By David Hart
Our good friend Mary King asked that we share her reflections about John Lewis. We are thrilled to do so because Mary worked closely with the "esteemed civil rights leader and congressman John Lewis from 1963-66 while on the staff of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, or SNCC."
Mary tells a story of his powerful commitment to nonviolence and justice and his lifelong activism. Her reflections help us understand his message for today.
Don't miss the section on how Rev. James Lawson met "Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. at Oberlin College in February 1957, upon returning from teaching for three years in Maharashtra state in India. Lawson would become the critical interpreter of Gandhian insights for the U.S. mid-20th century Black community, selectively introducing knowledge from India’s struggles against European colonialism." Then Lawson trained Lewis and today their legacy is ours to carry forward.
We at Nonviolence International love to see the universal praise for John Lewis, but we ask the politicians who praise him, but whose actions contradict all he was committed to, please don't use his kind loving heart to attempt to turn him into your teddy bear. He was a bold, brave, nonviolent fighter for justice especially for voting rights. Honor him by not only renaming the bridge, but also by passing the voting rights legislation named after him.
Few remember the names of the racists who fought against history and his vital work. But the name of John Lewis will be remembered forever as a guiding light whose examples inspires us to find ways to act boldly and nonviolently for justice. Today, there are those still fighting against the tide of history. Let John Lewis' spirit and determination illuminate the path before us. Let us remember his last public appearance was on Black Lives Plaza. Mary tells us, "John Lewis’ life’s work was a national tutorial on the power possessed by the maintenance of strict nonviolent discipline, and Black Lives Matter supporters exemplified this essential self-restraint."
Please see a few excerpts below and read the full piece on Waging Nonviolence. an impressive project that got its start as a fiscally sponsored partner of Nonviolence International.
"I could often see John reaching inside himself to find a place that sought neither retribution nor retaliation — seeking solely justice and the dismantling of inequities. Without comprehending the necessity for tenacious self-restraint, it’s hard to appreciate how the social power of nonviolent action actually works.
Many have missed that what made John exceptional and helped him to maintain a guiding role in the U.S. Congress — up until he drew his last breath — was his understanding of nonviolent discipline. What does this mean? Large numbers of individuals utilizing rigorous willpower is part of the way that the technique of nonviolent struggle operates. This form of power is entirely different from that utilized in armed conflict. To explain, let me turn to social philosopher Hannah Arendt, who has been influential with theoreticians of nonviolent action. Arendt’s 1969 essay “On Violence” distinguishes between violence and power. Violence, far from being the most “powerful” force in power relations, she says, needs to use instruments, so it’s not real power. Arendt writes, “Power and violence are opposites … to speak of nonviolent power is actually redundant.” For her, power is what happens when people willingly come together to take action on common purposes."
"John exemplified something else that I have been appreciating with the passage of time: The study and practice of nonviolent action is for life. It does not belong to the young. It is not something one outgrows. Seeking tangible justice without stooping to violence or passivity can empower one for life.
Numbers count with nonviolent methods. Combining headcounts with exacting self-restraint is partly how nonviolent struggle works, which is entirely different from the power wielded in armed, militarized power that seeks to incite fear, vanquish and kill. In the past 60 years a volcanic explosion of research, study, and documentation of the accomplishments of this technique of struggle has become available, and translations are widely available in dozens of languages."
Read the full piece on Waging Nonviolence.
NVI Director, Michael Beer, pled guilty to Unlawful Entry for his climate protest action in September of 2023. He faces a 4 month stay away sentence from the White House area. Here is his sentencing statement that he shared with the court.
Dear Judge, prosecutor and those who supported my climate protest.
I have pled guilty to unlawful entry for protesting the weak response from President Biden and his administration to the crisis of climate chaos. It was not my intention to get arrested. And spending about 28 hours in lock-up was not fun.
I chose not to pursue a jury trial. Although I believe my arrest was unwarranted and designed to stop a legitimate protest that was not causing any security or safety concerns to the public, I decided that my chances of persuading a Jury of my innocence was possible but not likely. I also came to the conclusion that given the strain that the current judicial system has in processing many more serious crimes, that it was almost self-indulgent for me to afford myself this opportunity. I am a fervent supporter of the jury system and I am grateful that in this country, these trials are available to people like me, even on misdemeanor charges.
My purpose in protesting, with other citizens, was to call on President Biden to declare a climate emergency. Although a declaration has risks, we need to face the crisis of carbon pollution with urgent action including building a massive electric grid here and around the world, stopping fossil fuel exports, and producing renewable energy for the globe. We are by far the world’s biggest historical polluter, and we have much to do in the form of global reparations. We of course need strong congressional action and I look forward to encouraging support for a Green New Deal..
Many of us live an extravagant lifestyle made possible by fossil fuels, and our next generations are likely to experience the damaging results. This very building is near the flood plain and could face serious flooding. But beyond the infrastructure, it is the tremendous famines, floods, heat waves, and severe weather that will cause havoc particularly among the less privileged and fortunate.
I try to limit my carbon footprint, by bicycling most places, eating a mostly vegetarian diet, and refraining from flying often. Yet I know I can do better to limit the damage that my life is having on this earth.
My life’s work as Director of Nonviolence International is to support nonviolent social mobilization and action around the world to engage mass engagement to the existential threats of our lifetimes such as nuclear war and climate chaos,. While keeping our eyes on the existential threats we need to support social justice and support human rights around the world. We need to build greater support for the rule of law as a foundation of civilization and deeper reverence for it is needed particularly for international law and governance which is vital for human survival.
Future generations will ask, what did you do to stop this profligate burning of fossil fuels? I ask all of you here to regularly ask yourselves this question?
I thank you for listening to my words and I thank you for your service to our communities. I ask that you not impose further punishment, penalties or consequences other than the stay away order to which we have agreed.
NVI Director, Michael Beer, spent the night of September 7th in the notorious DC Central Cellblock. He was arrested at the White House as part of an effort to use nonviolent direct action to urge US President Biden to declare a climate emergency. He was arrested with Kai Newkirk and Justin Blake.
Michael Beer, speaking to the crowd in front of the white house inviting them to speak up and demand a climate emergency declaration.
Protests Continue for a Climate Emergency Declaration
September 12th, inspired by our action, new activists from around the country again put a climate emergency sign on the fence and were arrested.
September 13th, another set of activists protested at the White House Fence!
September 14th, yet another wave of activists protested at the White House.
September 19th, more citizens put the sign up on the fence and were arrested again.
September 20th, four more citizens arrested including Dr. Paul Dietz, Rev. Redeem Robinson both of whom were kept overnight at the appalling DC Central Cell Block.
Here is a LINK to video of their protest!
September 22nd, more protests led by Native Americans at White House Fence
September 28th, Kai Newkirk interrupted President Joe Biden's speech in Arizona.
Various outlets covered Kai's disruption:
October 1st, Mehdi Hasan covered Kai's disruption and put it into conversation with the narrative in climate scientist, Michael Mann's recent book.
The climate crisis is obvious and not some far off future we must fear, but instead a current reality we must face. This effort at the White House is led by our fiscally sponsored partner For All. Together we are urging the US President to take action to end all new fossil fuel infrastructure. We also call on every country to declare a climate emergency.
You can play a key role in this work wherever you are in the world. Connect with local groups especially those led by frontline communities and young leaders who will inherit the mess we have created.
For those in the US, please join our actions and civil disobedience protests at the White House over the coming weeks. You can learn more about that here.
There is a huge end fossil fuels march in New York City at the UN on September 17, 2023. Large civil disobedience street protests will happen on September 18. Please come to New York and participate in these historic actions. There are over 400 protests around the world this week. Please join one.
NVI has been active on this issue. For those wanting to learn more or be inspired by creative youth-led action, please see:
Apartheid in Palestine and Israel is intensifying. Nonviolent mobilization is needed now more than ever.
In the face of increased repression and violence, our friends and allies are continuing and expanding their bold, creative, constructive nonviolent resistance. Join them in resisting the occupation and Israeli apartheid system and take action with us, NVI’s partners, and movements leading the struggle for justice in Palestine below.
Please spread the word about the reality of the situation and urge others to visit this page, learn more, and take action with you.
- Demand accountability and action for Palestine in the US:
Support NVI’s fiscally sponsored partners
- We Are Not Numbers continues to humanize Gazan Palestinians with its youth-led media training program.
- Holy Land Trust mobilizes Palestinians, Israelis and foreigners to work together for a future based on equality. They re-build homes, engage in dialogue, and challenge the fear of the other.
- The US Advisory Committee for the Hebron International Resource Network rebuilds wells, playgrounds, schools, homes in areas threatened by land confiscation.
- The Center for Jewish Nonviolence engages in direct action and co-resistance in support of Palestinians struggling for dignity and equal rights.
- The US Boat To Gaza supports the global flotilla to challenge the blockade of Gaza this summer.
- SOUL, a project of HIRN uses the power of music to promote change in difficult circumstances.
- Engage with Palestinian leaders of NVI
Get involved in a movement or organization working for justice in Palestine–please reach out if we can help guide or connect you. Here are some of the many movements and organizations we admire:
- American Muslims for Palestine (USA)
- Palestinian Youth Movement (USA)
- US Campaign for Palestinian Rights (USA)
- Rebuilding Alliance (USA)
- Adalah Justice Project (USA)
- Within Our Lifetime (USA)
- IfNotNow Movement (USA)
- Jewish Voice for Peace (USA)
- Community Peacemaker Teams (USA)
- Eyewitness Palestine (USA)
- Just Peace Advocates (CA)
- Independent Jewish Voice (CA)
- Palestine Action (UK)
- Na'amod (UK)
- Sabeel (Palestine and global affiliates)
Commit to changing the conversation towards a realistic solution. Israel’s new extreme government puts to rest any lingering debate about the viability of the Two-State Solution.
- Sign this statement.
Follow these social media accounts:
For those wanting to learn more about the Palestinian struggle for freedom, please see these NVI resources below. Below the NVI resources are primers welcoming people who are not yet immersed in the conversation.
Resources from Other Groups
The Popular University of the Palestinian Youth Movement Presents - OUR HISTORY OF POPULAR RESISTANCE: PALESTINE READING LIST
For those interested in learning more about state by state US legislation, please see this impressive map from Palestine Legal. They tell us, "The right to stand for justice is under attack. Politicians are pushing unconstitutional laws to stop the movement for Palestinian freedom and shield Israel from criticism."
Do you have suggestions for other high quality introductory material we should consider including?
If so, please contact us.
And, of course, please help spread the word. Ask people to visit this page, learn, and take action.
(Art Credit - Kayla Ginsburg - from CJNV)
The brutal occupation of Palestine is likely to get even more repressive. The coalition government in Israel includes unrepentant haters and racists. They have wasted no time showing their true colors. The impacts will be immediate, widespread, and as usual those harmed the most will be Palestinians.
People who have been paying attention know that the occupation has been supported by successive governments of all parties. And still we recognize we are entering a new and dangerous moment. We will work to make sure that this is also a time with the potential for real and lasting positive change.
During this time, we will see suffering increase and we must urge people to open their eyes to the reality of the situation. We must find ways to make the power of active nonviolence relevant to this struggle. NVI co-founder Jonathan Kuttab wrote,
"Successive Israeli governments have pursued these goals steadfastly, while pretending that their aim was security and that their aspirations were for peace with Palestinians, not domination over them. The new Israeli government abandons all such pretense, rips off the mask, and dares the world to do something about it.
Acknowledging that reality is the first necessary step towards addressing it. When Israel determined it wanted to be a Jewish state, and further that it wanted to keep all the land of historic Palestine, the results were inevitable. The only two options Israel allows for are ethnic cleansing or apartheid. Calls for democracy and equality (where democracy includes giving Palestinians [50% of the population] the vote and a stake in running the country) are totally rejected.
The good news is that with this new government, the mask is off, and many people can see the reality. This includes a majority of the Jewish people in the United states and their supporters, who have always been liberal, democratic, and in favor of progressive values. Facing the reality of Israel may be painful for many of them, but it is an important first step towards seeking a new solution based on equality and human dignity, and which would also bring healing and peace."
Tallie Ben-Daniel, the managing director of Jewish Voices for Peace (JVP), said the new Israeli government has openly embraced apartheid.
“The horrifying actions of this new government, only five days in, prove exactly what Palestinians have been saying all along: Israel is an apartheid state, where Palestinians are treated as inferior. The dangerous escalations by the new Israeli government make clear that now is the time for action.”
US Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib wrote,
“Not even one week into 2023, the new far-right apartheid government is moving to ethnically cleanse entire communities—which would displace more than 1,000 Palestinian residents, including 500 children. All with American backing, bulldozers, and bullets. #SaveMasaferYatta”
(Please see this page for background information, resources, and action steps on Palestine / Israel)
NVI has helped support the formation of the Philadelphia interfaith group for peace in Gaza named Prayers for Peace Alliance. Check out their new website!
Palestinians and Jews are joining together to invite churches and synagogues to stop the violence in Gaza and work for peace with justice in Palestine/Israel.
Prayers for Peace Alliance co-Coordinater, Sam Kuttab, helping lead the walk by Friends of Combatants for Peace in Chestnut Hill, Philadelphia. USA 25-2-2024
November 19, 2023: Don't miss this powerful article from Daoud Kuttab.
On Sunday Nov. 12, 2023, Palestinian-Americans with support from a Friends of Sabeel North America, If Not Now (Philadelphia Chapter), the Alhidaya Islamic Center, and Nonviolence International handed out leaflets at the Elon Tabernacle Church in Philadelphia asking parishioners to pray for people of Gaza and to call on the US government to support a cease-fire.
Palestinian activists displayed signs which said “I’m a Palestinian American Living in the Community. Every 10 minutes a Child is Killed. Pray for Gaza. Stop the Genocide.” Activists from the Alhidaya Islamic Center and If Not Now along with Activiststood in solidarity. The parishioners universally took the leaflets offered and read them. After 30 minutes, the visitors were invited inside in front of the pulpit where the Reverend Waller, warmly welcomed the Palestinian, Jewish and Islamic visitors and proceeded to pray for them, their families, and the people of Gaza for 10 minutes. He concluded by calling for an immediate ceasefire saying that his congregation does not takes sides, just the sides of peace for the Palestinian and Israeli people.
Given the warm response, NVI and these activist groups will continue to reach out to Philadelphia church-goers to pray for Gaza and support a cease-fire. If you want to get more information, reach out to us at [email protected]
Philadelphians will continue to reach out to other churches on Sunday November 19, 2023. Here is the media release.
Two Palestinian-Americans standing outside of the Elon Tabernacle Church
Delegation members invited inside to Rev Waller's pulpit
Muslims, Christians and Jews standing outside of the Elon Tabernacle Church
NVI fiscally sponsors groups that work to help Gazans. Please support them.
If you want to hear news and views directly from Gaza, please check the website and social media sites of We Are Not Numbers.
US Boats to Gaza is a member of the global Freedom Flotilla Coalition. They seek to bring humanitarian aid by sea to Gaza and break the siege. Learn more about their important work below.
Here are some photos from the big recent Washington, DC event for Palestinian humanity that was part of much larger global effort.
NVI signed this letter to US Secretary of State
Dear Secretary Blinken,
Twenty-five faith-based, human rights, and gun violence prevention organizations are writing you to voice our concern about the massive numbers of small arms that the U.S. is exporting to Israel, the lack of end use controls on these exports, and the violence and human rights violations that have occurred and will continue as a result. Please see attached our full letter explaining these concerns, including background on the issue, data on U.S. arms exports to Israel, and an explanation of how, in light of war crimes and other violence occurring in the West Bank and Gaza, such arms transfers violate U.S. policy.
We encourage the Department of State and Department of Commerce to suspend all licenses and shipments of firearm exports to Israel until criteria are met that will prevent further war crimes and ensure end use monitoring of transferred munitions. We advocate that an overall policy of restraint is adopted for the export of firearms, and that arms export policy exceptions for Israel are removed.
Lastly, we encourage your departments to establish criteria for the exclusion of end users where there is a meaningful risk that such users are involved in human rights abuses or other crimes, and to require U.S. firearms manufacturers to submit license applications and end user certificates for all proposed exports. Complete details of these policy asks can be found in the full letter.
Please do not hesitate to reach out with any questions or concerns. We would be happy to begin a dialogue with you to discuss enacting these crucial changes.