12. Skywriting and earth writing

Peace activists pledge resistance against U.S. military intervention in Central America, 1984-1990

In the early 1980s, it was no secret that United States president Ronald Reagan would use any means necessary to end or prevent the influence of Communism and the Soviet Union around the globe.

The two countries had been engaged in a bitter ideological struggle since the end of World War II, and each sought to expand their influence to other, mostly developing nations.

From Central America to Sub-Saharan Africa to the Middle East, the U.S. pursued a foreign policy that made frequent use of military aid—open and clandestine—to countries suspected of either showing or being vulnerable to Soviet influence.

While Reagan was one of the era’s most outspoken and influential anti-Communists, his foreign policy by no means represented an exception to Western, particularly U.S., relations towards the regions like Central America.

Like Reagan, multinational corporations operating in Central America  (many based in the U.S.) viewed the spread of Communism as a threat to their interests; low levels of regulation and taxes on business in developing nations friendly to the United States made for a safe business environment for such corporations. 

Furthermore, U.S. influence, either monetary or physical, had been operating for over a century in the region, well predating the Cold War. In the 1980s, one country—Nicaragua—was feared by peace activists to become the site of the next Cold War battlefield: it began to look more and more like the U.S. would pursue a full-scale invasion to overthrow the country’s leftist Sandinista government, or Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN).

Another concern to peace activists was increasing aid to Contra fighters, an umbrella term for any number of organizations carrying out guerrilla warfare against the FSLN operating in and around Nicaragua; they were notorious for human rights violations and attacks on civilians.

In 1980 and ’81, the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) attempted to unite the disparate groups so that it could more effectively administer aid. In January of 1982, the Reagan administration secretly granted the CIA $19 million in military aid to recruit and train Contras.

This would be one of the first in a series of supports the administration would give to the Contras in exchange for their opposition to the FSLN. Aside from flagrant human rights abuses, Contra activity and U.S. support for it was seen by many activists as a sign of things to come; if they could not curb the FSLN to U.S. and industry’s liking, a U.S. invasion would be all the more likely.

At the 1983 annual meeting of the New Abolitionist Covenant, an amalgamation of Christian peace activists, the group decided to take action against ever-escalating U.S. military involvement in Latin America, a policy which had dramatically increased since the Reagan administration took office in 1981. 7,000 U.S. troops had invaded the island of Grenada in order to overthrow Maurice Bishop’s leftist government.

The Covenant’s 53 members feared that this “intervention,” along with the administration’s increasingly hawkish rhetoric, would result in a massive U.S. offensive.

In response, Covenant members Jim Wallis and Jim Rice drafted “A Promise of Resistance,” in which they vowed as Christians to physically obstruct any U.S. invasion of the country.

The letter, published in Sojourners magazine (of which Wallis was an editor), also called upon Christians throughout the country, in case of invasion, to nonviolently occupy congressional offices until the Congress moved to end the invasion.

The magazine sent a copy of the letter to all Congress-people, the Departments of State and Defense, the CIA, and to President Reagan, and each Covenant member presented it personally to the peace group they worked with at home.

After receiving support and input from a number of peace organizations, the Covenant published in Sojourner’s August issue an edited document called the “Pledge of Resistance,” which placed less emphasis on traveling to Nicaragua to nonviolently prevent a U.S. invasion.

It also gave readers contact information for seven regional Witness for Peace chapters that volunteered to serve as regional coordinators for the circulation and implementation of the Pledge.

After reading the letter, Berkeley graduate student Ken Butigan, with the support of David Hartsough of the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) began again reworking the document to reach a larger, perhaps less faith based community, as well as to refocus efforts on action in the United States.

He then gathered the support of groups working on a wide variety of issues, including feminists and anti-nuclear activists, to create a coalition committed to the ideals outlined in the document and to taking action in support of them.

In October of 1984, Butigan and allies rallied for the first public signing of the document in front of the San Francisco Federal Building. The event included 700 people signing the Pledge, with many giving testimonies of their reasoning to the crowd.

A number of participants cited religious reasons. Later that month, Sojourners hosted a meeting for peace and justice groups to discuss the Pledge’s implementation.

Citing the San Francisco action, Butigan, speaking on behalf of the AFSC and its allies, called for a highly public, organized and decentralized model of organization, as well as an option for Pledge signers to wage legal protest in addition to civil disobedience.

Coming out of this meeting, the number of regional coordinating offices was expanded from 7 to 10, and Butigan published Basta! No Mandate for War, an instructional pamphlet for local Pledge chapters incorporating new ideological and logistical details for the campaign.

Local activists began to organize more Pledge groups across the country. They sponsored nonviolent direct action trainings, collected signatures, and organized affinity groups.

By the end of 1984, less than 3 months after the San Francisco action, organizers nationwide had collected 42,352 signatures, with half of signers pledging civil disobedience.

College campuses as well as such organizations as the National Lawyers Guild and the Jewish Peace Fellowship continued to publicly endorse the document, and Sojourners sent copies of the collected signatures to the State Department.

The San Francisco Pledge chapter began to enact “peace maneuvers” outside of the city’s Federal Building, a guerrilla theater performance pre-enacting the response of Pledge signers to a possible U.S. invasion in Nicaragua.

Pressure mounted on the U.S. government. The U.S. Congress refused President Reagan’s request for $14 million in aid to right wing Contra fighters, partly because they were known to perform illegal executions (often involving civilians). 

The Reagan administration then imposed an economic embargo on the Nicaragua. In retaliation, Pledge groups across the country planned and executed acts of civil disobedience across 80 cities in 16 states, with over 10,000 demonstrators and 2,000 arrestees.

In June of 1985, the Congress approved $27 million in aid to Contra fighters. In response, the national Pledge leadership expanded its focus from direct U.S. intervention to aid to Contra warfare and carried out massive demonstrations in 42 states, with 1,200 arrested for acts of civil disobedience.

By September, 80,000 people had signed the Pledge and agreed to resist U.S. funding of extra-judicial killings in all of Central America. While Pledge leadership had a clearly defined focus on Nicaragua, the Pledge itself provided something of an umbrella for civil disobedience actions by peace groups and individuals concerned with the larger Central American region.

Many took up action around El Salvador and Guatemala, two more countries negatively impacted by U.S. aid. For instance, the allied group Witness for Peace acted mostly around Nicaragua, but other allies such as CISPES focused almost exclusively on issues in El Salvador even as Pledge leaders redefined goals in relation to Nicaragua.

The wide reach of the Pledge manifested itself not only in issues, but also in tactics, with a number of groups carrying out autonomous actions separate from national leadership. Sources on the Pledge are often unclear as to which actions were which, though all were undertaken in solidarity with and fulfillment of the original Pledge.

All furthered the larger goal of a peaceful Central America, and served to fit Nicaragua—the Pledge leaders’ focus—within that narrative. Throughout 1986 regional chapters led both a massive expansion in Pledge involvement and an escalation of tactics. Activists occupied congressional offices, blocked gates to facilities training Contra fighters and blocked highways and airplane runways, through marches and sit-ins.

Pledge signers showed up en mass to candidates’ campaign appearances in order to bring Contra aid to the attention of potential voters. Around Christmastime, activists also flooded shopping malls to drop banners and sing politicized holiday carols.

In February 1987, U.S. National Guard troops were deployed to Honduras, just north of Nicaragua. Pledge activists staged vigils outside of Congressional offices and mass-mailed legislators’ mailboxes with letters of protest.

An “April Mobilization” brought together activists fighting both U.S. support for Contra fighters and apartheid South Africa; 567 were arrested at the CIA headquarters in Washington, D.C.

Next came a “Summer of Resistance” where protesters blockaded roads and railways to military bases. The Reagan administration, now restricted by Congress from fully supporting the Contras fighting the Nicaraguan government, found a way to evade Congressional decision – to send aid to the Contras by way of Iran. 

When Congress found out about this move – probably illegal and unconstitutional – Congress convened lengthy hearings about the matter. A group of peace-minded U.S. Armed Forces veterans held a three-month vigil outside the Congressional hearings.

In August, the same group of military veterans embarked on a forty-day hunger strike where they blockaded train tracks near Concord, California. During the blockade, one veteran, Brian Wilson, was amputated by an oncoming train. 

Wilson’s injury increased participation in the blockade campaign, drawing the support of Pentagon whistle-blower Daniel Ellsberg and folk singer Joan Baez among other celebrities.

On a rotating basis, an energized group of roughly 1,000 protesters in a human blockade succeeded in blocking arms shipments to the Concord base for over two years.

Because the campaigners across the U.S. stepped up their activity in 1987, 1,200 were arrested in acts of civil disobedience. In February and March of 1988, activists involved in the Pledge’s “Days of Decision” helped to successfully block the passage of two White House proposals for aid to Contra-fighters.

The Reagan administration then sent an additional 3200 troops to Honduras. In the following months, because the campaigners saw increasing U.S. military presence in Honduras as a prelude to a Nicaraguan intervention, 900 activists were arrested in 150 cities throughout the country with 30 military bases targeted with nonviolent direct action for their support of ongoing armed conflicts in Central America.

That October 1988, 500 demonstrators took on the Pentagon itself, blocking entrances, occupying the building’s heliport and planting 500 crosses on the lawn to represent those killed by U.S. support for and instigation of the conflicts.

The U.S. increased its funding to the military of the right wing government of El Salvador; in response, 1,452 people committed civil disobedience and were arrested in November and December.

President Reagan’s eight-year presidency ended in 1988. Reagan had not succeeded in overthrowing the Nicaraguan government by means of the Contra military action, nor had he launched a direct U.S. invasion. 

In 1989 the number of active Pledge chapters dwindled.  The movement continued, however, because U.S. military support for right-wing governments in other countries in Central America remained active under Reagan’s successor.

Expecting this would be the case, Pledge chapters organized a wave of actions around the January 1989 inauguration of Reagan’s successor and former vice president, George H.W. Bush.

The month of May saw banner drops at national monuments in Washington D.C. and cultural attractions in other large cities. Finally, in March of 1990, demonstrators commemorated the tenth anniversary of Oscar Romero’s assassination by U.S.-backed forces with a 15,000 person-strong march on the capital in which 580 protestors were arrested.

While U.S. aid continued to right wing military forces in Central America, the Pledge of Resistance was one of many campaigns in the U.S. Central American peace movement that succeeded in making such support a national issue, and an invasion of Nicaragua, or the overthrow of the Nicaraguan government by Contra forces, a political impossibility for the Reagan and Bush administrations.

From the Global Non-Violent Action Database.

Colombian women use sex strike to demand gangster disarmament (Huelga de Piernas Cruzadas), 2006: Non-violent tactic #11 Records, Radio, and Television

  • radio stations played rap song conveying the demands of the strike

In early September 2006, a group of Colombian women, the partners of local gangsters, declared a sex strike.  Their demand was that gang members turn in their weapons to the municipal government and agree to begin a vocational training program. 

The strike began during a meeting in which twenty-five women from different neighborhoods came together to oppose the violence of their partners or spouses. 

Said Julio Cesar Gomez, the security official in the city of Pereira’s local government, “this is about changing the cultural parameters: Some women thought that men wearing fatigues and holding guns looked more attractive, and most men are members of gangs not because of financial necessity but because killing is associated with power and sexual seduction.” 

The striking women, partners of pandilleros and pistoleros (gangsters and gunmen) worked in collaboration with Gomez and the municipal government. 

Pereira was considered one of Colombia’s most dangerous cities; in 2005, there were 488 homicides in the city, along with a per capita rate of 97 murders per 100,000 residents, twice the national average. 

Pereira is a small city, with only around 300,000 residents. “We want them to know that violence is not sexy,” said Jennifer Bayer, 18, the girlfriend of a gang member.

She and at least two-dozen other women (some reports say up to 100 women participated) promised to continue the sex strike until their demands were met. 

They benefitted from much public support – one month earlier, on 18 August, 140,000 people had voted in favor of disarming the civilians – which also extended to air time on the radio.

On September 11, the women released a rap song that was widely played on radio stations all over the city, with the chorus, “Como mujer, mucho valemos / que no nos deslumbre, un hombre violento / porque con ellos, mucho perdemos. / Yo elijo cómo, dónde, cuándo me entrego. / Todas unidas lo lograremos / contra los violentos, las piernas cerremos. / Paro sexual, / paro sexual”

(“as women, we have much worth / a violent man will not dazzle us / because with them, we all lose. / I will chose how, where, when I surrender. / All together, we will win / against the violent ones, with our legs crossed. / Stop sex work, / stop sex work!”)

While none of the news articles mention an end date for the strike, the results were very clear.  The Guardian reports, by “2010 the city’s murder rate saw the steepest decline in Colombia, down by 26.5%.” 

Columnists attribute this rapid decline to the action of these women years earlier.

Non-violent Tactic #10 Newspapers and journals; Mongolians win multi-party democracy, 1989-1990

In 1921 the Mongolian People’s Revolutionary Party (MPRP) came to power and soon aligned the country with the USSR. Until this democracy campaign in 1989, the MPRP ruled Mongolia through a constitutionally-sanctioned single-party government.

By the mid-1980’s, pro-reform sentiments and movements were spreading in Eastern Europe, especially at the universities. However, Mongolians remained isolated from all of this except for the few students who could afford to study abroad in Eastern Europe.

Although Jambyn Batmunkh, who came to power following a 1984 coup, enacted very limited reforms and a large part of the party had become more sympathetic to reforms, no significant reforms had been made.

Nonetheless, by 1989, students had begun organizing underground meetings and secretly putting up posters that protested the ruling party’s monopoly on power.

On December 10, 1989—by no accident concurrent with International Human Rights Day—the opposition group that would soon become the Mongolian Democratic Union (MDU) held its first open demonstration in Sukhbaatar Square with 200 people in attendance.

Although opposition groups had held clandestine meetings for the past few years, and had posted placards calling for democracy around Ulan Bator, they had never done so openly, let alone in the same square that housed the Khural—or parliament—and where the MPRP held their many pro-regime rallies and celebrations.

The demands at this initial rally were small compared to what they would become, with demonstrators holding signs calling for openness, the honoring of human rights, and freedom of the press.

The speeches of opposition that day were also accompanied by music from the rock group Khonkh. After the December 10 demonstration the campaigners officially formed the MDU and began to hold meetings, drawing more and more supporters every day.

Meanwhile the MPRP Politburo was already showing initial signs of reform by expressing their support of openness and restructuring, although they did not officially instate these policies.

On December 17, the MDU held another rally at Sukhbaatar Square, this time attended by 2,000 people, ten times the number at the first demonstration.

Having developed greater support and better organization, the group presented the Politburo with a petition of specific goals. In particular, they called for free, multi-party elections and a market economy to replace the failed, centrally planned economy.

They continued their demands for basic human rights, openness, and freedom of the press. As the MDU held regular demonstrations in Sukhbaatar Square throughout December, the support for the movement continued to grow and to incorporate a membership that was more representative of the Mongolian population.

MDU representatives recruited mineworkers in the city of Erdenet, who were spurred by their disdain for the Soviet control of the mine. This same anti-Soviet inclination was beginning to emerge in the movement as a whole.

On January 14, the MDU held a meeting of 1,000 people in the Lenin Museum in Ulan Bator. This was part of a series of meetings for open discussion that expressed the possibility of true democracy in Mongolian society.

Later in the month, continuing to weaken the MPRP’s hold on the population, the MDU gained the support of the Mongolian Journalists’ Union—which was then renamed the Mongolian Democratic Journalists’ Union—representing a possible shift towards free press.

On January 21, which was a day normally celebrated by communist governments to commemorate Lenin, the MDU’s new coordinating committee organized another huge rally.

Thousands of supporters joined this rally, celebrating Mongolian nationalism and culture instead of the communist hero. Rather than singing the MPRP songs that normally resounded in Sukhbaatar Square, the protesters—which now represented Mongolians from rural areas, small towns, large cities, and all classes—sang traditional Mongolian folk songs honoring the Mongolian conqueror, Genghis Khan.

Throughout January and February the Mongolian Politburo was unable to reach a solution for ending the emergent popular protest. They knew that violent repression would be looked down upon by the USSR, especially after the frenzy around the repression at Tienanmen Square in China.

And yet, every day the MPRP government was losing legitimacy. In mid-February, as an affront to the constitutionally sanctioned single-party rule, leaders of the MDU formed several new political parties, including the Mongolian Democratic Party and the National Progressive Party.

Additionally, the MPRP control of the media was loosening further as opposition journalists began to publish newspapers without governmental approval.  

Protesters, having gained popular approval from Mongolian nationalists, dismantled the statue of Stalin that sat before the Mongolian National Library on February 22.

In another hugely symbolic action, ten MDU members, who were dressed in outlawed traditional clothing, launched a hunger strike in Sukhbaatar Square on March 7, 1990.

The hunger strike was new to Mongolia and was greeted with some curiosity, but paired with the traditional clothing it became a national symbol.

Throughout the day supporters gathered and marched in the square, students stopped schoolwork, and Buddhist monks came to show their support for the hunger strikers.

In towns throughout Mongolia, including Erdenet, workers held short sympathy strikes in conjunction with the actions in central Sukhbaatar Square.

The still divided Politburo attempted to negotiate an end to the hunger strike that day, still hopeful to avoid any violent repression. The hunger strikers, however, claimed that they would not stop until their demands were met.

Support for the strikers and their demands continued to grow throughout the day. With so many people now in support of the democratic movement, the MDU began to lose some control over the crowd.

On the second day of the hunger strike some protesters stole cars and buses and drove throughout Ulan Bator yelling anti-Soviet and anti-MPRP slogans.

In several instances campaigners even used violence and vandalism, despite the leadership’s continued advocacy for nonviolence. Nonetheless, the Politburo continued to refuse the use of forceful repression for fear of its negative effects.

On March 9, confronted by the widespread support for the hunger strikers and the ensuing chaos, the entire Politburo announced its resignation. This allowed the Mongolian parliament to put forth new governmental reforms and new MPRP leadership.

The parliament held meetings with MDU members and representatives from newly formed civil groups throughout the country in the following days, and after several days the parliament also officially ended constitutional support for single-party rule and elected a new Politburo made up of younger, reform-minded members.  

Meanwhile, the MDU continued to hold rallies. Because of their continued actions, when police finally arrested protesters for the first time in early April, the MDU was ready to contest the arrests with a second hunger strike that eventually succeeded in freeing the imprisoned campaigners.

By the end of April the number of people attending rallies had surpassed 40,000, several opposition parties had held their first congresses, and the parliament continued to reform the MPRP government.

Finally, on May 10, 1990, the parliament declared that free, multi-party elections would be held in July. Although the Communist Party did in fact win nearly ¾ of the seats in that election, hardliners were replaced by reformists in the party.

Mongolia’s time as a single-party, Communist dictatorship had come to an end. In 1996 the Communists lost their majority in the government.

From the Global Non-violent Action Database

Nonviolent Tactic #9 Leaflets, pamphlets, and books

This can also include webpages and internet media

Nisqually and Puyallup Native Americans win fishing rights through “fish-ins”, 1964-1970

Native Americans have long had to fight with the American government for recognition of their rights to land and to resources. Fishing rights were, however, one of the few rights Native Americans of Washington State thought they had secured.

In 1853, Native American tribes of the Pacific Northwest were stripped of most of their land and resources and forced onto reservations. Because the Washington State Governor did not want to have to supply food for the Native American tribes, he agreed to include a clause in the land agreement treaties that guaranteed fishing rights to Native Americans on fish runs throughout the State.

There was little dispute over this right over the next hundred years. However, in the 1940s and 50s, fish supplies began to dwindle due to commercial over-fishing.

Despite their guaranteed fishing rights, Native American fishers were restricted to a repeatedly shrinking area of fish runs. Most court cases of that era sided with the government, resulting in the denial of Native American rights.

Those who ignored the new laws were at risk of arrest and confiscation of their fishing materials. As the situation worsened and the livelihood of many Native Americans were put at risk, opposition to the new fishing laws began to form.

Tribe members began organizing themselves to protest the denial of their rights and to re-secure their lawful ability to fish throughout Washington State.

Throughout the early 1960s, Native Americans organized a few unsuccessful protests and marches against the new fishing laws. Many used the courts to fight for their case, but judges almost never ruled in their favor.

On January 24, 1964, one of these many cases resulted in a ruling that temporarily banned Nisqually Indians from engaging in any off-reservations fishing, even on normally unrestricted areas.

This harsh ruling spurred Nisqually Indians to action. Members of the Nisqually and Puyallup tribes formed the Survival of the American Indian Association (SAIA).

The Association formed a partnership with the National Indian Youth Council (NIYC); together, they worked to publicize their cause and win back their rights through civil disobedience.

The campaign’s main form of protest was heavily influenced by the civil rights movement that was occurring in other parts of the United States. Nisqually and Puyallup protesters staged ‘fish-ins’—illegal fishing at Frank’s landing, a settlement in Puget Sound where fishing was restricted.

The group, which was seen as radical, was disavowed by leaders of both the Nisqually and Puyallup tribes. Through the NIYC’s funds, the campaign was able to use the mass media to widely publicize their cause.

February 27, 1964 marked the campaign’s first fish-in. The media, which described the new tactic as a rise of a ‘more sophisticated’ type of Native American protest, began to show some empathy for their cause.

Also, Jack Tanner, a well-known attorney for the NAACP, agreed to defend protesters who were arrested during the campaign. His involvement with the campaign legitimized it by linking it to the civil rights movement.

On March 2, the campaign got its first big publicity boost when actor Marlon Brando and Episcopal Minister John Yaryan were arrested at a fish-in. To maximize exposure of the arrests, campaign leaders woke reporters at 2:00AM to ensure that they would not miss the arrests take place.

Campaign leaders were well aware that the key to their success would be in gaining as much publicity as possible so as to sway public opinion. Gaining the support of a famous actor like Marlon Brando would ensure that media sources would cover the event, and that the general public would take notice.

The next day, 1000 Native Americans, accompanied by Brando, marched to the capital building in Olympia, Washington. The Governor agreed to meet with Brando and several leaders of the campaign, but no settlement was reached.

Over the course of the year, the campaign continued to stage fish-ins and to maintain a high level of publicity. In October of 1965, several tense fish-ins resulted in violent conflicts between police officers and protesters.

Both sides engaged in violence and both sides accused the other of brutality. Despite the violence, support for the campaign continued to grow. In November, the Episcopal Bishop of the Diocese of Olympia voiced his support for the campaign and made a donation to SAIA.

Other churches throughout Washington also made donations and pledges of support. The ACLU agreed to defend protesters charged during the fish-ins, and the American Friends Service Committee also voiced their support.

Dick Gregory, an African-American comedian, traveled to Frank’s Landing to participate in the protests. His arrest at the fish-ins raised publicity once more.

During 1966 and 1967, the campaign continued to stage fish-ins, but protests slowed and publicity dwindled. In September of 1968, leaders of the campaign decided it was time for a big push that would bring the protests back to the public’s attention.

Up until that point, fish-ins had mostly lasted for a single day. Leaders decided to stage a continual five-day fish-in, starting on September 4, 1968. The fish-in group included many non-Natives, such as members of the Washington Peace and Freedom Party, Students for a Democratic Society, and the Socialist Workers’ Party.

Over the next few days, hundreds turned out to witness the arrests of several of the protesters. The fish-in grew in length from five days to several months.

The trials and arrests of protesters created massive publicity, and public opinion seemed finally to be turning. Publicity of the fish-ins remained high as tensions between police and protesters rose and clashes escalated.

The leaders of the Nisqually and Puyallup tribes reversed their position and began supporting the campaign. They set up an armed ‘police force’ around the fish-ins as defense against police presence.

A police raid of the fish-ins in September of 1970 resulted in the most violent clash between protesters and police to date. However, in a huge success for campaigners, all Native Americans who were arrested for interfering with the police were acquitted.

Even more importantly, Attorney Stanley Pitkin, who had witnessed the violent police raid, later filed the court case U.S. v. Washington. This landmark case, which was eventually resolved in 1974, acknowledged the Native Americans’ equal share of the fisheries.

The ruling granted Federal support for the Native Americans in maintaining their fishing rights, and guaranteed Native Americans the right to regulate their own fisheries.

Although the campaign’s success did not follow immediately from the protests, the fish-ins raised public awareness of the issue and caused the eventual court case that ruled in their favor.

The campaigners’ incredible endurance and media savvy brought momentum and attention to the protests and enabled Nisqually and Puyallup tribe members to protect rights guaranteed to them over a century before.

From Global Non-Violent Action Database

Non-Violent Method #8 Banners, posters, and displayed communications

Columbia University students win divestment from apartheid South Africa, United States, 1985

On April 4, 1985, seven students at Columbia University, members of the Coalition for a Free South Africa (CFSA), chained closed the doors to Columbia’s administrative building, Hamilton Hall, and sat on the steps, blockading the entrance.

They were there to protest the University’s investments in corporations that operated in Apartheid South Africa. Soon after, a march coordinated by other members of CFSA passed by Hamilton Hall.

When the marchers saw the small blockade on the steps, they rushed to join in. Within two hours, the seven initial protesters had seen their number grow to more than 250.

The first major successful protest in favor of College divestiture had begun. The problems in South Africa were not new when students at Columbia decided to take action.

Dating as far back as the early 19th century, black Africans in South Africa were oppressed, first by the Dutch and British colonial governments and then by the Afrikaner government that took control of the country after their independence from Britain.

Both officially and unofficially, black South Africans were radically oppressed in a grievous fashion. Though there was always some sentiment in the United States that conscientious Americans should not have been doing business with the racist Afrikaners, the protests at Columbia University were some of the first to bring the issue into the mainstream.

The blockade action was not the first action by CFSA, but rather the frustrated culmination of years of activism by student leaders at Columbia. CFSA was formed in 1982 and since their early days frequently led protests in favor of divestment.

In 1982, CFSA was able to convince the Student Senate, the most powerful student body on campus, to approve a motion to support divestiture. The next year, the more conservative University Senate, composed of students, faculty, and administration, unanimously approved a similar motion.

Unfortunately, neither Senate had any real power over the Columbia endowment. The Trustees, who did, stalled, calling the measures inappropriate.

In a concession to the Trustees, the University Senate put together a committee that would study the issue of divestment more carefully and report back to the Trustees.

The CFSA later discovered that the committee’s only real function was to give the appearance of concern for the divestment issue without ever having to actually act on it.

In the fall of 1984, the CFSA gave up on the official channels, and began to plan more visible protests around campus. They believed that escalation was the only way to win over the Trustees.

The CFSA planned the blockade for nearly two months. A week beforehand, seven leaders began a fast to demonstrate their commitment to the cause. When they met with Columbia administration a few days later to ask what they had to do to win the support of the Trustees, the administration answered “keep on fasting.”

Not only did the CFSA keep on fasting, they escalated their push. They decided to blockade on April 4 to coincide with an already-planned march for that day.

The leaders of the CFSA not only chained the doors to Hamilton Hall but were very careful to leave no opportunity for the University to claim that anyone’s safety was threatened.

There is a large network of tunnels under Hamilton Hall and the CFSA clearly marked an alternate entrance and exit. The blockade drew immediate news attention both for its visibility and the strong campus participation.

The school immediately responded by threatening to expel CFSA leaders and dozens more received disciplinary notices within the next few days. The University continued, despite a restraining order issued by a sympathetic judge preventing police action, to point out the various civil and criminal violations made by the student protesters.

The blockade, however, continued unabated. Leaders made sure that there were many blockaders there at all times so that students were able to leave and return if necessary.

The student grocery store donated food and supplies and an African-American alumni group assisted with publicity. The blockade was the predominant topic of discussion in classes, no matter the subject.

Letters of support came in from around the country and leaders like Jesse Jackson and Desmond Tutu publicly declared their solidarity with the group. Petitions were circulated among the blockaders and CFSA made frequent statements of their goal of divestment and their intention to remain in front of Hamilton Hall until they were successful.

On April 8, the fasters finally earned a meeting with Columbia University President Michael Sovern. Though they ended their fast after a somewhat productive meeting, the blockade continued.

As the legal threats mounted, more and more students were called to participate. They felt that there was no way they should miss out on being a part of such an important movement and no one wanted fellow activists to have to face the authorities alone.

When Jesse Jackson came to speak to the blockade, there were more than 5,000 students in attendance. At the height of the blockade, there were 1,000 students sitting on the steps of Hamilton Hall at all times.

Eventually, though, the crisis atmosphere began to evaporate as it became clear that there was going to be no immediate action on the part of the Trustees.

People less devoted to the movement began to lose interest and the general fatigue of CFSA leadership was beginning to take its toll. The general sense was that the blockade had been tremendously successful, but maybe it was time to try something else.

The blockade ended on April 25 with a march into Harlem to a rally. CFSA threatened continued action if the University did not take the appropriate steps to divest themselves from South Africa.

A panel composed of six Trustees was formed immediately after the end of the blockade to seriously consider divestiture. In late August, the panel returned a result that confirmed the student’s position – that divestiture was not only the moral option, but an economically viable one as well.

Because of the naturally slow work of the Trustees’ system, the recommendation was not considered until a full meeting of all 24 Trustees on October 7.

At that meeting, the Trustees adopted the panel’s recommendation and proceeded to divest the University of the remainder of their investments with South African connections.

From Global Nonviolent Action Database

Non-violent Method #7

British citizens campaign for the abolition of the slave trade, 1787-1807

During the 1700’s, Great Britain was a strong colonial power with extensive land holdings in the West Indies, India, and Africa. A key aspect of this colonial empire was the shipment of slaves from Africa to the sugar plantations in the West Indies.

By the end of the eighteenth century, however, the conditions in Great Britain were favorable to the growth of the abolition movement. First of all, the Enlightenment ideals of freedom, the right to happiness, benevolence, and social reform fueled the debate over the nature of freedom and the nature of man.

To many, slavery did not seem to fit the ideal of the inherent freedom and dignity of man. Additionally, capitalist worldviews were on the rise. Adam Smith, considered the first capitalist theorist, argued that slavery was economically inefficient because a slave’s goal will be to consume as much food as possible, and do as little work as possible.

The most efficient of economies, according to Smith, was one in which people worked for their own personal gain. Finally, Quakerism (the Society of Friends), Evangelical sects of the Anglican Church (such as the Clapham sect), and the Methodist Church were growing and creating networks of British citizens that would eventually be harnessed for the abolition movement.

While there were economic, religious, and cultural conditions that were helpful to the abolition movement, it is important to note that Britain was also a strong colonial power that put great value in its land holdings overseas.

Many considered the slave trade and the sugar plantations in the West Indies to be essential to Britain’s dominance within the European political sphere.

By the 1770’s, much of the educated elite of Britain considered the slave trade morally wrong, but many also argued that Britain’s power would fall without the slave trade.

Additionally, King George III opposed abolition. Throughout the mid to late 1700’s, minority groups such as the Society of Friends (Quakers) started working toward abolition.

Two prominent Quakers, John Woolman and Anthony Benezet, published leaflets against the slave trade, put out a petition in 1783, and started creating extensive local networks of activists to get out their antislavery message.

The Clapham sect of the evangelical movement also started gathering support for the abolition movement, gathering stories of runaway slaves and defending them in newspapers and in the street.

Finally, Methodists also started getting involved and were incredibly effective at creating grassroots networks of the lower middle class. Despite this, it was not until the late 1780’s that dialogue over the issue became prominent in the public sphere.

In 1787, a group called the Abolition Committee (sometimes referred to as the Society for the Abolition of the Slave Trade) arose out of a Quaker group called the Meeting on Suffering.

This new committee was made up of Quakers, as well as prominent evangelical Thomas Clarkson and lawyer Granville Sharp. Sharp had gained prominence in defending a runaway slave named James Somerset and helping him win his freedom.

William Wilberforce, a young member of parliament (and a member of the Clapham sect) also joined the movement, publicly announcing his plans to present an abolition bill.

Hence, the Committee had connections with the Quakers, the Clapham sect, the Methodists, and the political elite like Prime Minister Pitt (Wilberforce’s good friend) and Charles James Fox, a prominent member of the opposition party in parliament.

Thus, the Committee acted in both the political and public sphere to accomplish their goal of the legal prohibition of the British slave trade. Starting in July of 1787, the Committee began setting up local correspondents and committees that could spread their message quickly throughout the country.

At that time, Thomas Clarkson also traveled throughout the country gathering information, witnesses, and documents about the slave trade. They then produced and distributed pamphlets about the atrocities of the slave trade, printed fliers with the picture of a slave kneeling with the words “Am I Not a Man and a Brother?” and held lectures all over the country.

Clarkson would often speak, offering vivid explanations of the terrifying conditions on slave ships and distributing a detailed drawing of a typical slave vessel.

At this time, former slaves Olaudah Equiano and Ottobah Cugoano wrote against the evils of slavery. Equiano’s book “Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, or Gustavus Vass, the African,” became a bestseller.

In 1788, the Manchester Abolition Committee initiated the first mass petition drive of the movement. The goal of the drive was to put pressure on individual members of parliament.

Members of the committee would hold a public meeting to pass the resolution on the petition (this meeting would be announced in newspapers), at which point the petition was circulated to get signatures.

The petitions generally centered on the moral issues at stake such as humanity, religion, and justice rather than economic arguments. Throughout the year, petitions were sent in to parliament, eventually adding up to between 60,000 and 100,000 signatures (the largest petition drive Britain had seen).

Additionally, the diversity of participants in the campaign had never been seen before. Anyone from elite merchants to farmers to intellectuals to sailors to religious leaders signed petitions.

Women were also very involved, making up 68 out of the 302 people on the first official list of subscribers to abolition in Manchester. Additionally, in 1788, women in London held their first “ladies only” abolition meeting.

There was also an “anti-saccharite” action under way in which people boycotted sugar from slave plantations in the West Indies. This action was largely aimed at women and youth because they were not able to participate legally in the petition drives.

This was not officially part of the committee’s initiatives, but certainly complimented their activities. In February of 1788, Prime Minister Pitt also pushed the Privy Council (an advising body to the Prime Minister) to start gathering information about the slave trade to present to parliament when Wilberforce would put forth his bill.

He did so on May 12, 1789. However, despite the petitions and the Privy Council’s evidence, discussion of the bill was delayed for two years because the House of Lords decided they needed to gather their own evidence.

Finally, in April of 1791, the bill was defeated. The London Society of West Indian Planters and Merchants had provided much of the opposition, starting their own counter-petitions in 1789 (though their signatures fell dismally short in number compared to those of the abolitionists) and lobbying the cabinet, House of Lords, and the commons.

After the 1791 defeat, the abolitionists mobilized again and started a second petition drive that was initiated by the London Abolition Committee in 1792. Clarkson went all across the country distributing materials and garnering support.

The committee was careful to distinguish that they were for the abolition of the slave trade, not slavery as a whole (they were not ready to fight that political battle at the time).

This time they gathered signatures, but held off sending the petitions in until they could send them all at once. The petition drive yielded 380,000-400,000 signatures.

News coverage of the abolition debate reached a peak in April of 1792. The House of Commons spent much of the month going over the petitions and ended up voting for gradual abolition.

However, the House of Lords stalled the bill long enough for the political climate to grow increasingly paranoid about sedition. There was both a slave revolt in French Saint Domingue (now Haiti) and the radical Jacobin revolt in France in 1791.

Though public opinion remained in favor of abolition, committees and organizations around abolition were suspected of sedition. The abolition struggle then shifted to be almost exclusively waged within parliament.

By 1804, fears of radicalism had all but disappeared, so in May of 1804, Wilberforce reintroduced the abolition bill, and it was again delayed in the House of Lords.

Clarkson then went on another country-wide tour to garner support and began to mobilize the grassroots networks again. In 1806, Wilberforce presented a partial abolition bill that would bar slave trade with foreign and conquered colonies.

The opposition sent out a petition, but Clarkson called for an emergency petition and gathered 5 times as many names as the opposition. In May of 1806, the Foreign Slave Trade Bill passed.

In early 1807, the committee looked into their support in parliament and decided to try for a bill calling for complete abolition. This time there were no opposing petitions.

In fact, many members of the opposition admitted feeling pressured by the widespread hatred of the slave trade. The bill was passed in 1807 in both houses.

While the committee had achieved its stated goal, it continued to disseminate information due to a backlash from citizens involved in the slave trade (particularly at the docks in Liverpool).

In 1814, the Treaty of Paris allowed for the opening up of the French slave trade with a British sanction. The committee initiated its final petition drive that ended up yielding 1,375,000 signatures (even Liverpool largely contributed).

This pushed Prime Minister Castlereagh to renegotiate that part of the Treaty with France. This was also a testament to the incredible networking, message spreading, and grassroots organizing of the Abolition Committee.

From Global Nonviolent Action Database.

Non-Violent Methods #6 Group or mass petitions…

Costa Rican communities defeat U.S. oil companies to protect local environment, 1999-2002

Famous for its ecological wildlife, tropical rainforests, beaches, mangroves, and coral reefs, the Talamanca region of southeastern Costa Rica is one of the most biologically rich areas in the world.

It has gained protection as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and ecological conservation efforts have helped spur the region’s flourishing eco-tourism industry.

In addition to fishing, coffee, and banana exports, eco-tourism is a major source of income for local communities and indigenous groups, which include the Bribri and Cabecar.

In November 1999, newspaper reports and other local media outlets informed Talamanca residents of a deal that had been brokered between the Costa Rican government and the US oil company MKJ Xplorations.

Hoping to attract foreign investment, government officials including President Miguel Ángel Rodríguez had made concessions to the foreign oil company, allowing it to drill for petroleum in the Talamancan region and along its coasts.

Angered by the fact that their communities had not been consulted in the deal, and foreseeing the ecological devastation and economic exploitation that would result from oil exploration in their region, Talamancan residents formed the Anti-Petroleum Action (ADELA) coalition to protest the concessions.

Comprised of environmentalists, indigenous groups, indigenous rights organizations, religious groups, community groups, farmers’ organizations, fishermen’s unions, small-business owners, marine biologists, and eco-tourism organizations, ADELA sought to repeal the decision of allowing oil companies to drill in their communities.

At a meeting in December 1999, about 250 ADELA members discussed this threat to their local economies and communities and drafted a declaration that opposed the oil concessions and demanded a pause to the deal.

In September 2000, after having received national attention, ADELA was able to pressure the Costa Rican Supreme Court into ruling the oil concessions to be null and void on the grounds that local communities had not been properly consulted.

Just two months later, however, the Supreme Court modified its previous ruling after government officials and MKJ (which was partnered with the Texas-based oil company Harken Energy), appealed the Court’s decision.

The Court allowed for MKJ-Harken to drill offshore where indigenous communities did not reside. Oil company representatives welcomed the ruling, understanding that most of the company’s profits would come from offshore drilling.

In addition to this legal setback, the ADELA coalition faced many difficulties. Oil company representatives attempted to garner local support for the petroleum exploration by speaking at public meetings and promising jobs to poor and unemployed residents.

They also bought up radio time to broadcast their message of ‘beneficial oil exploration’. With the additional support of the Costa Rican government, the oil companies gained an advantageous position.

The ADELA coalition addressed these obstacles by appealing to local, national, and international groups. ADELA members, who were often trusted community leaders, debated with oil company representatives at public meetings and warned their fellow residents of the dangers that were threatening their economic autonomy and natural environment.

Despite being out-funded, ADELA members also broadcasted their opposition to the oil drilling on the radio. They held many demonstrations, waving banners and signs on which they wrote “Say NO to petroleum exploration!”

ADELA’s campaign continued to raise public awareness about the dangers of oil exploration in the Talamanca region, and international support quickly began to pour in.

By January 2001, groups including the Environmental Law Alliance Worldwide (E-LAW) and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) provided ADELA with research, legal resources, financial support, and international publicity.

With their support, anti-petroleum advocates were able to send close to 27,000 emails, faxes, and letters of protest to the oil companies and Costa Rican government.

By February 2002, this continued pressure from local, national, and international groups pushed the national technical secretariat, SETENTA, into prohibiting MKJ-Harken from drilling offshore.

With research provided by ADELA and international groups, the secretariat was able to cite over fifty reasons that showed how the oil exploration would not meet environmental safety regulations.

In addition, newly-elected President Abel Pacheco signed a presidential decree in June 2002 that banned open-pit mining (however, this ban only applied to future, rather than all, mining projects).

Pacheco also supported an ADELA-drafted bill that would repeal the 1994 Hydrocarbons Law that had partitioned Costa Rica into 22 blocks for oil and natural gas exploration by foreign firms.

In response to their denied exploration permit, MKJ-Harken demanded that the Costa Rican government repay the oil company for the money it spent on the exploration.

It went so far as to sue the Costa Rican government for $57 billion in lost projected profits, but the company later withdrew its claim. Foreign oil companies, with the support of their governments and neo-liberal free trade agreements, have continued to pressure the Costa Rican government.

Although these companies have filed various lawsuits, ADELA members continue to defend local ecosystems by using both legal means and grassroots campaign strategies to fight oil development.

From Global Nonviolent Action Database.

Non-Violent Method #5 Declarations of indictment and intention

Hungarians campaign for independence from Austrian Empire, 1859-1867

In the 1840s there were high tensions between Hungary and the Austrian Empire. Hungary, a part of the larger Austrian Empire, was characterized by nationalistic fervor and that feeling erupted in a violent insurgency in 1848.

Franz Josef, the emperor of the Austrian Empire, forcefully put down the rebellion, with assistance from Russian military forces. After the failed rebellion, the repression from the Austrian Empire only increased. 

Executions were commonplace and police spies were everywhere. In addition, the constitution was withdrawn and the county assemblies of Hungary were dissolved.

Although these are all negative responses resulting from the violent rebellion, Austria’s violent repression of the rebellion increased nationalist spirit in Hungary and united the people with independence as a common goal.

Ferencz Deák spent the following years organizing his people through voluntary associations that encouraged nationalism. Throughout Hungary, there were groups promoting the Magyar language and music, as well as self-help in business and agriculture.

In 1859, Josef needed the assistance of Hungarians in fighting Napoleon III. When he saw the uncooperative Hungarian people, he learned that the nationalism he had fought to suppress was still flourishing in Hungary. 

The leadership of the Hungarian military was uncooperative and the troops were unreliable. In order to appease the Hungarian people, Josef restored the county assemblies and made a popular Hungarian general the governor of the country. 

Josef also set up a federal Parliament in Vienna with representation from all the provincial assemblies, including Hungary. While some Hungarians were satisfied with the restoration of their rights and establishment of the Parliament, most remained determined in their dream of Hungarian independence.

Following the reestablishment of the county assemblies, there were demonstrations against Austrian rule in Hungary. In addition, as a sign of protest, the newly reinstated county assemblies refused to vote for the raising of recruits for the army or the collection of taxes.

In February 1861, Josef attempted to establish a bicameral legislature for the entire Austrian Empire, including Hungary. He wanted the Imperial Parliament of Austria to have more power, but Hungary’s own parliament was still given little power. 

Following this announcement, the Hungarian Parliament met and sent a message to the Emperor stating that Hungary would not recognize the right of the Imperial Parliament to legislate Hungarian affairs. 

The Hungarian Parliament argued that they would cooperate with Austria only if the Austrian Empire would recognize the ancient Constitution of Hungary, with the emperor becoming a constitutional monarch.

Following this statement by the Hungarian Parliament, Josef responded by dissolving the Hungarian Parliament. When the leading county assembly protested, Josef dissolved that assembly as well. 

Despite this order by the emperor, the assembly continued to meet until Austrian soldiers entered their meeting chamber and physically carried out the members of the assembly in August of 1861. 

Following the eviction of the assembly members by the Austrian troops, a supporting crowd of Hungarians gathered outside the chambers. The crowd then held a march through the streets, eventually ending up at the home of the chairman of the council who declared “We have been dispersed by tyrannic force—but force shall never overawe us.”

As word of this action spread across Hungary, the notion of Austrian resistance became a nationwide phenomenon. The Hungarians in the bureaucracy refused to transfer their jobs to the Austrians, which left the administration in chaos. 

Ordinary Hungarians who did not have bureaucracy positions refused to pay taxes to the Austrian Empire and also boycotted Austrian goods. As such actions spread throughout the Hungarian population, Deák emphasized the importance of nonviolence and constitutional legality. 

For example, when an Austrian tax collector came to collect money, Hungarians told him that he was acting illegally and continued to refuse to pay.

When the police were called to seize the goods of protesting Hungarians, the Hungarian auctioneers refused to auction the goods. Naturally, Austrian auctioneers were brought in, but the Hungarian people refused to bid.

To combat these actions of protest, Josef imposed martial law and began repressive actions against protesters. He declared the boycott of Austrian goods illegal, and soon boycott organizers were overflowing the prisons in Hungary.

Josef also began stationing Austrian soldiers in Hungarian households in an attempt to destroy the resistance. Unfortunately for Josef, this lowered soldier morale more than it hurt the movement, and resistance continued.

Furthermore, Josef attempted to appease the nationalist movement by granting the boycott organizers in jail amnesty as political prisoners. In response to this, the Hungarians added a new verse criticizing the Austrian Empire to their satirical song, “The Austrian Thieves.”

In the years that followed, the resistance continued. New nationalist literature was written, and the voluntary associations became the informal government of Hungary, with Parliament using the groups to spread news and policies throughout the country. 

This continued even during an economic recession in 1863. On June 6, 1865, Josef visited Pesth, the capital of Hungary. There were only a few Hungarians who displayed flags of the empire because so many others were part of the nationalist movement that opposed the Austrian Empire. 

The governor of Pesth was pro-Austrian and thus encouraged the whole city to fly the Austrian flag. Rather than displaying the flag of the empire, however, Hungarians across the city displayed the green, white, and red official flag of independent Hungary.

What greatly helped the Hungarian nationalist movement was the conflict brewing between Austria and Prussia. In an attempt to satisfy Hungary, Josef reestablished the Hungarian Parliament. 

This was followed by the resumption of the Hungarian Parliament sending demands to Josef for the restoration of the constitution and county assemblies.

Josef, pressured by the full-scale war he was waging with Prussia, attempted to gain Hungarian support in the war by promising autonomy. The Hungarians remained opposed to assisting Austria in the war, even after Josef mandated the conscription of Hungarian people for service against the Prussians.

He eventually gave up in his efforts to gain support from the Hungarian people. On June 8, 1867, Franz Josef was named the King of Hungary after he agreed to rule as a constitutional monarch with the restored authority of the Hungarian Parliament over Hungarian affairs. 

When Ferencz Deák was offered the position of Hungarian Prime Minister, he refused because he wished to continue to serve his country in a quieter lifestyle.

Non-violent method #4 Signed public statements

The Peaceful Revolution

In 1988, the German Democratic Republic (GDR) had been under Soviet rule for more than 40 years, and the Berlin Wall had stood erect for nearly 30. Strict Socialist rule meant extreme limits on speech and action. 

Travel outside the country was prohibited, and many East German citizens were separated from family and friends living in West Germany. Dissenters to the government of the GDR and Soviet rule led small protests throughout the years of Soviet rule, though in great fear of punishment from the Stasi, the secret police of the GDR. 

A new wave of protests began on January 17, 1988, when an annual memorial march for two Marxist revolutionaries in Berlin turned into a full-scale demonstration for human rights and democracy.

The march, an annual observance held by unknown citizens, transformed into a demonstration after a few protesters joined the march, chanting slogans, and others were moved to join. 

By October there were 320,000 people demonstrating in Leipzig alone, and groups of citizens held protests at churches across the country. Resistance groups published “Initiative ‘89,” a pamphlet/petition outlining their vision for a unified German democracy. 

On November 9, the East German government announced the opening of the border, allowing free travel in and out of the state. In the following days, citizens took sledgehammers to the Berlin Wall, and it was removed over the following months. 

After the barrier between East and West Germany was removed, East German political officials resigned in mass protest of the Socialist government, and as part of the mass movement towards democracy.

In March of 1990, the first multi-party, democratic elections were held, and the demonstrations ceased, their goal fully accomplished.

Non-violent methods 003. Declarations by Organizations and Institutions

Haitians overthrow a dictator

The Haitian President, Elie Lescot had been granted the powers of a dictator by his congress and was backed by the United States. He was representative of the mulatto ruling class during a time when black political radicalism was growing in Haiti. 

Lescot was also closely tied with the Dominican Dictator Rafael Trujillo. The Haitian student journal, Zinglins, had criticized President Lescot’s dictatorship and began a call for freedom of the press even as early as May 1945. 

The government quickly suppressed this opposition voice. However, the editors of another student journal, La Ruche, continued the criticism of the regime.

On January 1, 1946 La Ruche published a paper declaring the year for the victory of democracy over “fascist oppression,” and calling for freedom of the press.

Two days later, the police arrested the paper’s editors and the government prohibited the production of La Ruche. The editors were held in the prison in Port-au-Prince, Haiti’s capital, for a day.

On January 4, Jacques Stephen Alexis, a young black medical student, met with the editors of La Ruche, Gerald Bloncourt, and several other student leaders to plan action against the government and the suppression of their newspaper. 

They decided on a student strike to initiate a campaign to overthrow the Lescot regime. They spread the word to their fellow university and high school students that the strike would begin on Monday, January 7. 

They used coded messages to pass on information about the strike. The strike leaders formed a new political party, Party Democratique Populaire de la Jeunesse Haitienne (PDPJH), and called for immediate elections, the release of political prisoners, and freedom of the press.

On Sunday, Gerald Bloncourt convinced a popular lecturer to speak on freedom in anticipation of the revolution. After the lecture, they led a small march during which two of the leaders were arrested and held for the night.

The student strike began, as planned, the next day. The students told the press and the U.S. embassy of their plan to strike and march to the embassy for a demonstration.

The students marched out of their classes shouting, “Vive la Revolution.” Police beat them, so for protection, the male students called on women from an all-girls school. 

The female students formed a wall around the demonstrators and the crowd began their march. They marched past secondary schools to pick up more supporters and sang the national anthem along the way.

At the embassy, the demonstrators, which now consisted of students, some workers, and other citizens, encountered soldiers. The soldiers beat demonstrators and arrested several leaders. 

Later that day, Lescot banned demonstrations and national newspapers called on parents to control their youth. On January 8, the student leaders worked on gaining the support of workers at all levels. 

Beatings against demonstrators by soldiers helped manifest this support. Storeowners shut down their shops and civil servants, laborers, teachers, and transportation workers joined the strike. 

Demonstrators in the streets banged pots. Four thousand people marched through Port-au-Prince to the presidential palace. These demonstrations continued the next day. 

Military soldiers persisted in their repression and arrests of demonstrators. On January 10, as demonstrations continued in the streets, President Lescot declared martial law. 

In a speech to the entire nation, he stated that he would go to any measure to restore order. When a feminist organization later marched against the dictator, soldiers shot into the crowd, killing two demonstrators. 

In response to the shootings, demonstrators threw stones and started several riots throughout the day. Many other Haitian soldiers had refused to shoot at demonstrators, however.

Later that day Lescot’s cabinet resigned, unwilling to work for his regime any longer. The dictator was unable to organize another cabinet. The strike included workers from every industry and had spread to cities around the country. 

U.S. owned businesses were forced to stop production during the strike. Upper class business people and workers formed a political organization in support of the students.

On January 11, representatives of the strike met with Lescot after previous negotiations and asked for his immediate resignation. Lescot told them he would resign in May. 

That afternoon, three military leaders took over the government and placed Lescot under house arrest. They announced they would hold elections as soon as possible.

True to their word, the new regime held elections for congress and the presidency in May. Dumarsais Estimé, a black moderate politician loosely supported by PDPJH, was elected president and instated a mainly black cabinet.

The Haitians had shifted the balance of political power away from the mulatto upper class and had successfully deposed Lescot.