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Skill sharing and Direct Action: Civil Disobedience Training set for Sunday, July 10 in Grand Rapids

July 5, 2022

The late, great radical historical, Howard Zinn, once wrote:

As soon as you say the topic is civil disobedience, you are saying our problem is civil disobedience. That is not our problem…. Our problem is civil obedience. Our problem is the numbers of people all over the world who have obeyed the dictates of the leaders of their government and have gone to war, and millions have been killed because of this obedience. And our problem is that scene in All Quiet on the Western Front where the schoolboys march off dutifully in a line to war. Our problem is that people are obedient all over the world, in the face of poverty and starvation and stupidity, and war and cruelty. Our problem is that people are obedient while the jails are full of petty thieves, and all the while the grand thieves are running the country.

Zinn was not writing these words as some theoretical reflection, he was writing them in the context of the way that the system was dealing with members of the Black Freedom Struggle, along with those resisting US Imperialism in Vietnam. Zinn also wrote these words just after he arrested in November of 1970, where is was protesting at a US Military base, attempting to stop a load of soldiers who were being sent to Vietnam.

Civil Disobedience has been a centuries old tactic, used by political dissidents and other revolutionaries who were committed to Direct Action as a primary strategy for social change. People resisting wars have used it for over a century in the US. Black activists and white allies used it during the 1950s – 1970s part of the Black Freedom Struggle. Some example from then were – Rosa Parks refusing to move to the back of the bus, the lunch counter protests, the freedom rides, and marches that were not sanctioned by the authorities.

Civil disobedience has been used by the group ACT Up, the Environmental Justice Movement, the Central American Solidarity Movement, the South African Anti-Apartheid Movement, the Disability Justice Movement, and so many more. 

The power of civil disobedience is the intention defiance of the law, to not only amplify the issue that people are protesting, but to disrupt the business as usual approach to protesting. 

On Sunday, there is a Civil Disobedience training being offered in Grand Rapids, which you can sign up for by going to this link. The training will include role playing, Civil Disobedience 101, jail solidarity, courtroom solidarity and media messaging. 

This particular training is for allies who can leverage their privilege in the Justice4Patrick Movement that is currently happening in Grand Rapids. Those who participate in the training might be asked by Black leadership to use the skills learned for an action. BIPOC people are also welcome to participate, but the intention is to get more allies committed to this kind of Direct Action, in part, as a way to take some of the pressure off of Black organizers that are being targeted by the GRPD.

The training lasts two hours, but you need to register for the training by sending an e-mail to 

Lastly, the training is intended to be a safe space, so no cops, no cop sympathizers, no racists and no other forms of oppressive behavior will be tolerated. If you plan to attend this training, you will need to either know people who are already part of this movement or bring documentation/evidence that you are connected to those in the movement. 

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