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Are peaceful protests more effective than violent protests?

Nonviolent resistance is the practice of achieving goals such as social change through symbolic protests, civil disobedience, economic or political non-cooperation, or other methods while being non-violent. Non-violence is a core principle of Greenpeace and at the heart of all activities. Non-violent direct actions have proved essential to the success of campaigns in exposing environmental crimes, confronting unjust activities, and stopping environmental destruction. Courageous, inspiring people have engaged in peaceful protest, at the risk of repercussions, to stand for their own cause. It remains effective in shining a light on injustice, in raising awareness and in mobilising others to speak up with a collective voice.


A recent example of unrest erupts across the world after the killing of a Black man, George Floyd, by a white police officer, even some peaceful protests have descended into chaos, calling into question the efficacy of violence when it comes to spurring social change. According to Gordana Rabrenovic, an associate professor of Sociology at Northeastern University, violence might be the quickest way to achieve the goals, but in order to sustain victory, one would need to use coercion that keeps people in constant fear of punishment. Even peaceful civil rights movements are violent because it’s violence that motivates people to take action.


The historical record of nonviolent action is full of powerful examples of the power of strikes, boycotts, and other tactics that don’t gather large numbers of people in public places. In South Africa, cultural and academic boycotts against racial apartheid helped lead to the end of the white-minority government. Mahatma Gandhi encouraged Indians to wear homespun cloth instead of imported clothing to help shift India toward economic independence from its colonial ruler. And more recently in Tunisia, in addition to the mass protests that marked the start of the 2011 Arab uprisings, strikes, and boycotts launched by labour and trade unions were key factors in the nonviolent ouster of President Ben Ali.


Gurbani Gandhi