With 15th August just a few days away, one can’t help but feel awed by the fact that it was the nonviolent mode of protest that helped India free itself from British. Nonviolence was first used by Mahatma Gandhi in his demonstration of protest against British control over India.
Since then nonviolence as a principle has been innovated upon by leaders like Nelson Mandela and Martin Luther King Jr. for achieving their intent.
The Montgomery Bus Boycott of US, the Singing Revolution of Estonia and the School Strike for Climate, a worldwide initiative by school students to safeguard the environment, are some well-acknowledged movements with the principle of non-violence forming their essence.
However, sometimes innovation results in the creation of something wacky and eccentric.
Hence, we bring you 9 astounding nonviolent protest stories from all over the world that sometimes even helped protesters bargain their way to achieving their objectives.
The Na’vis, Palestine
Remember the exceptional fight that Na’vi people put up against the unobtanium seeking earthlings in Avatar movie, I mean who doesn’t. Though surprisingly in 2010 Palestinians living in the village Bil’in decided to dress up as movie characters-Na’vi. Can you guess why?
So here’s what happened-
Since 2000, Israel has faced severe criticism from domestic as well as international organisations for its illegal occupation of lands along the West Bank.
The Second Intifada gave Israel an ideal opportunity to begin constructing the Barrier under the pretext of securing themselves from Palestinian attacks. However, Palestinians see the Barrier as an Israeli attempt to annex their lands and racial segregation.
The West Bank Barrier divided the Bil’in the village into two parts with 60% of farmland being inaccessible to villagers. As a result in 2005, the Bil’in Popular Committee began organizing weekly protests against the building of the West Bank Barrier.
They would walk from their village to the Barrier and try getting their disapproval registered through these peaceful marches(which often ended as clashes between Israeli soldiers and protesters).
It was during one of these weekly protests in April 2010, that the Palestinians drew the correlation between the illegal occupation of their land and the human civilization’s attempt to annex Pandora in Avatar. This idea helped Palestinians grab the attention of international media towards their cause.
As the result of Palestinians remonstrance (against the construction of Wall) and pressure from international organisation, Israel had to give in. In 2011, Israel declared that it would begin re-routing the wall in several areas along West Bank.
Sheep Enrolled as Students, France
On the morning of 7th May 2019, a local farmer called Michael Gerard was seen making a grand entry, along with his 50 sheep and his dog, into the premises of Jules-Ferry school. Students along with their parents were seen cheering this procession.
Located in the French village Crets-en-Belledonne, the Jules Ferry school had informed parents that due to lack of five students it might have to close down one of its eleven classes. This depraved politics of counting, which required enrolling a particular number of students for allocation of classes, enraged the locals.
The Mayor of the village, Jean-Louis Maret, supported the locals by enrolling fifteen of Michael Gerard’s sheep into the school.
“We are not sheep”, read the posters and banners carried by students. The protesters wanted the authorities to register that their children were not sheep and they should put an end to the policy of counting them.
The Naked Potholers, Canada
This protest took place in the year 2006. In order to seize the attention of their inefficient local government towards foot-wide and foot-deep potholes, twelve residents from Saskatchewan, Canada, protested in a unique way.
These twelve residents created a calendar that consisted of their nude photographs taken inside the potholes lining the local roads. The catchy picture of a naked man sitting on a canoe, taken on the main road, became the most viral photograph of this campaign.
With nearly 3,000 copies of this calendar being sold worldwide, these potholes finally became a matter of major concern for the Saskatchewan local government.
“Wear a miniskirt for Ozgecan” is what the hashtag #ozgecanicinminietekgiy stands for. On 13th February 2015, the mutilated body of 20 years old Ozgecan Aslan was found in the riverbed of Mediterranean town Mersin. Ozgecan Aslan was murdered while resisting assault from the driver of the minivan she was last seen getting on.
Enraged by this incident, men from Azerbaijan started tweeting their photographs in skirts under the hashtag #ozgecanicinminietekgiy. Further on 21st of February, miniskirts donning Turkish men jammed the streets of Ankara and Istanbul to show their support for women in their fight against a patriarchal culture that propagated violence against women.
A famous post associated with the movement on Facebook read: “If a miniskirt is responsible for everything, if [wearing] a miniskirt means immorality and unchastity, if a woman who wears a miniskirt is sending an invitation about what will happen to her, then we are also sending an invitation!”
Zero Rupee Note, India
In 2007, Fifth Pillar, an NGO in Chennai, began distributing zero-rupee notes all over India. These notes were created and distributed with the aim of fighting political and bureaucratic corruption. These notes, according to Vijay Anand, the founder of Fifth Pillar, were “nonviolent tools of non-cooperation.”
The zero-rupee notes were an imitation of the fifty-rupee currency used before 2016 in India. “Eliminate corruption at all levels” was the message printed on these zero-rupee notes that were printed on leftover papers donated by several printing presses.
People all over India used these notes to shame government officials who solicited bribes from them for getting services that are free. Till 2014, Fifth Pillar had distributed 2.5 million zero-rupee notes all across India.
As envisioned this zero-rupee movement became a tool in the hands of millions of Indians in their fight against corruption. However, corruption continues to thrive in the country, with citizens and officials still caught in the everlasting cycle of “give and take” relationships.
Dirty Diaper Protest, Mexico
In 2017, Mexicans slung 1,000 dirty diapers at the offices of the ruling party, the Partido Revolucionario Institucional (PRI). 20 brigades of diaper launchers, managed by locals, were used to carry out this protest.
Famously known as the pañalazo, the protest was aimed at giving back the PRI all the shit they had given to the country with its corrupt practices.
Click on this link to have a look at the protest.
I’d Rather Go Naked Than Wear Fur, PETA
In February this year, PETA announced that it was going to end its 30-year-old campaign against the use of fur.
Conceived by Senior Vice President of PETA, Dan Matthews, the campaign began in 1990 with rock icons The Go-Go’s posing in the buff for a poster “We’d Rather Go-Go Naked Than Wear Fur” which the icons later sold at their concerts to raise money for PETA.
Since the 1990’s, several Hollywood stars have posed nude for the campaign starting including Pamela Andreson, Steve-O, Dennis Rodman, P!nk, Eva Mendes and many more.
The campaign has succeeded at forcing top designer houses to drop fur. Queen Elizabeth II, who came under PETA’S radar for wearing fur, too has denounced its usage. With denouement of fur trade, PETA has decided to redesign their campaign and shift their focus towards production and trade of leather and wool.
In February, PETA announced that they would continue using naked celebs for promotion of their campaign and are planning to repurpose the motto of their campaign to “I’d Rather Bare Skin Than Wear Skin.”
The Umbrella Movement, Hong Kong
The Umbrella Movement refers to the protests that started in late September 2014 in Hong Kong.
Before 1997 Hong Kong was a part of the British Empire and hence, administered by the United Kingdoms. However, in 1997 the reins of Hong Kong were given over to China with the assurance that Hong Kong would enjoy some independence from Chinese interference in their affairs. To ensure this, “one country, two systems” arrangement was put in place.
In 2014, the Chinese government declared that the citizens of Hong Kong would be granted universal suffrage in the 2017 elections. However, candidates filing for the nominations would be selected by Chinese government.
This announcement was a setback for the people of Hong Kong who wanted universal suffrage along with the right to elect candidates who didn’t serve the Chinese interests.
Hence, for three months, till late December, citizens of Hong Kong occupied and camped on the streets of the city. During these three months of protest, people of Hong Kong used umbrellas to protect themselves from pepper sprays and (to some extent from) tear gas attacks by Police.
In December 2014, due to several reasons the movement came to an end. However, the lessons learnt during the Umbrella Movement proved really useful for citizens of Hong Kong in their fight against the extradition Bill of 2019.
TDP MP Wears Saree, India
In 2018, Naramalli Sivprasad, MP of Telugu Desam Party (TDP), donned various dresses to attract the attention of Indian media towards the issue of granting special status to Andhra Pradesh.
Among all his costumes, him being dressed as a woman clad in yellow saree caught national attention. He proclaimed that PM was cheating the women of Andhra Pradesh by not granting the state special status.
Sivaprasad was also seen wearing shorts to the Parliament and carrying a ruler and said that PM has been the “bad student of the class”.
Though Andhra Pradesh was never granted the special status but Naramalli Sivprasad succeeded at garnering attention towards the issue as well as towards his unique style of protest.
The philosophy of nonviolence has given people and nations a way of expressing their distrust and frustration with the societal and political power that are much more robust than them.
The path of nonviolence gives citizens of any nation to stand up for the oppressed and stand up to the oppressor. Hoping that all the global citizens will keep innovating upon and experimenting with the philosophy of non-violence, I leave you with a link to another interesting story from the land of Turks.