“What Can I Do?” A Living Guide to #TheResistance in Denver & Beyond

26 Feb

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Recently I gave a talk at Lakewood Library to some fired-up folks from the metro Denver community. Here are resources I mentioned there, although I’ll update this page from time to time as I get new info.

Many of these resources direct you to the folks who have been organizing, planning, and mobilizing in our state for a long time. They are the experts. But first, a caveat. The resources / tips below aren’t exhaustive, and they don’t cover the whole landscape of groups and organizations that deserve mention here. Suggestions / additions are welcome in the comments section.

Resources: Mapping the Resistance Landscape

Groups to Follow and Support

Most of these have national or state-by-state chapters. Some are Denver-oriented.

Legal resources, advocates, legislative action, etc.

Community / grassroots groups, activism, etc.

Take Action

I was thrilled that many people at the event stood up and committed to taking at least three actions per week in support of the resistance. During most successful resistance campaigns, activists often report that they spend much more time building trust and solidarity, providing care for one another, learning, training, planning, and preparing than they do actually mobilizing in actions.

  • Host a huddle / gathering / civic meeting. Encourage those who attend to do the same, if they can.
  • Participate in the March 8 Women’s Strike. If you can’t strike, consider wearing red in solidarity and/or hosting a huddle that day.
  • Support the Denver Metro Sanctuary Coalition, with your funds, your time, food, and if needed, your physical presence. Our undocumented neighbors have urgent needs.
  • Contribute to Jeanette Vizguerra’s legal assistance fund. She’s also asking for folks to sign the petition requesting approval of her stay of removal application or for the authorities to drop her case.
  • Reach out to the people you know in marginalized communities. Ask them to tell you their story. Listen deeply. See them & hear them. Offer them all of the help, support, and solidarity you can give.
  • Join, start, or attend an Indivisible Group.
  • Be in community everywhere you can find community. Attend a town hall, a teach-in, a community meeting, civic group, etc.
  • Attend an action.
  • Bring a first-time-activist to a protest, rally, or other action.
  • Call your representatives (calling is more influential than letter-writing/emailing).
  • Support the Standing Rock Sioux.
  • Take a civil servant to lunch, coffee, or dinner. Ask them how they are doing, and what you can do to support them.
  • Attend a nonviolence and/or direct action training (or a few).
  • Begin a conversation at your church about joining the sanctuary coalition.
  • Plan a few meals a week with people you don’t normally connect with. Talk politics. Ask them how you can support them in getting involved in their community.
  • Spend some time learning about the local grassroots organizations active in your community. See how you can support their work. Show up when they ask you to show up.
  • Write an opinion article for the local paper.
  • If you’re a woman and/or a person of color, consider running for office. If you aren’t, consider lifting up and supporting women and/or people of color who are running for office.
  • Develop and share an online, crowdsourced document (e.g. googlesheet, googledoc) with resources / links to resources for others to contribute and share.
  • There is so much more. Add your ideas in the comments section below.

Some insights that came up during the discussion: Focus your energies on the things that most excite you. Own your skills, acknowledge your limitations, and focus on what brings you meaning, power, and satisfaction.

Recognize that being in a position to choose resistance is an extraordinary privilege, and that many in our community do not get to choose. We need to stand with / for everyone in our communities now. Use the freedoms you enjoy to create space for marginalized voices. Practice mutual respect. Don’t be afraid of clumsy interactions; learn from them, and when you know better, do better.

If you’re like me, then you’re in it for the long haul. But you are not alone.

Take it a day at a time, but do what you can to become informed and active as often you’re able. Despair is demobilizing; avoid it. Get help and support from your close networks when you need it, and then reciprocate when you can.

Resources: Civil Resistance Learning

Here are some slides posted at Warm Cookies of the Revolution from a presentation I gave there in January. It has a lot of visuals I referenced during the gathering. Also, check out:

Sites with Accessible & Practical Info about Effective Civil Resistance

Recently Published Short Reads (check out the linked sources in them too)

Longer Reads

Film

Possible Discussion Topics for Huddles

  • Who in our immediate community needs support right now? Are there urgent needs that we can meet? What resources do we have around the table that we can mobilize?
  • What troubles do I face every day? How are my troubles different from or the same as my neighbors’? Of others’ in our community? How can we support one another?
  • What kind of world do we want to create? How will we know when we are on our way?
  • Where should we be 5 years from now? 15 years from now? 30 years from now? How can we get there?
  • Which actions are you taking each week? How is it going? What is working well? What do you think you could do better? Where do you need further support?
  • Watch “A Force More Powerful.” What insights from these historical cases apply here and now? How can we share these insights broadly?
  • Pick 5 campaigns to read about and discuss from the Swarthmore Nonviolent Action Database. What lessons can we learn from them?

In Closing

My friends, I am glad we are all awake. May we never go back to sleep. As Rebecca Solnit often reminds me, we live in a time of wild possibilities. And to paraphrase the incomparable Rev. James Lawson, do not succumb to the myth that you were birthed into this world impotently. You were born with the power of the universe in your fingers. Use it.

–Note: This post was last updated at 10:37pm on February 28, 2017.–

Teach-In Resources

13 Feb

Today I was part of a panel at a teach-in on resistance. During my remarks I mentioned a number of resources and additional readings worth checking out. Here they are.

Reads

Stephen Haggard & Robert Kaufman. 2016. Dictators and Democrats: Masses, Elites, and Regime Change. Princeton University Press.

Rebecca Solnit. 2016. Hope in the Dark: Untold Histories, Wild Possibilities, updated edition. Haymarket Books.

Community Groups and Resources

Lots discussed here: Joshua Holland. 2017. Your Guide to the Sprawling New Anti-Trump Resistance Movement. The Nation (February 6). 

Resistance Manual

Committee to Protect Journalists

Warm Cookies of the Revolution

NationalPopularVote.com

Black Lives Matter 5280

Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ) Denver

International Center on Nonviolent Conflict

Campaign Nonviolence

Waging Nonviolence

Albert Einstein Institution

Civil Resistance Blooms

1 Feb

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Recent weeks have seen the publication of some sharp articles on (or about) civil resistance. Here’s a brief roll-up of ten recent reads on the topic:

Frances Fox Piven, “Throw Sand in the Gears of Everything,” The Nation, January 18, 2017.

George Lakey, “A 10-Point Plan to Stop Trump and Make Gains in Justice and Equality,” Waging Nonviolence, January 23, 2017.

Zeynep Tukefci, “Does a Protest’s Size Matter?” New York Times, January 27, 2017.

Maria Stephan, “An inside-Outside Strategy for Defending the US Republic,” OpenDemocracy, January 27, 2017.

author anonymous, “Trump Endgame,” Daily Kos, January 30, 2017.

Francine Prose, “Forget Protest. Trump’s Actions Warrant a General Strike,” The Guardian, January 31, 2017.

Tina Rosenberg, “From Protests Past, Lessons in What Works,” New York Times, January 31, 2017.

David Solnit and George Lakey, “How Do We Stop Trump and Win Gains in Justice and Equality?” Common Dreams, January 31, 2017.

Juliet Eilperin, Lisa Rein, and Marc Fisher, “Resistance from Within: Federal Workers Push Back Against Trump,” The Washington Post, January 31, 2017.

Erica Chenoweth, “Worried About American Democracy? Study These Activist Techniques,” The Guardian, February 1, 2017.

Add your reading recommendations in the comments section.

How Can We Know When Popular Movements Are Winning? Look to These Four Trends

16 Nov

In the past week, an awful lot of people have asked me how to gauge whether nonviolent popular movements are actually gaining traction. Generally speaking, a lot of folks have done work on this over the years (see these criteria drawn from Gene Sharp’s work, and Peter Ackerman and Hardy Merriman’s checklist approach). I have my own set of four criteria, which I’ve often cited when asked. It’s worth mentioning them again in one place.

  1. Size and diversity of participation. The success of mass movements is largely driven by their size. Because of this, an increase in the number and diversity of participants may be an indicator of a movement’s latent potential to succeed. This is particularly true if people who are not ordinarily “activists” begin to participate and if various classes, ethnicities, ages, genders, geographies, and other social distinctions are represented.
  1. Nonviolent discipline. Every movement that seriously challenges the status quo eventually experiences repression. How the movement responds to repression—whether it maintains its own discipline and order in spite of repression—is a key determinant of the movement’s staying power. Movements that respond to such repression with rioting or street-fighting tend to fizzle out. But movements that respond to such repression with unity, resolve, and discipline often succeed. Nonviolent discipline often requires advance coordination, training, preparation, and decentralization, which are desirable for lots of reasons regardless.
  1. Flexible & innovative techniques. Kurt Schock’s work tells us that movements need to consistently shift their techniques—particularly switching between concentrated methods like demonstrations and dispersed methods like strikes and stay-aways—in order to succeed. Movements that over-rely on single methods—like protests or rallies—are less likely to win in the end. What I tend to look for, then, is whether a movement seems to be using a variety of nonviolent techniques. In particular, I look to a movement’s ability to shift to lower-risk tactics, like stay-aways, when repression becomes intense.
  1. Loyalty shifts. If economic and business elites, civil servants, security forces, state media, and other elites continue to enthusiastically support the movement’s adversary, then the mass movement is not yet having profound and observable political effects. However, if erstwhile elite supporters begin to abandon the opponent, remain silent when they would typically defend him, refuse to follow orders to repress dissidents, or drag their feet in carrying out day-to-day orders, the incumbent is losing his grip. Although loyalty shifts from various sectors are important, defection, desertion, or noncooperation by security forces can be especially impactful.

Of course, these four trends are also instructive in terms of how movements prepare for and wage nonviolent struggle.

A few more fun facts from the historical record, drawn from recent work with Maria Stephan and Kurt Schock:

  1. The average nonviolent campaign takes about three years to run its course (that’s more than three times shorter than the average violent campaign, by the way). So these things do not unfold overnight.
  2. The average nonviolent campaign is about eleven times larger as a proportion of the overall population as the average violent campaign.
  3. Nonviolent resistance campaigns are ten times more likely to usher in democratic institutions than violent ones. And from 1900-2006, only 50% of democratic countries facing armed campaigns remained democratic in the aftermath. 90% of democratic countries facing nonviolent resistance campaigns remained democratic after the campaign ended.
  4. Mixing in a little bit of violence by the protestors does not help nonviolent campaigns succeed. Those campaigns that succeed with violent flanks tend to do so in spite of the violence rather than because of it.
  5. Countries that experience nonviolent resistance campaigns are about 15% less likely to experience a civil war in the aftermath than countries that experience armed resistance campaigns.

What else do you want to know? Write your questions in the comments section below.

[this post originally appeared at Political Violence @ a Glance]

Nonviolent Discipline and Violent Flanks

14 Jun

Last week I had the honor of attending the 2015 Fletcher Summer Institute. I gave a couple of talks, one of which related to the topic of how violent flanks impact the success rates of otherwise nonviolent movements. The talk is up at YouTube:

(Note: During the talk, the questions and comments come from other participants at FSI, many of whom were activists, organizers, NGO types, and academics in related fields from around the world).

I blogged about this topic in 2011 with specific reference to the appearance of the Free Syrian Army that summer. The field has come a long way since then, and I reference a lot of the recent research innovations in the talk. Let me know what you think.

Take a Survey on Nonviolent & Violent Resistance

26 Apr

Do you have 5 minutes to take a survey (that includes a short film) on nonviolent and violent resistance? This is part of a research project funded by the University of Denver’s Public Good Fund, which supports collaborative research with community partners. In this case, the survey is part of a collaboration between me and Picture Alternatives, an LA-based film production nonprofit that creates films and visuals to promote alternatives to violence.

The survey is here (but it’s not a mobile-friendly link, unfortunately).

Your help would be appreciated very much! Looking forward to seeing the responses.

Thanks!

A Plea to White Americans

25 Nov

Dear white friends,

If you find yourself genuinely puzzled by all that’s happening related to Ferguson — and especially if you find yourself angry at the protestors — I beg you to find the willingness to question what you think you know about race.

I beg you to open your mind to the lived experience of so many people in our country, to lay aside your own reasoning, and to consider that you may have it totally wrong.

I beg you to open your ears to the pain and suffering of others, to deeply consider whether you’ve ever been part of the problem, and to consider how you might make amends going forward.

If you discover nothing, then you have lost nothing. But if you discover that you have been misguided in the past, then you will have gained something incredibly valuable.

If you don’t know where to start, I highly recommend the 90-minute documentary “The Color of Fear,” which is 20 years old but still relevant today. It might help to shed some light on all that you do not yet see.

Be courageous.

Look at yourself.

Our human family is in desperate need of healing; I beg you to be part of the solution.