Archives for posts with tag: Nonviolent resistance
Eliezer “Boy” Billanes, an anti-mining activist was shot in Koronadal City in March 2009. He was awarded posthumously as Most Distinguished Awardee in GBK 2009. (Photo courtesy of Panalipdan Mindanao / - See more at:

Eliezer “Boy” Billanes, an anti-mining activist was shot in Koronadal City in March 2009. He was awarded posthumously as Most Distinguished Awardee in GBK 2009. (Photo courtesy of Panalipdan Mindanao / – See more at:

Obituaries to fallen warriors and visionaries of the ecological resistance movement

Francisco “Chico” Mendes, 1988, Brazilian ecologist and environmental activist who worked in defense of the Amazon rain forests, shot to death near his home in Xapuri.

Leroy Jackson, October 1993, Diné (Navajo) activist engaged in campaigns to end logging in the ponderosa pine forests of the Chuska Mountains, found murdered by poison atop the Brazos Cliffs near Chama, New Mexico.

The Ogoni Nine, November 1995, Ken Saro-Wiwa, Saturday Dobee, Nordu Eawo, Daniel Gbooko, Paul Levera, Felix Nuate, Baribor Bera, Barinem Kio- bel and John Kpuine; hanged by the military dictatorship of Nigeria for struggling against the destruction of Ogoni land by the Shell oil company.

Carlos Roberto Flores, June 2001, Honduran environmental activist, shot to death by guards of hydroelectric company Energisa, which was building a dam in the Sierra de Agalta National Park.

Bartolomeu Morais da Silva, July 2002, Brazilian farmer who led the struggle against illegal logging, land fraud and destructive large-scale infrastructure projects; found with his legs broken, shot to death.

Carlos Arturo Reyes, July 2003, Honduran anti-logging activist shot after Amnesty International found a death list with his name on it.

Dorothy Mae Stang, February 2005, US-born activist, environmentalist and nun, murdered in the city of Anapu in the Amazon Basin of Brazil. She had a 30-year history of organizing in the region, receiving numerous death threats from loggers and large landowners.

Valmir Mota de Oliveira, October 2007, Shot and killed during a protest at a Syngenta farm in the southern Brazilian state of Parana. According to the Landless Rural Workers’ Movement (MST), the farm illegally produced genetically modified crops within a protected environmental zone close to the internationally acclaimed Iguacu water falls.

Stanislav Markelov, Anastasia Baburova January 2009, Markelov was a lawyer for environmental, anti-fascist, labor and Chechen activists. He and Baburova, an activist and journalist, were assassinated in Moscow by a neo-Nazi affiliate.

Eliezer “Boy” Billanes, March 2009, Filipino anti-mining environmentalist in the Mindanao region shot dead confronting the multinational mining corporation Xstrata. Others who were killed recently for the anti-mining cause in the Phillipines include Fernando Sarmiento, Armin Marin, Ricardo Ganad, Gensun Agustin and Samson Rivera.

Ramiro Rivera, Dora Alicia Recinos Sorto, December 2009, Members of the Cabanas Environment Committee, organiz- ing against mining by Pacific Rim corporation in El Salvador. Rivera was shot dead while under 24-hour police surveillance. Prior to his murder he survived being shot eight times in the month of August. Recinos Sorto was pregnant at the time of her murder.

Desidario Camangyan, June 2010, Anti-logging activist, journalist and radio host in the Philippine province of Davao Oriental, gunned down while hosting an amateur singing contest. His wife and child were in the audience.


Non-violent resistance against the construction of a naval base in South Korea

There are some actions for which those of us alive today will be judged in centuries to come. The only question will be: What did we know and when did we know it?

I think one judgment-worthy action may be what you and I do about the militarization of Jeju Island, South Korea.

Jeju isn’t called the most beautiful place on earth for nothing. Ancient volcanoes have become snow-covered peaks with pure mountain streams running down to volcanic beaches and reefs of soft coral. In between are green hills covered with wildflowers, mandarin orange groves, nutmeg forests, tea plantations and rare orchids growing wild; all existing at peace with farms, resorts and small cities. Unesco, the United Nation’s educational, scientific and cultural organization, has designated Jeju Island a world natural heritage site.

Now, a naval base is about to destroy a crucial stretch of the coast of Jeju, and will do this to dock and service destroyers with sophisticated ballistic missile defense systems and space war applications. China and South Korea have positive relations at the moment. But this naval base is not only an environmental disaster on an island less than two-thirds the size of Rhode Island, it may be a globally dangerous provocation besides.

Residents of Gangjeong, the village that is to be home to this base, have been living in tents along the endangered coastline, trying to stave off the dredging and bulldozing. In a vote several years ago at a village meeting, residents overwhelming opposed the base.

They’ve tried to block construction with lawsuits and pleas for a proper environmental impact study. They’ve been fined, beaten, arrested and imprisoned. They’ve gone on hunger strikes, chained themselves to anything available, invited tourists in to see what’s at stake, established Web sites and won support from global peace organizations. Members of the “no base” campaign, including children, camp out along the shore behind high walls erected around the site to conceal the protests. Police officers patrol outside. This has been going on for more than four years.


For myself, I am writing this column, putting a petition on my Facebook page, and hoping for enough Arab Spring-like activism to topple one naval base.

I’ve never known less what will happen. I can still hear the dolphins crying as if sensing danger. But somehow, my faith is in the villagers who say, “Touch not one stone, not one flower.”

Besides, now you know.

In 2003, the Palestinian village of Budrus mounted a 10-month-long nonviolent protest to stop a barrier being built across their olive groves.

Brazilian filmmaker Julia Bacha asks why we only pay attention to violence in the Israel-Palestine conflict — and not to the nonviolent leaders who may one day bring peace.

Budrus is a Palestinian agricultural village in the West Bank that relies on its olive groves. And Budrus is a documentary about what happened in the village when Israeli authorities tried to uproot those olive groves to build a barrier. The villagers resisted, peacefully, for 10 months, with leader Ayed Morrar helping to unite Fatah, Hamas, the villagers, and Israeli supporters in nonviolent protest. Most vital, Palestinian women, including Morrar’s daughter, took a leading role.

It’s a story that Julia Bacha found tailor-made for Just Vision, an organization that uses film and storytelling to “Increase the power and legitimacy of Palestinians and Israelis working for nonviolent solutions to the conflict.” A break in the endless stalemate, she believes, must come from the bottom up. And the way to help the process is to show the humanity of those working for change. Bacha was also the co-director of Encounter Point, featured during Pangea Day in 2008 — a feature documentary film about four ordinary people, on both sides of the conflict, who lost nearly everything but who nevertheless work for an end to occupation in favor of peace.

She says: “We are providing alternative role models. I have seen people challenged, inspired and motivated to take action based on the stories we tell.”

Julia Bacha is the Media Director at Just Vision and the director and producer of “Budrus,” a documentary about a West Bank village, a giant barrier and nonviolent resistance.

Quotes by Julia Bacha
“If we don’t pay attention to [nonviolent protests], they are invisible, and it’s as if they never happened. But I have seen first hand that if we do, they will multiply.”

“Nothing scares the army more than nonviolent opposition.”
— quoting an Israeli activist

Czechoslovakians Listening to Radio

In the late 1960’s Czechoslovakia was still part of the Eastern Bloc—essentially a satellite of the Soviet Union—but was beginning to show a certain degree of independence. At the Thirteenth Congress of the Czechoslovak Communist Party in 1966 a radical new economic policy was introduced. Steps were taken that could lead to the separation of the Communist Party from the State government. Writers and intellectuals were demanding an end to censorship and more freedom to travel abroad.

The reformers gained ground, and in early 1968 Ludvik Svoboda was installed as President and Alexander Dubcek made head of the Czechoslovakian Communist Party. Press censorship and travel restrictions were abolished. Plans were made for open elections, free trade, and economic reforms. Czechoslovakia became the most liberal Communist state in the world. Czechoslovakians reveled in their newfound freedom. The resulting euphoria and blooming of creativity was known as the “Prague Spring.”

This train of events deeply disturbed the Soviets and the other Warsaw Pact countries. After some tense negotiations a compromise was worked out. Reforms could continue, but at a slower pace. Everyone in Czechoslovakia breathed a little easier.

However, the Soviets were still not satisfied. Late at night on August 20, 1968, they initiated a massive invasion of their wayward ally. By the morning of the 21st Czechoslovakia was inundated with tanks and troops from East Germany, Poland, Hungary, Bulgaria and the U.S.S.R. Within a week there were over a half million Warsaw Pact troops in the country. In Prague alone 500 tanks controlled strategic locations.

The Soviets had planned to crush any military resistance, install a puppet government, and begin withdrawing within four days. The invading troops were well prepared to counter any resistance the small Czechoslovakian army might offer. But the Czechoslovakian army was surprised and completely unprepared for an invasion by allies, and was ordered by the Czech government not to fight. This was an unfortunate turn of events for the invaders, because they were completely unprepared for the kind of resistance they were to encounter.

The troops had been told they would be welcomed with open arms by the Czechoslovakian workers. Instead, they were booed, taunted, spit at, and jeered. Initially there was some violence, as angry kids set tanks on fire and threw paving stones and Molotov cocktails at the troops. But radio and TV stations denounced the violence and called for “passive” resistance instead. Over the next couple of weeks these clandestine broadcasters coordinated the civilian resistance that prevented the Soviets from taking control of the country. Here are some of the inspiring, clever and some simply laugh out loud funny stories of civilian resistance:

NOISE – At 9:00 am on August 26, people all over Czechoslovakia rang church bells, blew horns and sounded sirens to protest the invasion. The din frightened some of the nervous occupation troops, who shot a woman in Klarov and roughed up an engineer in Prague who was sounding his train whistle. Sirens and horns also announced the beginning of one-hour general strikes in Prague. Soviet tank crews watched helplessly as motorists blew their horns and all traffic stopped.

HUMAN BLOCKADE – Citizens in a small village in Eastern Bohemia formed a human chain across a bridge and blockaded a Russian convoy of tanks and other vehicles. After eight and a half hours the Russians turned back.

THE LOST TRAIN – The Czechoslovakians discovered that a Russian freight train was transporting equipment to jam pirate radio broadcasts. A radio station put out an appeal for rail workers to stop the train. It never made it to Prague. First the train was delayed when the electricity failed, then it ended up on a side track stuck between two other immobilized locomotives. The Soviets eventually had to transport the gear by helicopter.

NUDE PICTURES – In Bratislava a group of young people gathered up boxes of “girlie” magazines that had recently become available from the West. They went to a park and handed them out to the lonely Soviet tank crews that were keeping watch over the area. After a while the commander realized what was happening and ordered his men back into their tanks. The kids joked that the soldiers, who had been abused by the local Slovaks for the last few days, were now abusing themselves. With the soldiers sealed inside their tanks, the kids then stuck paper over their periscopes, making it impossible for the Soviets to continue their surveillance.

THE CASTLE AT BRATISLAVA – Some Russian troops took up residence in an old castle in Bratislava. The castle housed a museum. The museum curator asked the Russian colonel if he could check the exhibits to make sure they were unharmed. The colonel readily granted him permission for an inspection. When the curator was left alone he sneaked down into the basement and turned off the main water valve. When the soldiers found they had no water, they had to look for it elsewhere. But mysteriously, much of the water in the rest of Bratislava had somehow been cut off as well. Finding potable water became a serious problem for the troops, and for several days it had to be brought in from Hungary by helicopter.

NO WATER – The Soviet tank crews had brought powdered rations that needed to be mixed with water. In Bratislava, when they tried to fill their canteens with public tap water, the Slovaks gathered around and warned them that “counter-revolutionaries” had poisoned the water supplies. Some soldiers resorted to scooping up water from puddles, or getting it from the heavily polluted Danube River.

The troops were expecting a warm reception from the Slovaks and brought few supplies and facilities with them. The lack of food, sleep and proper sanitation took its toll. Drinking polluted water added to their distress and many soldiers became ill.

ROZNAVA – The people who lived in Roznava, a small town in eastern Slovakia, were mostly of Hungarian decent. Hence the Soviets decided to send in Hungarian troops, confident that they would receive a warm welcome. Instead, the soldiers were spit at and booed. The citizens of Roznava refused to provide the troops with food, water, supplies or lodging.

Desperate, the Hungarian colonel had a meeting with the mayor. They finally came to an agreement. The troops would receive the supplies they needed and could stay at a temporarily unoccupied school. However, they would be forced to obey the town’s curfew. So each day at nightfall the Hungarian occupiers returned to the school so the mayor could lock them inside. Then at dawn the mayor would come back to let them out again.

CLANDESTINE BROADCASTING (The image shows Czechoslovacians listening to news of the uprising) – The electronic media—radio and television—played a key role in the resistance. It was able to create a sense of solidarity and hope by keeping citizens informed about what was happening in other parts of the country. This underground news media broadcast Czech government appeals and made suggestions on how to resist the invaders, while urging people to remain nonviolent. The amazing thing is that none of this was planned beforehand. All broadcasting arrangements were continually improvised and varied to prevent detection.

The Russians had a hard time closing down all the television stations because broadcasting facilities were dispersed throughout Prague. Clandestine TV broadcasts were also done from factories and other buildings using mobile and remote transmitters. For instance, on the day of the invasion television workers escaped with a remote broadcast truck. They then set up a studio in an empty apartment building in the Prague suburbs. From there broadcasts were beamed all over the country using microwave links. The on-air personalities—well-known newscasters, athletes, intellectuals and other Czech celebrities—all urged nonviolent resistance and noncooperation.

Clandestine radio stations were even more important than television because there were more of them and they were easier to hide. Mobile transmitters, supplied by the Czech army, were moved every few hours to avoid detection by Soviet tracking equipment. The army also helped transport audiotapes, which were recorded in secret locations, to the radio transmitters.

GRAFFITI – The Czechs made good use of graffiti to make the invaders feel unwelcome. They hung posters and used chalk or paint to apply anti-Soviet slogans to the walls of buildings. A common activity was to climb on a tank while it was stopped at a traffic light and paint a swastika on it.

Some slogans seen in Prague:

“Why bother to occupy our State Bank? You know there is nothing in it.”

“United States in Vietnam, Soviet Union in Czechoslovakia.”

“Leonid, send 10 more tanks—20 more counter-revolutionaries arrived here today.”

“An elephant can not swallow a hedgehog.”

THE UNDERGROUND PRESS – The Czechoslovakians, using printing presses and mimeograph machines (photocopiers were unheard of in 1968), published leaflets, pamphlets and newspapers right under the noses of the occupiers. Soviet troops shot some kids who were distributing clandestine newspapers. Hundreds of people attended their funerals.

LOST IN CZECHOSLOVAKIA – Traveling in Czechoslovakia was a nightmare for the Warsaw Pact troops. The Czechs had removed street signs and painted over building address numbers. Many small villages renamed themselves “Dubcek” or “Svoboda.” In rural areas it was not uncommon to see a troop convoy stalled at a crossroad, the commander scratching his head over an open map.


Mahatma Gandhi – Indian philosopher, internationally esteemed for his doctrine of nonviolent protest.

Defend the right to peaceful protest at sea (Greenpeace New Zealand, April 2013)

Excellent examples of peaceful protest at sea, and what they have achieved over the years. Recently the New Zealand government has introduced legislation that makes peaceful protests at sea much more challenging to the the potential fines that can be imposed on protesting organisations and individuals – the ‘Anadarko Ammendment’.