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What is the role of direct action?

Peaceful protest

Protestors with banners (black and white photo)

One area of campaigning which has become synonymous with non-violent protest is the peace movement. Scotland has a long history of anti-nuclear and anti-war protest. If you’d like to find out more, a good place to start would be Scottish CND.

Sometimes one of the options for getting a strong message across is to take non-violent direct action. This term can mean anything from going on a demonstration, to doing acts of civil disobedience.

If you would like to learn more about this approach, have a look at the website of the Network for Climate Action or Rising Tide.

It’s probably true to say that direct action is one of those things that, done well, can be a powerful tool, but done badly, can be counter-productive and demoralising.

Sometimes direct activists get bad press as the media tends to sensationalise their work without putting it in context or explaining the reasoning for taking action. Recently the Press Complaints Commission condemned the London Evening Standard for misrepresenting the approach that climate activists were taking in protests about Heathrow expansion (see report in The Guardian).

Taking on giants – and winning

This Youtube clip shows a song by ‘Seize the Day’ which tells the true story of four women who disarmed a Hawk Jet fighter plane at BA Warton using household hammers. They did this in protest against the sale of the planes from British Aerospace to the Indonesian military dictatorship – a regime which is reported to have been responsible for the deaths of a third of the East Timorese population. The women waited at the scene of the action to be arrested and were charged with criminal damage but were cleared after the jury accepted their claim to have had a lawful excuse to disarm a Hawk jet fighter to prevent its use by the Indonesians to carry out genocide against the people of East Timor.

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