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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.

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