Forms of nonviolent action
Peace scholar Gene Sharp researched and catalogued 198 methods of nonviolent action. These were first published in The Politics of Nonviolent Action, in 1973. These methods are broken into three broad classifications: protest and persuasion, non-cooperation, and nonviolent intervention. Below is a summary of these various forms, the full list is available at http://www.aeinstein.org.
The methods of protests and persuasion
The 'protest and persuasion' category includes methods beyond verbal expression of an opinion, in a mostly symbolic way – they are used to express opposition and convince others to change their behaviour, opinion, policies, laws or political decisions. Among these methods are vigils, posters, meetings, demonstrations and petitions.
Many people express their discontent by holding marches or rallies, often with signs, placards or banners stating their opinions. For instance, the demonstrations held on 15th February 2003 - against the invasion of Iraq - were the biggest anti-war demonstrations ever held, with up to 10 million people marching in more than 600 cities around the world.
Petitions gather names and signatures under a statement demanding a particular change, or drawing attention to a particular concern. For instance, a petition was held against Swedish weapons exports to the USA and UK during the Iraq war. There are now many websites which can be used to create online petitions.
The methods of non-cooperation
'Non-cooperation' means to refuse to participate in an unjust system by withdrawing labour, normal behaviour, or obedience to a law or command. Sharp distinguishes between social, economic and political non-cooperation. Social non-cooperation means, for example, suspension or boycotts of social or sports activities or the establishment of sanctuaries for refugees threatened with eviction. Economic non-cooperation includes boycotts of products and strikes. Political non-cooperation includes boycotting elections, or refusal to accept appointed officials.
To boycott means to refuse to buy merchandise or a service to show dissatisfaction with the one selling it or the nature of the product. For instance, while the apartheid regime remained in power, many boycotted South African products sold in other countries. At first, individuals and organisations boycotted South African merchandise, then later entire countries were refusing to buy South African products or do business with South African corporations.
Strikers refuse to work, often en masse. During the first Intifada, the Palestinian resistance that started in 1987, many Palestinians withdrew their labour from Israeli employers. Israeli companies lost a lot of money when they didn’t have access to cheap Palestinian labour, and the economy stagnated.
Non-cooperation with conscription and deportation
This is the refusal to do military service or to perform an extradition. War Resisters' International is one of the organisations that supports conscientious objectors who refuse military service, regardless of whether they have the legal right in their country to do so.
Refusal to obey new regulations and laws
During the second world war, Norwegian teachers refused to follow the Nazi curriculum for schools. Many teachers were sent to concentration camps because of their disobedience, but most of them were released when the Nazis understood that they wouldn’t give in.
The methods of nonviolent intervention
'Nonviolent intervention' is defined by Sharp to take action, in the time and place where an injustice or violence is most direct or prevalent, in an attempt to prevent or stop it.
Blockades mean putting your body in the way of something. For example, indigenous communities in the Amazon rainforest blockaded access to loggers or miners by physically obstructing roads and vehicles.
Protective presence and accompaniment
This action aims to protect endangered people or groups in conflict areas. For example, volunteers from Peace Brigades International and other organisations accompany human rights activists under threat as “unarmed bodyguards” and mount a presence in endangered communities in Mexico, Guatemala, Kenya, Nepal, Israel-Palestine and Colombia, among others.
In such actions, activists openly disarm a weapon, and are then willing to be held accountable for their action. For example, activists have symbolically “disarmed” Trident submarines carrying nuclear weapons in Scotland.