Legalising civil disobedience and the culture of change

Written By: - Date published: 12:23 pm, November 12th, 2016 - 13 comments
Categories: activism, climate change, democratic participation - Tags: , , ,

There are increasing signs of local people standing up against state law and corporate power when the things they value are threatened – everything from Standing Rock to councils in NZ voting to oppose deep sea drilling. We can take heart from this – remember the Peace Movement in NZ, and how much of that was people who cared working locally and regionally? As one Standardista pointed out a while ago “Good to remember our nuclear-free status began with some of us in Devonport posting simple A4 pages in our windows saying NO! to nuclear ships.” Brilliant.

In May a press statement from US-based Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund announced that a town in Pennsylvania has now passed a law legalising civil disobedience in relation to local fracking.

Grant Township, Indiana County, PA: Tonight, Grant Township Supervisors passed a first-in-the-nation law that legalizes direct action to stop frack wastewater injection wells within the Township. Pennsylvania General Energy Company (PGE) has sued the Township to overturn a local democratically-enacted law that prohibits injection wells.

If a court does not uphold the people’s right to stop corporate activities threatening the well-being of the community, the ordinance codifies that, “any natural person may then enforce the rights and prohibitions of the charter through direct action.” Further, the ordinance states that any nonviolent direct action to enforce their Charter is protected, “prohibit[ing] any private or public actor from bringing criminal charges or filing any civil or other criminal action against those participating in nonviolent direct action.”

Grant Township Supervisor Stacy Long explained, “We’re tired of being told by corporations and our so-called environmental regulatory agencies that we can’t stop this injection well! This isn’t a game. We’re being threatened by a corporation with a history of permit violations, and that corporation wants to dump toxic frack wastewater into our Township.”

More here from Yes!

CELDF community organizer Chad Nicholson has been working with the community since 2014. He added, “In our country’s history, we celebrate people standing up to challenge unjust laws. The American Revolution, abolition, women’s suffrage, the labor and civil rights movements, marriage equality – all required people to take action resisting illegitimate laws. All required creating new and more just laws in their place. We applaud the people of Grant Township for taking action as their community is threatened, and asserting their rights. It is an honor to stand with them.”

In NZ we have our own proud history. Off the top of my head and in no particular order – Save Manapouri, Nuclear-free NZ, the anti-Tour movement, women’s suffrage, the Māori protest movement renaissance of the 70s through to now (not to mention the past 200 years), homosexual law reform, Reclaim the Night marches through to the ongoing challenges to rape culture… I really would like to make a comprehensive list, but suffice to say we have this in our culture and our bones.

No-one is coming to save us, but it’s not too late and we have the resources now to stand up and make a difference. Change always happens first from the edge, and then it gets noticed when the mainstream takes it on board and agrees. We need a strong activist culture and we need those who can work with the powers that be to take that change and build it into the structure of our society.

More on Grant Township protest from Yes!

Update – Pike River families take direct action

13 comments on “Legalising civil disobedience and the culture of change”

  1. Guerilla Surgeon 1

    Fascinating. Of course that’s what the Second Amendment is for – guarding against a radical government?

  2. Adrian Thornton 2

    Nice article Weka, there is no doubt the structures of political and corporate/media power no longer have an ounce of respect for the citizens of their respective countries, hence their shift from once viewing the people they serve/inform as participating citizens to at lest some degree, to now being commodified as purely consumers, nothing more.
    Unfortunately the so called progressive Left, since Bill Clinton through to Blair, Lange/Douglas/Clarke have been one of the main architects of this nefarious sea change, though their relentless promotion of free market laissez-faire economics.
    Really it is a citizens civic duties to speak truth to power.

    • weka 2.1

      One of the things I find disturbing at the moment is the disorganisation amongst the left in terms of language and ideology and identity. It’s like we don’t know how to identify anymore (and omg, I just referred to identity 😉 Which really isn’t a joke given how many people are being attacked on the basis of identity as we speak).

      Liberal is the pejorative du jour, which I find pretty difficult because I grew up thinking of myself as liberal, and I think there are problems both in terms of language/concept confusion, and in terms of attacking allies, by defining liberal as evil.

      So I know what you mean utterly about the progressive left and what some of them have done. Myself, I’d prefer to not identify them as the progressive left. Let’s call them centrists (NZ Labour currently), and Blairites, and neoliberals etc. Because then we can still legitimately claim left wing and progressive and give it meaning. Then I think we also need to figure out how to ally ourselves with people who don’t use that identity either for historical reasons (80s Labour), or because they are younger and have grown up in a post left/right world.

      Activism now already transcends so many political identities, and we should be using that to our advantage. I’m left wing, but not only left wing, and very happy to work with whoever shares my values. I want us to get past the political confusion that the neoliberal take over of the left has bequeathed us.

      • Cinny 2.1.1

        Maybe with ‘identity’ some areas are just too pigeon holed.

        I’m hearing you.. “I’m left wing, but not only left wing, and very happy to work with whoever shares my values. I want us to get past the political confusion that the neoliberal take over of the left has bequeathed us”

        When chalking it’s incredibly surprising how many conversations arise, rather than making things too political, it’s fun to sow seeds which many can relate to. Love the conversations that come from it, especially when one sits back and watches the interaction and listens to the conversations that come from simple chalked up words on a footpath. And the action that follows, cause they talk to someone whom talks to someone else, and before you know it, people are thinking for themselves and feel they aren’t alone. Yes am a bit of a dreamer, but honestly one gets results.

        Example, I kept leaving a4 letters questioning the government on maureen pughs office window when she stood for election last time, she’s since closed down her office and not reopened when she got into parliament.
        Anyways, as a result many others began to do the same, even the cafe across the road, they left a note saying something like, ‘if you are enjoying reading this, please come across the road for a coffee and delicious sushi you will enjoy that too” Cafe owner whom is like minded saw so many people reading the notes, clever man. Did help that Pugh left her office unoccupied for weeks at a time, notices stayed up taped to her glass doors for ages, even the teachers taped one up.

        Sometimes it just takes one person, for others to realise they can do it to.

        Sorry about the long waffle from me lolz, Great post btw.

        Some of the things i chalk when not chalking anti national party info..

        “The ultimate ignorance is the rejection of something you know nothing about yet refuse to investigate”

        “The world is movement, and you cannot be stationary in your attitude toward something that is moving”

        “Be careful when you blindly follow the Masses, sometimes the M is silent”

        “They fear those with knowledge and control those without”

        “If you are waiting for a sign, this is it”

        “What you allow is what will continue”

        “The more informed you are, the less arrogant and aggressive you are”

      • Carolyn_nth 2.1.2

        I’ve been pondering for some time on the term that best represents my values. I think it’s probably somewhere between “left” and “socialism”.

        Left wing has kind of changed it’s meaning over time, but generally seems to refer to the opposition to inequalities and political authoritarianism in its many and changing forms.

        Left wing politics wikipedia

        [Edit]
        I’ve also been pondering on how to contribute to a change in culture that would become more collaborative and inclusive and less individualistic, competitive and less dominated by a narrow view of (neoliberal) economics.

        • gsays 2.1.2.1

          Hi Caroline, In regards to a contribution to a collaborative society and overcoming individualism, I heartily recommend meditation.

          • Carolyn_nth 2.1.2.1.1

            Hi gsays. Yes, I’ve been doing some deep breathing and, emptying-the-mind exercises lately in response to some overly competitive and destructive behaviour.

            I do find it easy to get sucked into competitive responses when it’s all around me. I think maybe some systems of organisation encourage collaboration, and many that we currently have can encourage individualism and competition.

  3. Manuka AOR 3

    Save Manapouri, Nuclear-free NZ, the anti-Tour movement, women’s suffrage, the Māori protest movement renaissance of the 70s through to now (not to mention the past 200 years), homosexual law reform, Reclaim the Night marches through to the ongoing challenges to rape culture…

    The anti-war, Vietnam protests. Protestors filled Latimer Square in Chch in a peaceful, sit-down protest; the paddy wagons arrived and stuffed people into them and drove off.. Marches, while being filmed/ photographed by men in dark suits.

    And Rainbow Warrior – the Mururoa bomb tests

  4. JC 4

    Weka, thanks for the inspiration after a tough week! Sadly, in some cases it seems it may be too late in NZ…

    http://www.radionz.co.nz/news/political/312885/protesters-at-sea-will-be-treated-as-terrorists,-mps-told

  5. Siobhan 5

    Spot on WEKA.
    “Good to remember our nuclear-free status began with some of us in Devonport posting simple A4 pages in our windows saying NO! to nuclear ships.”

    A simple poster in our shop window congratulating Corbyn, amazing the number of people who came in, grinning ear to ear, talking about UK politics, and one enraged Scottish chap…but it was so good to see the average person in the street realizing that it was OKAY to talk publicly about Politics.
    Even an anti National poster had our local National guy visit us twice to talk about ‘why don’t you like me’. again, nothing to be scared of.
    Free Palestine poster, in an area where the local tribe is very pro Israel..and again, young Maori popping their head in the door to give the thumbs up.

    Public wall spaces are now ‘owned’ by Corporate Poster businesses, but don’t let that stop you.

    The mainstream media has been exposed again and again as being all for the status quo.
    It’s time to start communicating amongst ourselves, and despite what Facebook tells you, that’s not just achieved through Facebook posts, it’s time to ‘update your status’ in the real world.

  6. rhinocrates 6

    it’s time to ‘update your status’ in the real world.

    Nice line. I’ll remember that.

Recent Comments

Recent Posts

  • Māori land owners left in limbo
    The measly figure allocated to the troubled Te Ture Whenua Māori reforms in Budget 2017 are a sign the reforms are a low priority for the Government and will leave many Māori land owners in limbo, says Labour’s Ikaroa-Rāwhiti MP ...
    1 hour ago
  • Another fish hook in Budget costs families
    Some families with teenagers will be left worse off by a ‘Teenagers Tax’ hidden in the Budget, says Leader of the Opposition Andrew Little. “More than 6,000 families with teens face losing more in their Working for Families payments than ...
    8 hours ago
  • Our position on National’s 2017 Budget
    Around Parliament, Budget time is one of the busiest times of the year. Last week, things were hectic. A number of people were left with the impression that the Greens had voted for “the Budget”. This is incorrect. The Green ...
    GreensBy James Shaw
    23 hours ago
  • Ports of Auckland decision a win for workers and the environment
    Ports of Auckland’s decision to no longer release the toxic fumigant methyl bromide into the atmosphere is a win for their workers and for the environment, says Labour’s Spokesperson for Biosecurity Damien O’Connor.   “The intention to move to a ...
    1 day ago
  • Single Child Tax hidden in Budget
    Buried in National’s so-called family Budget is a Single Child Tax that will hit medium to low income families, says Labour Leader Andrew Little. ...
    1 day ago
  • Commerce Commission investigates Ron Hoy Fong
    The decision by the Commerce Commission to investigate Ron Hoy Fong and his questionable advice to property investors to use fake names and target ‘dummies’ is good news, Labour’s spokesperson on Consumer Affairs Michael Wood says.  “I am pleased that ...
    3 days ago
  • National running out of excuses on Pike
    The latest Pike River revelations further erode National's position of blocking a manned re-entry of the Pike River Mine drift, says Leader of the Opposition Andrew Little. ...
    3 days ago
  • Nats’ Budget locks in housing crisis
    National’s ninth Budget forecasts house prices will rise at three times the rate of wages, locking in the housing crisis for years to come, says Leader of the Opposition Andrew Little. “After nine years, all National can offer is a ...
    4 days ago
  • Small change that is sorely needed
    The big headline of the Government’s Budget yesterday was its Family Incomes Package – a range of measures including changes to income tax thresholds and the Family Tax Credit. Overall the Budget is a huge disappointment and a missed opportunity ...
    GreensBy Marama Davidson
    4 days ago
  • Kids bear the brunt of Budget
    Future generations are the ones bearing the brunt of National’s failure to provide education services the funding they need to make ends meet, Labour’s Education spokesperson Chris Hipkins says. “For nine years in a row the Government has told our ...
    4 days ago
  • The real costs of National’s election bribe
    The cost of National’s poorly-targeted election year budget bribe is that there’s nothing to fix the housing crisis, health funding is cut, and funding for schools is cut, says Labour’s Finance spokesperson Grant Robertson. “As the dust begins to settle ...
    4 days ago
  • Health running on empty
    Get ready for more cuts to health at a local level, affecting all New Zealanders, after a Budget that failed to deliver even enough for health services to stand still, says Labour’s Health spokesperson David Clark. “District Health Boards this ...
    4 days ago
  • Nats’ budget a double-crewed ambulance parked at the bottom of the cliff
    National’s election year Budget shows that there’s no coincidence Finance Minister Steven Joyce doubles as National’s campaign manager, says Labour’s Finance Spokesperson Grant Robertson. “The 2017 Budget reveals a lack of vision, and is simply an election year budget with ...
    5 days ago
  • After nine years, it’s the One Dollar Bill Budget
    National’s Budget 2017 is an irresponsible election bribe which after nine years exposes a government that’s run out of energy and ideas to tackle the big issues facing New Zealand,” says Labour Leader Andrew Little. “This is simply cynical electioneering ...
    5 days ago
  • Alfred Ngaro might be sorry – but to whom?
    The fact that the number of people classified as homeless on the Social Housing Register has doubled over the past year alone should be the real reason for Alfred Ngaro’s recent apologies, says Labour’s Social Development spokesperson Carmel Sepuloni. “As ...
    6 days ago
  • Government’s data-for-funding backdown embarrassing
    The Government’s U-turn on their shambolic attempt to collect private client data from social services is an embarrassment for a senior Minister, says Labour’s Social Development spokesperson Carmel Sepuloni. “After months of criticism and mismanagement, the Government has finally cut ...
    6 days ago
  • Overloaded hospitals reach crisis point
      The country’s hospitals have reached breaking point with some hospitals discharging patients to free up bed space and patients with serious injuries having to wait hours to be seen by a doctor, says Labour’s Health spokesperson David Clark.   ...
    6 days ago
  • National fails on critical school building needs
    Students are paying the price of the Government’s failure to invest fast enough in school buildings to keep pace with Auckland’s increasing population, says Labour Leader Andrew Little. “Parents should lay the blame for their children having to put up ...
    6 days ago
  • Tipping culture is not welcome in NZ
    Deputy Prime Minister Paula Bennett’s comments about tipping have been in the news and have sparked off a series of furious discussions about tipping in Aotearoa. From our point of view, tipping every time you’re provided a service is a ...
    GreensBy Denise Roche
    1 week ago
  • Mental Health a huge cost for Police
      The cost of dealing with mental health incidents for our police was a staggering $36.7 million which shows just why we need Labour’s fresh approach on Mental Health, says the Leader of the Opposition Andrew Little.   “Police now ...
    1 week ago
  • Grant Robertson: Speech to Otago-Southland Employers Association
    Thanks to the Otago Southland Employers Association and Virginia for hosting me this evening.  It is always a pleasure to come back to the city and region that shaped who I am as a person. I believe that growing up ...
    1 week ago
  • Renting a home in the Wild West
    It can be tough renting a place to live, and it could be about to get tougher. Radio NZ is reporting that the American Rentberry app wants to start operating in New Zealand. Rentberry allows landlords to play perspective tenants ...
    GreensBy Metiria Turei
    1 week ago
  • Free West Papua leader in Aotearoa
    Last week I hosted Free West Papua leader Benny Wenda at Parliament and travelled with him to a number of important events. Benny is spokesperson for the United Liberation Movement for West Papua and lives in exile in England. 14 ...
    GreensBy Catherine Delahunty
    1 week ago
  • Nats unprepared for record immigration
    National’s under-investment in housing, public services, and infrastructure means New Zealand is literally running out of beds for the record number of new migrants, says Labour’s Immigration spokesperson Iain Lees-Galloway. ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Labour opposes Ports of Auckland sale
    Labour would strongly oppose the sell-off of the Ports of Auckland to fix a short term cash crisis caused by the Government blocking the city’s requests for new ways to fund infrastructure, says Labour’s Auckland Issues spokesperson Phil Twyford. “National ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Workers pay the price of Silver Fern’s Fairton closure
    The threatened closure of Silver Fern Farms’ Fairton Plant in Ashburton raises serious questions about the Government’s support of the sale of half of the company to a foreign company, when it appears this outcome may have been inevitable, says ...
    2 weeks ago
  • National’s answer to the housing crisis: One new affordable house per 100 new Aucklanders
    National’s fudge of a housing plan will make Auckland even more of a speculators’ paradise, says Leader of the Opposition Andrew Little. ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Government can’t be trusted with private data
    The independent review of the Ministry of Social Development’s data breach in April has shown, once again, that the Ministry cannot be trusted with private client information, says Labour’s Social Development spokesperson Carmel Sepuloni. “The investigation by former Deloitte chairman ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Another crisis, another half-baked National plan
    The National Party may have finally woken up to the teacher supply crisis facing our schools but their latest half-baked, rushed announcement falls well short of the mark in terms of what’s required, says Labour’s Education spokesperson Chris Hipkins. ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Nats: Don’t bite the hand that feeds you
    Alfred Ngaro’s recent comments have exposed the Government’s ‘don’t bite the hand that feeds you’ approach, says Labour’s Social Development spokesperson Carmel Sepuloni. ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Breaking news – National admits there’s a housing crisis
    National finally admits there’s a housing crisis, but today’s belated announcement is simply not a credible response to the problem it’s been in denial about for so long, says Leader of the Opposition Andrew Little. “National can’t now credibly claim ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Nats lay the ground for housing bust
    Goldman Sachs’ warning that New Zealand has the developed world’s most over-priced housing market, with a 40 per cent chance of a bust within two years, shows the consequences of National’s nine years of housing neglect, says Labour Housing spokesperson ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Well they would say that, wouldn’t they?
    Property investors’ lobby groups have been up in arms this week about Labour and Green parties’ plans to close tax loopholes and fix the housing market. That’s probably a good thing. Like an investor in any other sector, they expect ...
    GreensBy James Shaw
    2 weeks ago
  • Alfred Ngaro reflects National’s culture of silencing debate
    Image from Getty Images Community groups must be free to advocate for the people they serve. It’s these people who see first-hand if ideas dreamt up in Wellington actually work on the ground. It’s essential that they can speak freely ...
    GreensBy Jan Logie
    2 weeks ago
  • Bill English must reassure community organisations
    The Prime Minister must do more to reassure community organisations after Cabinet Minister Alfred Ngaro's apparent threats to their funding if they criticise government policy which has left a born-to-rule perception amongst many, says Labour Leader Andrew Little. “Alfred Ngaro ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Extremism and its discontents
    Another scar on global democracy appeared recently, this time in Germany.It seems that the number of soldiers on duty with extremist political leanings has become a concern to the military leadership in that country. Soldiers were found openly possessing ...
    GreensBy Kennedy Graham
    2 weeks ago
  • Government’s suicide approach disappoints
    Mike King’s sudden departure from the Government’s suicide prevention panel, amid claims the Government’s approach is ‘deeply flawed’, is further evidence National is failing on mental health, says Labour’s Deputy Leader Jacinda Ardern. “Mental health is reaching crisis point in ...
    2 weeks ago
  • National backs speculators, fails first home buyers
    National is showing its true colours and backing speculators who are driving first home buyers out of the market, says Labour Leader Andrew Little. “By defending a $150m a year hand-out to property speculators, Bill English is turning his back ...
    2 weeks ago
  • More oversight by Children’s Commissioner needed
    More funding and more independence is required for the Children’s Commissioner to function more effectively in the best interests of Kiwi kids in State care, says Labour’s spokesperson for children Jacinda Ardern. ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Labour to end tax breaks for speculators; invest in warm, healthy homes
    Labour will shut down tax breaks for speculators and use the savings to help make 600,000 homes warmer and healthier over the next ten years, says Leader of the Opposition Andrew Little. “It’s time for fresh thinking to tackle the ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Health of young people a priority for Labour
    Labour will ensure all young people have access to a range of health care services on-site at their local secondary school, says Labour’s deputy leader Jacinda Ardern. “Our policy will see School Based Health Services extended to all public secondary ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Ratifying the TPPA makes no sense
    The recent high-fiving between the government and agricultural exporters over ratification of the TPPA (Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement) is empty gesture politics in an election year. Ratification by New Zealand means nothing. New Zealand law changes are not implemented unless the ...
    GreensBy Barry Coates
    3 weeks ago
  • NIWA report proves National’s trickery re swimmable rivers
    National have a slacker standard for swimmable rivers than was the case prior to their recent so-called Clean Water amendment to the National Policy Statement (NPS), says Labour’s Water spokesperson David Parker. “The table 11 on page 25 of the ...
    3 weeks ago
  • MPS shows new approach needed on housing
    The Reserve Bank’s latest Monetary Policy Statement provides further evidence that only a change in government will start to fix the housing crisis, says Labour Finance spokesperson Grant Robertson. “It is more evident than ever that only a Labour-led government ...
    3 weeks ago
  • Fresh approach on mental health
    Labour will introduce a pilot scheme of specialist mental health teams across the country in government to ensure swifter and more effective treatment for those who need urgent help, says Labour’s Leader Andrew Little. “Mental health is in crisis. It ...
    3 weeks ago
  • Sallies back Labour’s plan for affordable homes
    The country’s most respected social agency has endorsed Labour’s KiwiBuild plan to build homes that families can afford to buy, and delivered a withering assessment of the National Government’s housing record, says Labour’s housing spokesperson Phil Twyford. ...
    3 weeks ago
  • Education is for everyone, not just the elite
    Proposals by the National Party to ration access to higher education will once again make it a privilege only available to the elite, Labour’s Education spokesperson Chris Hipkins says. “Speaking at the Education Select Committee, Maurice Williamson let the National ...
    3 weeks ago
  • Cancer support changes far too little, certainly late
    Anne Tolley’s belated backtrack to finally allow Jobseeker clients suffering from cancer to submit only one medical certificate to prove their illness fails to adequately provide temporary support for people too sick to work, says Labour’s Social Development spokesperson Carmel ...
    3 weeks ago