Civil Disobedience

Civil Disobedience is the active, professed refusal to obey certain laws, demands, and commands of a government, or of an occupying international power. Civil disobedience is commonly, though not always, defined as being nonviolent resistance.

In seeking an active form of civil disobedience, one may choose to deliberately break certain laws, such as by forming a peaceful blockade or occupying a facility illegally, though sometimes violence has been known to occur. Protesters practice this non-violent form of civil disorder with the expectation that they will be arrested. Others also expect to be attacked or even beaten by the authorities. Protesters often undergo training in advance on how to react to arrest or to attack, so that they will do so in a manner that quietly or limply resists without threatening the authorities.

The earliest recorded incidents of collective civil disobedience took place during the Roman Empire. Unarmed jews gathered in the streets to prevent the installation of pagan images in the Temple in Jerusalem. In modern times, some activists who commit civil disobedience as a group collectively refuse to sign bail until certain demands are met, such as favorable bail conditions, or the release of all the activists. This is a form of jail solidarity. There have also been many instances of solitary civil disobedience, such as that committed by Thoreau, but these sometimes go unnoticed. Thoreau, at the time of his arrest, was not yet a well-known author, and his arrest was not covered in any newspapers in the days, weeks and months after it happened. The tax collector who arrested him rose to higher political office, and Thoreau’s essay was not published until after the end of the Mexican War.

Some disciplines of civil disobedience hold that the protestor must submit to arrest and cooperate with the authorities. Others advocate falling limp or otherwise resisting arrest, especially when it will hinder the police from effectively responding to a mass protest. A possible disadvantage of going limp, for those who wish to communicate with the arresting officer about their ideals, is that it may be difficult to do so while being dragged across the ground.

In class we all agreed that civil disobedience is the pursuit of a social good in a non violent way. I tend to be a rule follower and to try and keep the peace. I do not like conflict but after this class i have come to realize just how powerful somebody’s words or just a simple silent protest can be. Just most of the friends we talked about in class, they had a common theme of standing up for themselves or for a group of people for acts that they felt were unjust. I have really enjoyed this class and i have felt that i have gotten a lot out of this class. I am thinking about taking a class that professor Halpin is teaching next jan term.


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