Movements around the globe have stemmed from peaceful beginnings, and in the United States alone, many prominent peaceful movements have brought about some of the most prominent reforms put forth by the government. Being that no real results can be expected from mere picketing and passive proclamations from a megaphone, these demonstrations often break the law in some way, explaining where the label of disobedience comes from. Civil disobedience is an increasing practice worldwide, and it is proven to be exceptionally effective when put to the test against oppressive regimes, unjust laws, and stoic governments.
It has been practiced by some of the most influential leaders of the civil rights movement in the United States such as Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks (Encyclopedia Britannica). The 1960’s would not have been the same if civil disobedience hadn’t been as widespread a practice as it was, and the results that were achieved by the black population during the most important movement in the United States in recent history could not have been achieved as efficiently through other means.
Civil disobedience has also been a popular and effective means of bringing about change in earlier United States history as well as much of the women’s suffrage movement and early portions of the emancipation process were based around civil disobedience (Perry, 2016). Practicing civil disobedience takes an immense amount of patience. Willingly violating the law and submitting to the authority that is being fought against also brings about a large risk factor associated with civil disobedience as the punishment doled out to the offenders can often turn violent in a hectic state.
Having defined civil disobedience and qualifying it as a viable means of protest, I can now continue to define what needs to be changed concerning the implementation of civil resistance in modern movements in the United States.? Defining the Problem The promotion of civil disobedience and resistance is steadily increasing across the United States; however, the use of these nonviolent methods are not nearly as widespread as they need to be.
In the past two years, protests in the St. Louis area have turned violent, causing the destruction of property and injury to police officers, members of the national guard, and civilians. I can recall the events that occurred in Fergusson, Missouri as if it were yesterday, even though they took place nearly two years ago. These violent outbreaks directly threatened the safety of my peers and others in my community, sparking my interest in the subject. The spread of civil resistance is evident in St. Louis, as shown in an August 2015 St. Louis Post-Dispatch article detailing the demonstrations that took place on the one-year anniversary of the slaying of Michael Brown.
The protests that took place at the Fergusson City Hall started out as peaceful and organized, but soon turned aggressive when individuals began to incite others to join a violent and destructive tirade (STL Today, 2015). Essentially, the problem in the St. Louis community lies with the lack of civil demonstrations remaining civil.
The increasing popularity of civil campaigns is helping this cause, but promotion by prominent leaders in the civil rights movement will help to guarantee the widespread practice of these campaigns.? Objectives Promoting civil resistance as opposed to violent resistance will bring about many welcome changes in the push for equal rights and treatment in the St. Louis community. The three objectives that I wish to achieve through gaining support from prominent members of the St. Louis community are: (1)Making the St. Louis government as transparent as possible (2)Making St.
Louis a safer place to live (3)Expanding the civil liberties of all persons in the St. Louis area First and foremost, civil disobedience is more effective than any method involving some sort of violence. Dr. Erica Chenoweth, the Associate Dean for Research at the Josef Korbel School of International Studies at the University of Denver, specializes in studies concerning international political violence and injustice. Her research into this topic has yielded data that sufficiently shows the positive effects of civil resistance compared to violent protests (Chenoweth, 2015).
Figure 1 represents the comparison between violent demonstrations and civil demonstrations and the successes that each method achieved. It can be concluded from this analysis that the success of civil campaigns is greater than that of violent campaigns; from 1900 to 2006, nonviolent campaigns have been more than twice as successful as those utilizing violence. If civil disobedience is utilized in the St. Louis community more laws will be passed that will improve the lives of those who advocated for them. Secondly, the safety of its citizens should be one of any sensible government’s primary goals.
With that being said, the level of safety that is afforded using peaceful methods of protest opposed to violent means is enough to make any government at least consider advocating for civil campaigns. While no government would encourage its people to challenge it, prominent organizations striving for change in the government would encourage this challenge in order to further its cause. Thus, the NAACP would benefit greatly from promoting civil resistance opposed to aggravated protest as it would help to preserve the safety of its members and other civilians who are either protesting alongside members or are merely bystanders.
Again, an example of when bystanders were unnecessarily injured is shown by the Fergusson riots in 2014 (STL Today). In order to avoid this in the future, support behind civil disobedience needs to be widespread and needs to be shown by influential members of society. Lastly, the civil liberties of every person in the St. Louis area deserve and need to be equal, and they need to be as abundant as possible, within reason.
Civil disobedience has been shown to be effective in the prior example taken from Chenoweth, but David R. Weber expands on Chenoweth’s ideas by providing legitimate examples of successes in expanding civil liberties in the United States. Accepting civil disobedience as “… simply a logical and righteous response to the statutes and ordinances by which the South institutionalized its system of racial discrimination,” Martin Luther King Jr. was able to lead arguably the most successful civil rights campaign in United States history (Weber, 1978). The successes that King had in his push for equal rights can be repeated today with the implementation of similar tactics that he used.
Dr. King preserved his followers’ rights and fought for them to have more, and the NAACP can do the same in the modern day with the social injustices that still occur. Figure 2 illustrates the increasing successes that civil disobedience has had as years have progressed compared to the successes of violent campaigns, representing the successes be decade. You can note that the number of successes accomplished by civil disobedience drastically increased in the 1960’s and 70’s due to Dr. King’s movement.
In the 2000’s civil disobedience experienced its highest rate of successes. This data proves that the modern age is a healthy environment that fosters the success of peaceful movements, and that civil disobedience is a much more likely way to accomplish goals than violent demonstrations. Utilizing civil disobedience as the chief means of protest will accomplish the above goals if done correctly. The success of this proposal relies on the willingness of the board of directors for the St. Louis branch of the NAACP.
The way that civil disobedience benefits those who practice it gives a near immediate payoff to them and those around them, so the path should already be paved for support of this proposal. ? Approach and Conclusion Implementing civil disobedience as a widespread practice in the St. Louis area relies on several key components. The willingness of the St. Louis public that participate in protests to try civil disobedience is the defining factor that will make or break this proposal. However, this level of willingness can increase with the endorsement of large corporations and influential organizations.
In his article “Recent Theories of Civil Disobedience: An Anti-Legal Turn,” William Scheuerman analyzes how those participating in civil disobedience technically avoid violating the law. He speaks on how close reading and understanding of laws and regulations allows for protestors to test the law, disprove the law, thus creating a change in the government (Scheuerman, 2015). This fact allows for those participating in civil resistance to rest easy knowing that they are not necessarily violating any laws that hold Constitutional value. It’s this group of people that are most likely already out protesting in one way or another.
These individuals are likely affiliated with an organization of some sort that they are protesting on the behalf of or are protesting with those who are like-minded. In her working paper for the USAID, Chenoweth relates the success of civil organizations and campaigns to the reliance on large groups of people (Chenoweth, 2015). Thus, organizations that have a large number of members would have the most success with using civil disobedience as a viable means of protest. Because of this, I believe that, as one of the more influential organizations on the civil rights front in St.
Louis, the St. Louis branch of the NAACP will be extremely successful if it were to implement the practice of widespread civil disobedience. Eventually, because of the successes that the branch will have using civil protest, it will be able to influence its brother and sister organizations in the St. Louis area and gradually spread this message across the nation to other branches of the organization. As the board of directors of this branch, I am proposing that you reach out to your members and other influential organizations in the St.
Louis area and share my goals and my plan to achieve them. A low-cost, high reward process, I believe that what I have illustrated in this proposal would be most beneficial to every party involved – the organizations, the members, the public, and even the government. Avoiding violence should be a priority for any esteemed organization in order to avoid the stigma that could be accumulated through association. Through use of civil disobedience, the city of St. Louis can become a safer, more welcoming area with one of the most transparent governments in the United States.