well as in her resistance.

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For #occupywallstreet, Dispersion Is Part of the Plan

11:59 pm in Uncategorized by Eric Stoner

by Nathan Schneider

Originally published at Waging Nonviolence.

The signature tactic of this revolutionary year, it would seem, is a mass protest in a large, symbolic public space. We saw it in Cairo’s Tahrir Square, Bahrain’s Pearl Roundabout, and then in Madrid’s Puerta del Sol and Syntagma Square in Athens. Now, in the U.S., the October 6 movement is planning to take over Washington’s Freedom Plaza, while another coalition has been planning to do the same on Wall Street on September 17—tomorrow. (For a basic account of what’s going on with the latter, see my report from earlier this week.) If you want to get something done, apparently, the way to do it is to take the square. And this is exactly what the people at Adbusters had in mind when they made their initial call to occupy Wall Street, observing that “a worldwide shift in revolutionary tactics is underway right now that bodes well for the future”; they continued, “We want to see 20,000 people flood into lower Manhattan, set up tents, kitchens, peaceful barricades and occupy Wall Street for a few months.”

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Who Will Occupy Wall Street on September 17?

8:21 pm in Uncategorized by Eric Stoner

When the culture-jamming activist group Adbusters put out a call on July 13 for “20,000 people” to “flood into lower Manhattan, set up tents, kitchens, peaceful barricades and occupy Wall Street for a few months,” it never said who those people would be. Now, the question on the minds of everyone from the Department of Homeland Security to the Lower East Side anarchist set is just who and how many will actually show up.

The simplest cop-out of an answer is to say that nobody exactly knows. To an extent, it’s true. The large, established, membership groups—unions, lobbies, etc.—have kept quiet about it, so their rank-and-file can’t be counted on en masse. There’s no central planning committee, no permit with the city, and not even an official website, so there’s no obvious person to ask for a prediction or a figure. (Adbusters continues to say 20,000, though its role in organizing is, according to Senior Editor Micah White, solely “philosophical.”) Saturday, among other things, will be a test of the scattered American grassroots—their ability to mobilize against the outsized power of corporate elites, and their inclination to do so.

Some on the right-wing’s most lunatic of fringes have taken advantage of the information vacuum with headlines declaring “Wall Street Targeted for Britain-Style Riots” (along with thoroughly fictitious links to ACORN, SEIU, and even President Obama), a claim which has already turned into a fundraising scheme for Republican political candidates. Imaginative, but false. Read the rest of this entry →

Did the Libyan uprising have to be violent?

5:51 am in Uncategorized by Eric Stoner

by Erica Chenoweth

Originally published at Waging Nonviolence.

Current map of ongoing fighting in Libya, via Wikipedia.

Could nonviolent resistance have succeeded in Libya? Here are four points worth considering.

1) The movement was fairly spontaneous, unlike the highly coordinated campaign in Egypt. As Peter Ackerman consistently points out, planning is an essential element to a successful nonviolent revolution. As with any battlefield, a nonviolent campaign requires extensive preparation. But reports seem to indicate that Libyans began protesting in earnest around Feburary 15th, likely inspired by events in neighboring Egypt and Tunisia. Qaddafi seemed prepared for this and immediately cracked down using overwhelming violence. By February 19th, the movement had become violent in response to these crackdowns. Four days of civil resistance doesn’t give it much time to work. Egyptian pro-democracy activists struggled for years before seeing Mubarak fall. Syrian oppositionists, thousands of whom have been killed by Bashar al-Assad’s regime, have toiled along for the past six months. So, we can’t really say whether or not nonviolence would have worked in Libya. It never had a chance to materialize in the first place.

2) The peaceful part of the Libyan campaign primarily consisted of protest activity. Such tactics are visible and disruptive, but also highly vulnerable to repression. In Unarmed Insurrections, Kurt Schock argues that when movements rely too much on rallies or protests, they become extremely predictable. Successful movements will combine protests and demonstrations with well-timed strikes, boycotts, go-slows, stay-aways, and other actions that force the regime to disperse its repression in unsustainable ways. During the Iranian Revolution, oil workers went on strike, threatening to cripple the Iranian economy. The Shah’s security forces went to the oil workers’ homes and dragged them back to the refineries, only for the workers to work at half pace before staging another walk-out. This type of repression is untenable because it requires a massive coordination of regime resources and effort. The bottom line is that nonviolent movements always have options when they face violent repression—options that do not involve selecting violence. The downside is that these methods take time to plan and coordinate. But choosing violence carries just as many downsides—including the fact that violent rebellion tends to succeed about 50% less often than nonviolent resistance. Read the rest of this entry →

Occupation Nation? Si, Se Puede!

7:51 am in Uncategorized by Eric Stoner

by Jake Olzen

Originally published at Waging Nonviolence.

"Si Se Puede," unknown artist, August 1973. California Ethnic and Multicultural Archives, UC Santa Barbara.

Bayard Rustin, long-time organizer and activist involved in the peace, civil rights, economic justice, gay rights, and African movements, envisioned a coalition of African-Americans and civil rights activists, trade unionists, liberals, and religious groups, that could alter the social and political makeup of the country. This culminated in the March on Washington and was marked, shortly thereafter, by the passage of the Civil Rights Act in 1965. Not without controversy, Rustin’s ideas of ensuring social justice—not just political rights—through a broad-based coalition enjoyed some significant success. The coalition’s success was not necessarily due to its organizational strength so much as its ability to turn out large numbers of people for protests and political actions.

As Waging Nonviolence has reported, there are a number calls out for “occupations” a la Arab Spring this autumn: Stop the Pipeline, #OCCUPYWALLSTREET and October 2011. While certainly interconnected, the likelihood of overlapping activist participation, with the exception of “career organizers” and “lifelong activists” in each of these three calls for action seems remote. Despite strides taken by activists and scholars to connect the dots across environmental justice, economic justice, and the peace movement, these movements remain somewhat separated for a variety of reasons: problems of focus, unique histories, and/or fatigue.

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