Organizing in Trump’s America: Mobilizing a Civil Resistance

This is my third post in an on-going series on anti-Trump resistance. In my previous articles, I’ve written about the importance of taking a people-centered approach to movement building, and discussed how we not only reject Trump’s policies, but also present a radically-informed counter-vision.

This week, as the Trump regime enters its third week in office, I would like to talk about one particular strategy that must be used to effectively push back against Donald Trump’s policies: nonviolent civil resistance.

One thing that is often taken for granted today is the robust history of nonviolent civil resistance in the United States. Nonviolent resistance has led to the most profound and dramatic changes to the social and political fabric of the United States (and the world). It is guided by the radical yearning for a better world. Its force comes through the moral fortitude of its demands, which can often be difficult to delegitimize, especially when they are based in principles of social justice and equality.

To be fair, nonviolent civil resistance is not a foolproof or infallible method. It can have its drawbacks and shortcomings, and does not guarantee success. It is, however, a basic principle of human rights – perhaps even an obligation – under international law and protected under the Constitution.

It also remains the most effective tactic among all available options. Studies have shown that, because of its moral superiority, nonviolent civil resistance succeeds even when the state responds with violence. Violence comes at a high price, and often generates few, if any, positive changes. Often times, things may become even worse, as a result of violent resistance.

In the United States, non-violent civil resistance has expanded voting rights for women (albeit white women at first) and African-Americans, mobilized the labor movement to secure better work conditions, protected civil and human rights, like free speech and assembly, shifted the national conversation on issues, such as economic inequality and systemic racism, and more recently, led to perhaps the largest march in the history of the United States, heralding a new age of revolutionary fire and galvanizing the entire world to follow suit.

With all of this said, here are a few things to keep in mind as you organize nonviolent resistance among your communities and your coalitions:

  • Technology is a powerful tool for mounting large, organized resistance, often in the form of protests and marches. At the same time, however, its easy use can often turn the resistance into an ends instead of a means. To prevent this from happening, it is important to maintain a strong coalition offline, whether it be in schools, houses of worship, community centers, and other institutions. Through real relationships, it will be much easier to remember the purpose and goals of your resistance.
  • Creativity counts. The more creative and unorthodox you are in your tactics, the likelier you are to draw positive attention to your movement, both from the public at large and the state.
  • Appeal to public morality and expose the immorality of the state. This tactic was best practiced by Mahatma Gandhi, whose persistent nonviolence forced the British to grapple with their own brutality. This ultimately brought down one of the mightiest empires in human history.
  • Boycott and Divest. One of the best-known and most effective tactics of nonviolent resistance is the boycott. As a consumer in a capitalist-driven society, you have the power to choose what you purchase and who you give your financial support to. By coming together with large groups of people to divest from institutions and boycotting companies guilty of perpetuating or being complicit in oppression, you draw attention to the roots of repression.
  • Seize the moment. People are coming together, across the world, to reject populism and oppressive policies.  The most successful of these actions have been very relevant and timely, capitalizing on momentum to move their agenda forward. Take note of the political situation of your locality, state, and country. Determine which issues demand the most immediate attention and mobilize around those in the immediate turn, while planning for future actions.

With a people-centered approach to history, a radically-informed counter-vision for the future, and a robust nonviolent civil resistance, the anti-Trump resistance is sure to win.



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