Using violence to promote protests or civil movement doesn’t make sense. When violence is introduced to protests or civil movements, it undermines the issue at hand and invites negative retaliation.
In fact, violence is counterproductive. Inflicting pain or taking part in violent behavior only plays into the hands of the oppressor by bringing negative attention to the cause. Instead of focusing on the issue at hand, violence trumps the message being conveyed. It is up to the protestors to take the moral high ground and be the bigger man in the fight.
According to an article on theconversation.com, Martin Luther King Jr., one of the champions of non-violent movements, is famous for promoting unity through cooperation and peace, not violence.
“Never succumb to the temptation of becoming bitter. As you press on for justice, be sure to move with dignity and discipline, using love as your chief weapon,” King said. “Let no man pull you so low that you hate him. Always avoid violence.”
Violence is easy. The satisfaction that one might receive from inflicting physical pain upon their opponents can be pleasing in the short-term. Causing pain, however, does not produce real change. Protesters must cooperate with opponents and try to change their mindsets. That is the challenging part. Change is slow, but to really establish lasting change, supporters of the cause must be willing to work with their oppressors in a peaceful manner.
Cameron Lippert, a student activist at the University of California Davis, said he believes that even though violence should not be first option to bring change, it should still be an option.
“When marginalized groups try to fight back physically, they are seen as stooping lower somehow for fighting back, so I don’t think morally it is wrong to fighting back with violence. They are doing the same thing that has been done to us,” Lippert said.
Violent campaigns do not translate into success, however. According to a study carried out by Erica Chenoweth, political science professor at the University of Denver, non-violent campaigns had a success rate of 53 percent, while violent campaigns saw an abysmal success rate of 23 percent.
Successful movements have shown that the key is channeling one’s anger into productive methods. Rallying and uniting the marginalized must be the first priority, bringing attention to the cause should be next. The steps that follow can go a number of ways including acts of civil disobedience, large scale protests and boycotts.
Lippert attended the Women’s March on Washington D.C. a day after the inauguration of President Donald J. Trump. According to an article on The Washington Post, the Women’s March protests around the nation were likely the largest single-day demonstration in the history of the United States.
“[The Women’s March] was incredibly powerful. I think that is the prime of example of people moving mass movement of peace to get their message across. Because there was so many people, they literally could not ignore us,” Lippert said.
The Women’s March across the globe was so successful in part because it was non-violent. The message would have been greatly diminished if marchers had used violence.
The success rate of non-violent movements can be attributed to several factors including their appeal to a greater audience. It is much easier to join a movement where the environment is friendly, whereas movements that promote violence typically attract a smaller, more radical percentage of the population.
Non-violent movements like the Civil Rights Movement led by Martin Luther King Jr., the Hispanic labor movement led by Cesar E. Chavez, the Indian independence movement led by Mahatma Gandhi and many others have all shown that non-violent movements are not only effective, but they are the only chance of establishing real change.