Gene Sharp's 198 Methods, Number 38 - Marches


The Lokashakti Encyclopedia of Nonviolence, Peace, & Social Justice

Gandhi and others march to the sea to make salt, 1930

The march as a form of nonviolent protest and persuasion is practiced when a group of people walk in an organized manner to a particular place which is regarded as intrinsically significant to the issue involved. The duration of the march may vary from an hour or two to several weeks, or even longer. Posters and banners may or may not be carried, and leaflets may or may not be distributed to bystanders. In May 1765, fifty thousand English weavers convened at Spitalfields and marched by three different routes to Westminster, London, to petition for relief against competition from French silk.[172] Marches occurred several times during the 1905 Russian Revolution. During the Great October Strike of 1905, striking railroad men in Tashkent marched on the governor-general’s home and were turned back by troops without bloodshed.[173] Following the “October Manifesto” (in which the Tsar granted civil liberties, gave voting rights to groups hitherto excluded from them, and established the principle of Duma consent to law and Duma supervision of officials), in many cities throughout the Russian Empire people marched to the residence of the governor or to the municipal Duma to celebrate and to make further demands, especially for the release of political prisoners.[174] Other examples include the several marches of three thousand persons which proceeded simultaneously to foreign consulate buildings in Seoul in 1919 to demonstrate to the world that the Koreans were opposed to Japanese rule.[175] Gandhi’s 1930 Salt March to the beach at Dandi to commit civil disobedience by making salt,[176] and the six thousand mile march (December 1, 1960 to October 8, 1961) from San Francisco to Moscow by pacifists urging unilateral disarmament.[177]

An “Agreement for the Deportation of the First Batch of twenty thousand Jews to the East German Territories” was signed by a Bulgarian and a German official on February 22, 1943. But revolutionary groups in Sofia appealed to the Bulgarian people, urging them to stand before Jewish homes and crowd into the Jewish quarters, refusing to allow the Jews to be deported. On May 24, 1943, writes Matei Yulzari, the Jews of Sofia organized a protest in which many non-Jewish Bulgarians also participated:

It started from the Jewish synagogue in one of the suburbs, where the gathering was addressed by Rabbi Daniel Zion and several young men. The crowd started an impressive march, which was intended to join the demonstration of the university students and make its way to the royal palace to protest against the outrages to which the Jews were subjected. Clashes with the police were followed by numerous arrests.

This mass demonstration alarmed the authorities and they did not carry out the second stage of their deportation plan — deportation to Poland, where the Jews of Europe found their death. Fearing internal unrest, the Fascist government and the king were forced to give up their plan to send the Jews of Bulgaria to their doom in the death camps.[178]

In Oriente province of Cuba in late 1956, during the Batista regime, the bodies of twenty-nine Cuban youths are reported to have been delivered, badly mutilated, as government reprisals for the November uprising. Later there were other murders and counter-murders in Santiago. On January 2, 1957, soldiers in Santiago seized William Soler, a fourteen-year-old boy; his badly tortured body was dumped in an empty lot the next night. Robert Taber writes:

At ten o’clock in the morning [of January 4], some forty women dressed in black left the Church of Dolores … and moved in slow procession, praying in unison and fingering their rosaries, down Calle Aguilera … At their head marched the mother of William Soler, and with her the mothers of other youths slain by police and soldiers … Over their heads they carried a large white banner with the black inscription: Cesen los asesinatos de nuestros hijos. (Stop the murder of our sons.)

As they moved on past the park and through the shopping district, other women joined them. There were two hundred by the time they had passed the first block, then eight hundred, then a thousand. At every step more women left the shops to join the procession, pressing slowly forward through the narrow, cobbled street. A few policemen stood by, helpless, at the intersections. Men watched from the doorways and many wept with shame as the women passed by, the only sound of their murmured litany and the funereal tapping of their heels.

Mothers of children murdered by the Batista régime in Cuba, 1956At one intersection, a jeep load of soldiers suddenly appeared, training a machine gun on the procession, blocking the way. The women waited, silently. The demonstration continued to grow until it overflowed into nearby streets, blocking all traffic.

When the soldiers tried to break up the manifestation, pushing their way into the dense crowd, the women simply opened aisles for them to pass through, and then closed ranks again. The mothers refused to be provoked into any overt act of physical resistance, but stood in quiet dignity until the soldiers gave up their futile efforts and, shamefaced, turned away. Then the women began, still silently, to disperse. Part of the procession continued on to the city hall and to the offices of several newspapers to leave petitions, demanding an end of the terror and the restoration of civil law. Then these women, too, went quietly home.

The mothers’ protest march in Santiago had significance because it was the first public act to signal the beginning of organized civic resistance on a broad and effective scale in Cuba, under the aegis of the fidelista movement.[179]

Gene Sharp, reprinted with permission, from The Politics of Nonviolent Action, Part Two: The Methods of Nonviolent Action.  Method #38, pp. 152-154.  First published in 1973.  Seventh Printing.  Boston: Porter Sargent Publishers, 1998.

  • [172] Lawrence Henry Gipson, The British Empire Before the American Revolution, vol. X: The Triumphant Empire: Thunderclouds Gather in the West, 1763-1766 (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1961), p. 279.
  • [173] Sidney Harcave, First Blood: The Russian Revolution of 1905 (New York: Macmillan, 1964), p. 184.
  • [174] Ibid., pp. 195-196 and 200.
  • [175] Carlton W. Kendall, The Truth About Korea (San Francisco: Korea National Association, 1919), p. 29.
  • [176] Gene Sharp, Gandhi Wields the Weapon of Moral Power (Ahmedabad: Navajivan, 1960), pp. 70-86.
  • [177] Peace News, 20 October 1961, pp. 5-12.
  • [178] Matei Yulzari, “The Bulgarian Jews in the Resistance Movement,” in Yuri Suhl, ed., They Fought Back: The Story of the Jewish Resistance in Nazi Europe (New York: Crown Publishers, 1967), pp. 277-278.
  • [179] Robert Taber, M-26: Biography of a Revolution (New York: Lyle Stuart, 1961), pp. 86-87. I am grateful to William Hamilton for this example.
  • Bios   ( 24 )
    Inspirational noteworthy figures in the history of nonviolence, peace, and social justice
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    Groups and organizations that have played significant roles in nonviolent movements
  • Concepts   ( 18 )
    Important concepts related to peace and nonviolence, especially in regards to nonviolent action
  • Movements   ( 26 )
    Movements and historical events where nonviolent action was used entirely or in large part
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