Facilitated by Nadine Block and Sam Miller
• Provide an overview of nonviolent direct action (NVDA); a brief overview of NVDA tactics and practice scenarios
Types of NVDA
Sculpt: Everyone was asked to get into a pose of NVDA.
• Tree sit-in
• Lock boxes
Participants provided examples of the use of NVDA during the Civil Rights Movement, the nonviolent resistance movement in India, environmental movements, and other major events that brought positive social change.
Five Categories of NVDA
1) Protest: Marching
2) Non-cooperation: Boycotts and black boxes
3) Intervention: Shutting down a bank
4) Creating the Future you want: squatting; setting up collectives;
5) Movement Building: Day in and out organizing
Effectiveness of NVDA: Researchers compared 400 cases where violent and nonviolent strategies were used, and found nonviolent resistance had a greater probability of being effective. The reason for the success is civil resistance is more sustainable over a longer period of time. Movements need 3 percent of individuals in a community to get involved in order to act as the tipping point.
How Does NVDA work?
NVDA is most successful when it isn’t seen as scripted and there is a higher risk of the unknowen. NVDA always includes the risk of arrest and harm at the hands of law enforcement.
Individuals engaged in Role Plays for the following scenarios:
• March/Petition Delivery/Blockade
• Safety-buddy systems
• Affinity groups
• Hassle line
• Holding Space tools
Role plays included a group of marchers/protestors and another group included cops. The goal was to play out scenarios of arrest/harassment at the hands of law enforcement, and how to navigate them.
During different scenarios cops began snatching, arresting, or beating protestors. One way to navigate such instances is to have a pre-plan and have designated roles. Some of the designated roles include:
• Legal observer
• Video/Camera observer
• Back-up: individuals who can call the media, get bail money, call the lawyers, and so forth
• Police Liaison: Someone who can communicate and talk to the Cops; in some cases they are buying time.
In cases where someone from the group is snatched by the cops, get the badge number of the officer, have the officer on video/camera (if possible), and ask if you are under arrest. Always have a buddy system/affinity groups for protection. For larger marches, have marshals that can communicate/text and are placed at the front, middle, and the back of the march. Have code words/hand signals for communicating. Buy a one-day phone or wipe out the info on your phone/get a new memory card to communicate back and forth.
Key Warnings: Never touch a cop or his property (e.g., car, keys, horse). Touching or assaulting a cop carries a felony charge. Always approach a cop on the side where he/she doesn’t have their weapon. If one is carrying a sign or any objects and the situation escalates between cops and protestors/keep your hands lowered and palms facing up front to deescalate a hostile situation with the cops.
In huge mass mobilizations, have a core group of predetermined individuals with roles; during marches others may try to step-in and take leadership. If one needs to take a decision on the spot about whether the group wants to get arrested, have predetermined hand signs so individuals who want to leave can leave without getting arrested. However, NVDA always comes with the risk of being hurt and arrested.
Conduct a google search and check with lawyers beforehand on whether your group or you can get arrested. It’s important to remember law enforcement don’t charge you with a crime, and the decision is up to the prosecutors. Look at the local state law. DC and NYC are used to protestors and massive mobilizations; smaller PDs aren’t used to mobilizations. In DC and NYC, if one engages in $250 property destruction, it carries a felony charge and 1 year in jail. Use the lifelines and ask lawyers.
Personal Preparation before NVDA
• Comfortable clothing: Anything but cotton and dress in layers if it’s cold and bring a hat or other materials if it’s hot;
• Don’t carry any drugs and weapons; if you need medication, have a note so if one gets arrested they can give you medication;
• Phone: Clear your phone; wipe it clear so there are no passwords
• Have media contacts and legal contact
• No jewelry: earrings, nose rings, and piercings. Someone can pull them.
• No contact lenses because Pepper spray can get behind the lenses and burn
• Don’t put oil-based creams/lotion on your skin because the pepper spray will burn more.
• Be mindful if one is claustrophobic
• Food and Drink: Have food with you because you may not eat for a while, especially if you get arrested. Stay hydrated and be well rested the night before.
• Washington Peace Center website: washingtonpeacecenter.org
• How civil resistance works