Anti Racist Protests and the Tactics of Non Violence

Mass protests, around the world, surrounding the death of George Floyd, is likely to loose its momentum, if not directed with the sole aim of reaching out to bring fundamental changes. The eruption of violence, vandalism, loots and trashing of stores by small bunch, are dangerous for the strength being showcased by hundreds of thousands of peaceful protestors. Non-violence is the only answer.

The world is witnessing a massive unrest. It is not just the global pandemic. The unlawful killing of George Floyd, in Minneapolis, USA has sparked strong anti-racism protests around the globe, against white supremacy. This has permeated Minnesota and even the USA and is now rummaging the streets in London, Berlin, Toronto, Montreal, Paris, Rio de Janeiro, Auckland, Sydney, Nairobi, Abuja, Tokyo, Seoul, Lagos and several other cities in different countries and across continents- America, Africa, Asia-Pacific, Europe. It was only a matter of time, the rage caught on internet on various social media platforms like a wild fire, with captions such as #ICan'tBreathe and #BlackLivesMatter. People of all colours and communities, from various parts of the world, came together in solidarity against the tragic episode of brutal 'knee on the neck'.

In the chaos that ensued, a large chunk of protesters have been peaceful and responsible in the display of their agitated disappointment. And, then we have a small number of people who have resorted to violence and extreme vandalism that has acted as nothing but major distraction from the larger cause of it all. It has also put the lives of several peaceful protestors at risk. The anguish is reasonable. The anger could be justified but, violence cannot be rationalized- and sadly, the showcase of violence, in my opinion, is the mere exhibit of opportunism. Non-violence requires strength and tremendous amount of courage.

Amidst such mass agitation, the sad incidents of lootings and vandalism have sent across heart breaking messages. Sentiments are deeply hurt. However, resorting to violence and destruction is not the right approach towards getting justice. Also, slogans such as “No Justice, No Peace” are scary and drift away from the meaning of such strong outbreak and, mislead. Protests have the power to bring radical changes. What needs to be understood is that, if the right kind of tactics is applied, the momentum of people’s voices is capable of bringing in positive and meaningful reforms, both politically and socially. According to Dr C Corbould, Deakin University, “Grassroots movements are really diffuse. People have always argued over the best tactics, even though they often have the same aims.”

Apart from the Indian independence movement, led by MK Gandhi against the Britishers, the African-American civil rights movement is a significant lesson from history that one could turn to, to learn the dynamics and success of non-violent movements that shook the premises of draconian oppression. For protests that are long-term in nature, just as the one engulfing us right now, tactics of non-violent measures- though slow paced, are likely to bring powerful changes.

When people debate over question of morality involved in opting for non-violent protests, such as, ‘being non-violent would still not stop the beatings and mercilessness of authorities in question’ – what they miss to comprehend is that non-violence is both about morality and tactics. The aim of the protest must not be missed, that is to underline the blatant injustice and to bring positive reform about the same. It is pertinent to rise from anguish and anger to awareness and action. And, while we are at it, to always remember what Dr King said - the choice isn’t between violence and non-violence; it is either non-violence or non-existence.

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