Daily News and Updates 

Throwing a Pie – More than a Simple Act of Protest

The art of creative and humorous nonviolent resistance methods, laughtivism if you will, has been a popular topic for readers all around the world. Pie, and then especially the throwing of the object, could be considered a prototype political provocation, and a powerful punchline when staying on the surface of the act itself. David against Goliath, an “act of punching up”, mostly against a higher status person, showing that, with our face covered in pie, we all look alike, and nobody would dare to claim a superior position with a face full of cream.   An unprecedented piece of journalism by Ben Paynter shows us the history of throwing pie as a form of nonviolent activism.  Although the record of political pie-throwing dates back to at least the mid-1600s, the recipe (of both the pie and the protest-method), have not changed much. Although maybe for one factor. Over time, “each hit became a surreal must-share moment for news agencies,” and pie-throwing “became an early political meme.” Communicating with their followers, but also more neutral audiences, “activists made sure to videotape or take pictures of each delivery, which with the growing reach of the internet were easily passed along to embolden others,” according to Paynter.   But why exactly is throwing pie funny? Paynter claims that it is good to emphasize this for a bit, given the fact that some people involved in the act “felt the pie throwing was theater of such poor quality that it required a violent response.” To explain the humorous nature of pie, we can use something called the Benign Violation Theory, and was developed by Peter McGraw, marketing and psychology professor at the Humor Research Lab at the University of Colorado Boulder. According to McGraw, “for something to be funny in the eyes of the audience, the situation needs... read more

Zimbabwe’s Unity of Purpose (in Protest-Signs)

Photo: Protesters demanding President Robert Mugabe stands down march towards State House in Harare. The fact that Mugabe has to go seems to represent most Zimbabweans. But what will happen after the 93-year old is put aside? Photograph: AP (via Independent.co.uk) This weekend, Zimbabweans all over the country took to the streets. On Saturday, tens of thousands of protesters came out to demand an end to Mugabe’s rule, but seemingly also to simply celebrate that change was finally coming. And change is coming, that is for sure. An official source with direct knowledge of the ongoing negotiations told CNN that Zimbabwe’s long-time president has agreed to the terms of his resignation and a letter has been drafted. According to the source, the aim of Sunday’s televised speech, in which Mugabe amazed and infuriated the country by apparently resisting calls to step aside, was to ensure the veteran leader openly declared the military’s actions to be constitutional. Despite the disappointing speech, the end of the Mugabe era is only a matter of time.   Saturday’s protests were described to represent an unprecedented diversity within Zimbabwean society. From war-veterans to displaced white farmers, from ZANU-PF supporters to social-movement leaders, protesters seem to agree on this one point: Mugabe has to go! However, when Mugabe goes, several different scenarios could develop. In very simple terms, the spectrum goes from continued ZANU-PF autocracy under a different leader on the one side, to a transitional coalition authority leading the country into free and fair elections on the other (most positive) side. Considering this spectrum of possibilities, it should be doubted if every Zimbabwean who found him- or herself in the streets on Saturday would still be so united as to the future of Zimbabwe.     Unity of Purpose  If we look at the role nonviolent strategy could play in the... read more

Zimbabwe Coup November 2017 – Developments and Analysis

Seeing the recent developments in Zimbabwe, with an alleged coup on Tuesday/Wednesday as the peak so far, we are in dire need of some background and perspective. Below you will find a small analysis on the most recent developments in the country. Splits in the ruling party over succession As Robert Gabriel Mugabe does not have the eternal life, the battle for his succession has started within ruling party ZANU-PF. However, the current president has set out to rule Zimbabwe unchallenged for the rest of his life. His favored technique for guaranteeing his dominance is to build up potential successors only to destroy them, when coming to close to power. The succession struggle has not started only last week, but dates back to the 2014 purge of former vice-president Joice Mujuru and eight cabinet ministers. Mujuru was said to become a too powerful force within the party. She was then accused variously of corruption, theft and even plotting to kill Mr Mugabe, and therefore she and her followers had to go. Mujure was replaced by Emmerson Mnangagwa. Then, a bitter struggle between two factions within the ruling party began, which continued relatively silently until last week. On the one hand, there is the so called ‘G-40’-faction. This faction is supposed to represent the younger generation within ZANU-PF, and is allegedly led by Education Minister Jonathan Moyo and Zanu-PF political commissar Saviour Kasukuwere. The faction’s main point of existence seems to be to fight against Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa succession as party leader. As an alternative, G-40 seems to support Mugabe’s wife Grace, who is more and more profiling herself as the main... read more

Peace Science Digest focuses on Nonviolent Resistance

Peace Science Digest is a project by the War Prevention Initiative and on a bi-monthly basis, covers selected research and findings in the field of Peace Science (Peace and Conflict Studies), seeking to “enhance awareness of scholarship addressing the key issues of our time by making available an organized, condensed, and comprehensible summary of this important research as a resource for the practical application of the field’s current academic knowledge.” It is Peace Science Digest’s goal to create “a mutually beneficial link between the field’s academic community and its practitioners, the media, activists, public policy-makers” and others. The War Prevention Initiative envisions “a world beyond war by 2030 and humanity united by a global system of peace with justice”, while its mission “is to advance the Global Peace System by supporting, developing and collaborating with peacebuilding efforts in all sectors of society.” In its June 2017 Special Issue, Peace Science Digest focused on the topic of Nonviolent Resistance, covering publications on the following five topics: “Adding Humor to the Nonviolent ‘Toolbox’” “Diversity, Identity, and Privilege Among Multinational Activists in Palestinian Civil Resistance” “Creating a Broad-Based Movement for Black Lives” “Indigenous Civil Resistance and Treaty Rights” “Nonviolent Resistance and Government Repression“ In these articles, Peace Science Digest compiles and discusses the main findings of other authors’ publications, also addressing the respective topic’s contemporary relevance and practical implications. Moreover, the publication points towards further useful sources concerning the issues. And not only the Special Issue of Peace Science Digest comprises topics relevant for nonviolent struggle. If you are interested, take a look at other articles the Peace Science Digest has published,... read more

Animal rights protest in London – what to learn from animal rights activism

Photo: PETA protest outside the London store earlier last week (PETA, via standard.co.uk)   Last Saturday, crowds of animal rights activists gathered outside a high-end clothing store in central London to protest their alleged mistreatment of coyotes and geese used to make their products. Canada Goose opened a new store in a popular shopping area in England’s capital, causing animal rights activists to go demonstrate. The fashion brand had received global criticism, as Coyotes are caught for their fur in the wild in steel traps and then shot or bludgeoned to death, according to animal rights group PETA. The rights group also claims that the geese used for downs are mistreated in the making. Canada Goose previously responded to the allegations by stating that “’Surge, PETA and other activist groups misrepresent the facts and use sensational tactics to try to illicit a reaction and mislead consumers… They ignore the strict government regulation and standards that are in place, as well as our commitment to ethical sourcing practices and responsible use of fur and down’”, wrote the EveningStandard. During the nine-hour protest, demonstrators held up signs reading “fur is murder” or recited chants like “fur trade, torture trade”, among other things. Earlier in September, several thousand activists protested during a march in London to end animal cruelty, as did others in various cities worldwide. Reports even claimed that some 30,000 activists had come to the streets in Tel Aviv which marked the largest animal rights march in Israel’s history. PETA reported on its President Ingrid Newkirk highlighting “the point that powerful marches like this one lead to impactful change” and... read more

Evacuate Manus now! – Australian activists stage multiple protests over conditions in Refugee-detention center

Photograph: Workers prepare to tow the protesters’ car from the tracks at Ascot Vale. Photo: Jason South/ The Age.com Evacuate Manus now! This week, several protests were stage throughout Australia, by social groups who condemn the inhumane treatment of refugees at Manus Island. On Tuesday, WACA-activists climbed to the top of the Sydney Opera House to protest against the treatment of refugees on Manus. Also on Tuesday, surrounding the world famous annual Melbourne Cup horse races, protesters climbed a crane at and unfurled a banner above the racecourse calling for Manus Island refugees to be evacuated. Several hours earlier, a different group of protesters drove a Ford Laser onto the train-tracks at Ascot Vale, deflated the car’s tires and bolted a woman to the steering wheel. When police arrived at the scene about 20 protesters fled, leaving the woman in the car to be extracted by firefighters. The car was removed but passengers heading for the races were delayed for up to an hour, according to The Guardian.   Protesters did not target the Melbourne Cup-event without a reason. “We are really appalled at the situation on Manus Island and we think it’s really inappropriate for people to be celebrating when there are individuals with no water and no security,” one activist said. Charlotte Lynch from the Whistleblowers, Activists and Citizens Alliance (WACA), a grassroots community that mobilizes for change from the local to the global level, said the organization will be escalating their actions and civil disobedience throughout the week “and if takes breaking the law to get these men off Manus we’ll do it.”  The Manus- struggle revolves around a refugee detention center on Manus Island, in northern Papua New Guinea. Annually, thousands of people attempt to reach Australia on boats from Indonesia, looking for a better... read more

South-Koreans are protesting against Donald Trump ‘War Mongering’ – and in support of it

Photograph: South Korean antiwar protesters at a rally for peace in Seoul, South Korea, November 7, 2017. (Sipa via AP Images) Less than a year ago, South-Koreans stood united in their call for the impeachment of their leader Park Geun-hye. Several weeks of massive protests against Park and the political scandal she was involved in led to the resignation of the former President. With new President Moon Jae-in pursuing a more liberal course, South-Koreans are mobilizing again, and this time Donald Trump is their target.  The American President, on a 12-day Asia tour, landed in South-Korea on Monday, while a coalition of antiwar, trade-union, and civil-society groups organized a “No Trump, No War National Rally”. On Saturday, days ahead of President Trump’s visit, hundreds of South Koreans took over their capital in protest. Just a few days later on Tuesday, thousands of Koreans flooded the streets in eight Korean cities to tell the militaristic president to go home. The core of their message is that, while South Korea is not seeking a conflict, Trump’s outspoken and sometimes aggressive tone does the situation on the Korean peninsula more bad than good! “He could be welcomed here, if he was the messenger of peace,” one activist told CNN. “But he is the messenger of war […], and he is not afraid of war again in this world.”  Activists also protest a hidden agenda they seem to see underlying Trump’s tough stance against the North-Korean regime. According to ABC-news, demonstrators accused the outspoken president of not only raising tensions with North Korea but also “pressuring Seoul to buy more U.S. weapons. They also criticized him for pressing Seoul to re-do a bilateral free trade deal between the countries so that it’s more favorable to the United States.”    However, not all South-Koreans stand united... read more

Bonn Protests at COP23 – How do mass-protests cause change?

Photograph: People march during a demonstration under the banner “Protect the climate – stop coal” two days before the start of the COP 23 UN Climate Change Conference hosted by Fiji but held in Bonn, Germany November 4, 2017. REUTERS/Wolfgang Rattay A smartphone without an operating system. Or a brand-new car without the road-network to drive it on. The 2015 landmark Paris agreement at COP21 delivered the first truly global deal to tackle climate change, but national action needs to be significantly toughened to meet the goal of keeping global temperature rise on the low. That is why half of the world moves to Bonn this week. Where the Paris agreement set out principles, the 23rd annual ‘conference of the parties’ (COP23) under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) is looking to build structures and rules that will enable the Paris deal to work.  With all the world-leaders and influencers in the field of climate in one place, Bonn seems to be the place where everybody wants to show their stance. As the COP23 Climate Summit has started on Monday, several activist groups and protesters have tried to make their mark. Over the weekend, thousands of people had gathered in Bonn ahead of Summit, calling for the measures set out in the accord to be implemented faster. For Germany specifically, this means a move away from coal to renewable resources. More protests were staged in the nearby town of Kerpen on Sunday.   Early July, we have seen similar forms occurring, with mass protests surrounding the G20-Summit in Hamburg. In most recent years the G20 has caused mass protest in the host-city. And also the 2015 Paris based COP21 saw thousands defy a protest ban to call for climate action. Where the nature and goals of these protests differed from those in Bonn (as... read more

“Dictators aren’t known for their sense of humor” – Cartoonist arrested in Equatorial Guinea

When Equatoguinean cartoonist Ramón Nsé Esono Ebalé returned to his home country this September to renew his passport, he was arrested. Since then, he has been kept in detention in a notorious prison in the capital Malabo, and Equatoguinean authorities might be preparing a criminal defamation case against Esono. Public Radio International (PRI) writes: “Moore Gerety [see below] says Esono is not likely to see a courtroom. It’s a political case.“ Human Rights Watch reports that it had documented an increase of incidents “in which the government has retaliated against artists and cultural groups”, and that art has been used for independent voices to provoke public debate on social issues in Equatorial Guinea where political dissent is met with little tolerance. “Dictators aren’t known for their sense of humor. At least when the jokes are about them” commented PRI. This reminds us of the power of humor in nonviolent struggle. What initially brought us to the cartoons of Ramón Nsé Esono Ebalé alias “Jamón y Queso” (Ham and Cheese), was this in-depth article about Esono’s work in criticism of (political) life in Equatorial Guinea and especially its longstanding President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo. In his article “Comics without Captions: Can a cartoonist help unseat a dictator?”, Rowan Moore Gerety recounts how Esono came to draw cartoons, how he started his “career” when such was not really possible from within Equatorial Guinea, and what the cartoonist had to tell about his work. But Gerety also includes accounts from other African countries, such as Nigeria or the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which he describes as “the closest thing there is... read more

“Cows are more important than a woman’s life” – cow mask photo protest in India

Earlier this year, the photographer Sujatro Ghosh started a photo project on Instagram, receiving widespread (social) media attention for addressing the status of women in India. In a contribution for “The 51% – A show about women reshaping our world”, France24 talked to him about his photo project. Sujatro took pictures of women from different parts of society, sometimes posing in front of known monuments, other times simply in everyday situations – always wearing cow masks! Sujatro Ghosh stated that for him, this photo project was a silent form of protest and that he wanted to raise awareness for the issue. On his pictures on Instagram he writes: “In my country Cows are more important than a woman’s life with more security”. Sujatro refers to the current social and political situation in India. An ongoing debate addresses the status of cows in India, where a lot of Hindus worship the animals while Muslims would eat their meat. Following the photographer’s statement, sexual assault and abuse of women on the other hand, are a severe problem, but should receive more attention. Though a rape is reported every 15 minutes (according to France24), waiting times for convictions are long and conviction rates remain low. The photographer has not only received praise, but people have also sent him threats. Sujatro recognizes that such a deep-rooted problem “cannot change overnight” and points out that implementation of existing laws is difficult. But through his photos, he hopes to make people think about the issue and eventually contribute to change in India, in this generation or the next. For more information and pictures, watch the... read more

Using Gandhi’s philosophy of Satyagraha – Land acquisition protest in India

On Tuesday, hundreds of farmers who had been protesting in Nindar village in Rajasthan, Northwestern India, ended their monthlong strike. What was special, was their unusual form of protest which they called zameen samandhi satyagraha, which translates to Burial Satyagraha* (for more information see below). At the occasion of Gandhi’s birthday on October 2, men and women buried themselves until their waist or neck, going on a hunger strike. They did so in protest against acquisition of their land for a housing project, refusing to accept the proposed compensation. Different claims estimated the number of families who would be affected, leaving them homeless, between 1000 and 5000 (see Al Jazeerah). Since 2010, the Rajasthan government has involved itself in the process of acquiring an area of about 540 acres of land (according to Vice), a majority of which is privately owned. A group called Neendar Bachao Yuava Kisan Sangharsh (NBYKS) led the protest to gain the government’s attention and initiate talks addressing a proposal of a new land survey. Besides claims of inadequate compensation, they accused the former survey of falsely marking the land. A state official, on the other hand, declared “that people with ‘vested interests’ were behind the agitation” and “accused protest leaders of playing politics over the issue of development”, reported Al Jazeerah. After about a month of deadlock, the protest ended when representatives from NBYKS and the Rajasthan government met on Tuesday. The government assured in written to conduct a new survey, while the village agreed to give part of the land for construction to start, awaiting the survey to re-evaluate the rest of the area, wrote The... read more

Activists blocking Tower Bridge – successful disruption or missing their point?

Yesterday, a group of activists blocked the road crossing Tower Bridge, halting traffic in England’s capital to protest air pollution. The blockade on Monday was only the first of several to come this week by “Stop Killing Londoners”. An interview showed people in London agreeing with the importance of the issue and supported the agenda of the group. “Stop Killing Londoners” certainly caught attention and caused disruption in the form of traffic jam in London. However, some have criticized the group for missing its point. Critics pointed out that causing traffic to stand still, the group might have caused even more pollution. Whether one agrees or not, this supports one important lesson to remember when planning nonviolent action, which is to be clear about your message and “evaluate how the methods you are considering relate to the goals of your overall movement or your campaign” (CANVAS Core Curriculum, p. 76). Read more about the blockade and some reactions here, and here. Photo: Stop Killing Londoners, via... read more