Gene Sharp's 198 Methods, Number 173 - Nonviolent Occupation

Nonviolent Occupation

The Lokashakti Encyclopedia of Nonviolence, Peace, & Social Justice

Nonviolent Occupation

Nonviolent occupation may be used after a nonviolent invasion or a nonviolent land seizure, or by people who have been ordered to leave their land or building. Thus nonviolent occupation may involve technical trespass and the violation of other laws. Nonviolent occupation was successfully practiced by Bishop Ambrose during Easter week, 385 A.D., when he defied orders of the imperial government of the Roman Empire to surrender one of the larger churches in Milan to the Arian Christians. Although the church was surrounded by troops, Ambrose risked imprisonment and death, and continued to hold masses for five days. Finally the government ordered the troops withdrawn and the fines remitted, and, wrote Ambrose, “as soon as they heard, the troops rushed into the Church to receive the kiss of peace.” [128]

During the 1928 Bardoli campaign in India, those peasants whose land was attached because of their refusal to pay taxes either refused to leave the land at all or returned to it. They cultivated it and planted crops, and insisted that whatever the current legal status might be, morally the land remained theirs and that they had a right to use it for constructive purposes. [129]

In August 1957 about two hundred Mohawk Indians, part of the Iroquois Confederacy, settled on the banks of the Schohari Creek, near Fort Hunter, New York; they said that they had been blasted from their homes by the construction of the St. Lawrence Seaway, and that the land they now occupied had belonged to the Mohawks under a treaty made in the 1700s. The Indians built a longhouse — the place of worship of the Handsome Lake religion — and half a dozen cabins. The Mohawks asserted they would recognize no local eviction proceedings, nor would they deal with local or state officials; as they were a nation they would deal only with the Federal government. [130]

The most dramatic nonviolent occupation by American Indians has been that of Alcatraz Island. On November 9, 1969, a few American Indians swam through the waters of San Francisco Bay and landed on the old island prison of Alcatraz, abandoned seven years before by the government. Eleven days later a hundred more joined them, and claimed the site by right of some old treaties that awarded all deserted areas within a tribe’s original territory to the original inhabitants. The Indians wanted to make the area into an educational culture center for the American Indian and proved their determination by continued occupation of the island. Power and water were cut off by the authorities, but the inhabitants managed with two malfunctioning generators and the little drinking water that could be carried over in jugs. They were supported from the mainland by both Indians and non-Indians alike, who donated food, clothing and medical supplies. A small school was established, and many families took up permanent residence on “the Rock.” It became a central focus of the new Indian movement and a source of pride as a successful intervention to protest the U.S. government’s inadequacies in Indian affairs. Alcatraz was held by the Indians until the last fifteen were removed by Federal marshals on June 14, 1971.[131]

With Russian military units outside Czechoslovak government buildings in August 1968, government officials and legislators remained in their buildings and continued to act in their legitimate capacities. For example, in the afternoon of August 24, Politika reported:

The Government Presidium building is blockaded, tank guns are aiming at the building from all sides, guns stand in firing positions in the little park at Klarov. The Government Presidium is blockaded, but the Government is functioning. Twenty-two ministers meet, hold discussions, make decisions, report to the parliament on their activity, maintain contact with the new Party leadership.[132]

Politika also reported that the extraordinary twenty-sixth session of the National Assembly had already lasted four days:

The National Assembly building is surrounded by foreign troops, but the deputies are not leaving; they have imposed on themselves a house arrest. Acting on the summons by the Presidium, almost two hundred deputies from all over the Republic have reported in... an almost two-thirds majority. ... On the first night, the deputies slept on the floor of their offices; for the following nights, they were able to get blankets and, more important, field cots for the women. Machine gun salvoes rattle under the windows of the National Assembly building at night.  Supplies in the dining room are satisfactory...

Neither the gun barrels aimed at the National Assembly windows nor the threat of arrest will force the deputies to capitulate. The permanent session is to continue until some solution to the aggression is found.[133]

Gene Sharp, reprinted with permission, from The Politics of Nonviolent Action, Part Two: The Methods of Nonviolent Action.  Method #173, pp. 388-390.  First published in 1973.  Seventh Printing.  Boston: Porter Sargent Publishers, 1998.

  • [128] John Morris, “Early Christian Civil Disobedience,” in Peace News, 5 January 1962. This article contains a translation of Ambrose’s letter to his sister describing the events.
  • [129] Joan V. Bondurant, Conquest of Violence: The Gandhian Philosophy of Conflict.  Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press and London: Oxford University Press, 1958, p. 57; and Mahadev Desai, The Story of Bardoli: Being a History of the Bardoli Satyagraha of 1928 and its Sequel, Ahmedabad, Gujarat: Navajivan Press, 1929, pp. 172 and 186.
  • [130] New York Times. 17 August 1957. P. 17. This account is based on Margaret DeMarco’s unpublished paper, “The Use of Non-violent Direct Action Tactics and Strategy by American Indians,” MS. pp. 7-8.
  • [131] This account has been prepared by Katherine Preston. For some coverage of the occupation at Alcatraz consult Akwesasne Notes, a resume of Indian affairs available from Mohawk Nation, via Roosevelttown. New York, 13683, and also The Warpath, published by the United Native Americans. Inc., P. O. Box 26149, San Francisco, California, 94126. Details of final removal are from New York Times, 14 June 1971.
  • [132] Robert Littell, ed., The Czech Black Book.  Prepared by the Institute of History of the Czechoslovak Academy of Sciences.  New York, Washington, and London: Frederick A. Praeger, 1969, p. 142.
  • [133] Ibid., pp. 147-48. See also pp. 164, 198, 204, 208, 223, 224 and 249.
  • Bios   ( 24 )
    Inspirational noteworthy figures in the history of nonviolence, peace, and social justice
  • Groups   ( 24 )
    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
fuga mobilya