Successful movements build people power for social change by alerting, educating, winning and mobilizing the public. Nonviolent action plays a critical role in this long-term effort to change society’s mind and to build support for alternatives. This action is most effective when it is public, creative, well organized, supports a larger strategy for change, and is determined and peaceful. As we prepare for the Campaign Nonviolence Week in September, we offer the following ideas for putting nonviolence into action in your own community for a culture of peace, justice, and environmental healing. For other ideas, see reports and photos from the 370 CNV actions from September 2015.
#1 On the Move: Marches, Processions, Walks, and Pilgrimages for a Culture of Peace
Bring the message of nonviolent change to your community by organizing a march, a procession, or a walk. It could be a journey from a place of peace—such as a religious setting or a park—to an appropriate government facility to rally, pray, witness, or engage in nonviolent direct action. Or it could be a march connecting the dots between war, poverty, racism and environmental justice. Explore framing your march as a “pilgrimage for peace,” Please consider beginning any action you organize (including those below) with a march, procession, walk or pilgrimage.
#2 Rally for Change: Speakers and Music in a Public Space
Create a powerful gathering focused on awareness, analysis and community-building, but also on deepening the commitment to the long-term movement for a culture of peace and nonviolence.
#3 Interfaith Prayer Services: Working for Peace, Economic Justice, and Environmental Healing
Many religious communities work to challenge war, economic inequality, racism, the arms trade, and most recently environmental destruction. Support this clarion call for concrete action by joining with people of faith and conscience in your community for public prayer and witness during Campaign Nonviolence Week.
#4 Nonviolent Cites: Call on Your Local Community to Become a Culture of Peace
Imagine Nonviolent Chicago, Nonviolent Tulsa, Nonviolent Seattle or Nonviolent Anytown USA. Campaign Nonviolence invites people everywhere to foster a culture of peace and nonviolence locally by organizing an action with the theme: “Nonviolent (Your City).” This public event could focus on what a nonviolent city would look like and what it would take to get there. This initiative could be used to call on the city to pass a resolution with nonviolent guidelines for city government, etc. This idea was inspired by Nonviolent Carbondale (Illinois). Learn more here.
#5 Stand with the Movement for Racial Justice
Campaign Nonviolence is a long-term movement taking a stand against all violence. Integral to this work is resisting the structural violence of racism. We will not solve the problems of war, poverty, and the climate crisis in isolation — nor will we solve them without tackling the structural violence of racism and other forms of systemic injustice that shape and drive them. Connect with and support local anti-racism organizations working to challenge this systemic violence and to end patterns of police violence and chronic racism.
#6 Get Centered: Public Sitting Meditation
Hold a public “sit-in” meditation. Gather a group, and hold a sitting meditation at a publically visible location that relates to one of the Campaign Nonviolence themes: war, poverty, racism, climate destruction, or any form of violence. Hold signs that make your message clear. Appoint one person to speak with passersby. (This action idea comes from Sangha In The Streets and Buddhist Peace Fellowship.)
#7 All Together Now: From Polar Bear Protest to the Procession of the Species
Rent a polar bear costume. Stand on the street corner with a sign that reads: Homeless. Need Change. Or organize a whole ecosystem like the Procession of the Species, an annual event in Olympia, Washington that has also been organized in other places. The Procession of the Species is “a joyous, spontaneous artistic pageant where community members celebrate their relationships with each other and with the natural world… Residents don their creative expressions and proceed through the streets…in masks and costumes [and] participate in a cultural exchange honoring the awe and splendor of the natural world.”
#8 Pro-cotts and Boycotts: Support a Living Wage
Organize a “pro-cott” – opposite of a boycott – supporting living wage paying businesses. Picket them positively, even. If you’d like to use the “oppose/propose” strategy, coordinate a protest, boycott, or other action at a low-wage business with your local Fight for $15 group.
#9 Hall of Fame: Take Great Local, National, and Global Activists Public
Build a culture of active nonviolence by organizing a march in which people carry photos, banners with quotes, and literature from the great figures of nonviolence: Gandhi, King, Chavez, AJ Muste, Delores Huerta, Rosa Parks, Alice Paul, Mother Jones, Aung San Suu Kyi, but also local agents of change, and more. This “Lineage of Nonviolence” action was done by Love-In-Action Taos for its local 4th of July Parade, where they proclaimed, “There’s more than one way to be a patriot.” The group won first prize for most patriotic.
#10 International Day of Peace Candlelight Vigil on September 21
In addition to any other actions you are organizing during Campaign Nonviolence Week, plan to mark International Peace Day on September 21 with a local evening vigil.
#11 Create the Plan: Take It Public
Hold a strategic planning session on how your community might make positive change, craft a plan of action, hold a public march to your city council, county commission, spiritual center, businesses, university, or utility to present it.
#12 Sidewalk Soulforce: Chalking for a World without War, Poverty, Racism, Climate Destruction and All Violence
Gather the kids, family, friends, and neighbors and do a sidewalk chalking demonstration envisioning and imaging a world beyond war. Inspired by World Beyond War, and also by the Campaign Nonviolence sidewalk chalking action in Louisville, KY, “Nonviolence: Something To Chalk About.” It can be a great way to “connect the dots.”
#13 Get the Word Out: Spell “Nonviolence” with Your Closest 200 Friends
Create an eye-catching declaration of peace by organizing people from your community to spell out the word “nonviolence” in a significant public space. Great fun!
#14 Sound the Alarm: Break the Silence on Climate
Bring your alarm clocks, bells, whistle, and ticking clocks to a meeting, street corner, public place, grocery store, post office, or shopping mall with the message that “climate can’t wait” and all of us need to tackle environmental destruction now. Bring fliers to distribute.
#15 World Beyond War Conference: Join Others in September Working to End War
World Beyond War is planning a big event in Washington, D.C., in September 2016, just after the International Day of Peace, including a conference beginning Friday afternoon September 23, running all day Saturday September 24, and with activist workshops on Sunday morning the 25th. They are also working with Campaign Nonviolence and the National Campaign for Nonviolent Resistance to plan a nonviolent activism training and a nonviolent action in D.C. on Monday September 26th. Learn more here.
#16 Sing for Peace
Organize a singing event like those set up by Occupella! Occupella holds informal public singing at Bay Area occupation sites, marches and at BART train stations. They sing to promote peace, justice, and an end to corporate domination, especially in support of the Occupy movement. See what they did for a CNV action here.
#17 Resist Homeless Hate Laws
If your city has laws aimed at people without homes that prohibit the human rights of standing, sleeping, and eating, engage in creative mass noncooperation and civil disobedience, as citizens of Fort Lauderdale, Florida recently did. This will work best if coordinated in a plan for a whole campaign of actions.
#18 Organize a Nonviolence Teach-in
A teach-in is defined as “a prolonged period of lectures, speeches, etc., conducted without interruption…as a technique of social protest.” Toward building a culture of peace, organize a teach-in at a local college or community center.
#19 Launch a Monthly Campaign Nonviolence Gathering
Share food, films, stories, and strategies for a culture of peace. The Estonian Singing Revolution used Historical and Cultural Societies to teach resistance when political protest was banned.
#20 Brilliant Message: Projection as Protest
Using theater lights and metal stencils, project your theme for all to see! Learn more by visiting the Backbone Campaign’s Website at backbonecampaign.org