USIP - Nonviolent Action in the Time of Coronavirus

The United States Institute of Peace just posted this wonderful new piece.

See an excerpt below and read the full piece on their site. 


Nonviolent Action in the Time of Coronavirus

Popular movements are confronting the challenge of how to practice social distancing while still acting to advance their demands. By Jonathan Pinckney and Miranda Rivers

How Popular Movements are Pivoting

Today’s activists are already putting this lesson to good use by broadening their tactics to focus on actions that don’t involve concentrating mass gatherings. For instance, in Hong Kong pro-democracy protesters have been gathering signatures for an online petition, and organized Hong Kong’s largest-ever medical workers strike, with more than 9,000 health professionals refusing to work until the government improved its coronavirus response. And in Brazil, millions of people are participating in a massive nonviolent action against President Jair Bolsonaro by coming to their windows at a specified time and banging pots and pans together.  

One critical part of this tactical diversification has been moving activism from the streets to online. While online activism has long been an important complement to real-life action, with public gatherings off the table many activists are making it a much more central aspect of their activities. In Israel, over half a million people joined a Facebook Live online protest of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s decision to adjourn the Knesset in response to the coronavirus emergency. Members of the global climate movement are keeping the movement alive through digital protests, posting pictures of themselves holding protest signs in their homes. The climate activists are hoping #ClimateStrikeOnline, #DigitalClimateStrike and other online initiatives will continue to build the movement and keep climate change on the agenda of national governments and world leaders.  

On a more strategic level, movements have also used the COVID-19 pandemic as an opportunity to provide services for the general population, to be proactive on health and safety even when governments refuse to and to reveal inequities in the existing health and economic systems. In the Democratic Republic of Congo, where the health system has finally gotten under control a series of deadly Ebola outbreaks, the citizen’s movement LUCHA has urged the government to strengthen its response to COVID-19. These measures include the creation of provincial-level committees of public health experts equipped with adequate resources to address the crisis and ensuring everyone's access to water and hygienic products. In Senegal, social movements have also pressured the government to increase the robustness of its response, and launched a campaign to improve social solidarity to fight the virus. Y’en a Marre, a group of Senegalese rappers, students, and other youth, released a music video spreading awareness about the virus and necessary safety precautions. In Nicaragua, a coalition of movements working to bring democratic change, has created a coronavirus emergency committee after criticizing the government for their insufficient response to the crisis.

As the global pandemic crisis continues to evolve, movements’ plans and tactics will evolve as well. The dominance of the street protest as a central tactic of nonviolent action may make this evolution difficult. But the need to shift within the broader range of nonviolent action tactics is also an opportunity for creativity and growth, as activists, just like the rest of us, are forced to innovate in response to a changing world. 


Read the full important and timely article on USIP's site. 

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