September 27, 2020
We are living in an era in which spontaneous, large-scale protests are arising in many parts of the world. Chile has seen protests focused on inequality and corruption; protests erupted in Lebanon, Iraq, Haiti, Egypt, and Bolivia against their countries' political systems. Hong Kong has been in the throws of the pro-democracy movement for over a year and a half and the Yellow-Vest movement for economic justice has been ongoing in France since October, 2018.  In the United States, the summer of 2020 was rife with protests over the horrifying death of George Floyd and several other cases of police brutality directed toward Black men, sometimes resulting in the death of Black women, as was the case with Breona Taylor. These anti-police brutality protests were met with counter protests supporting "law and order," as well as other protests over pandemic-related health restrictions.
While most of the Summer 2020 U.S. protestors were peaceful, a few were not, resulting in substantial amounts of property damage as well as injuries and a few deaths. Law enforcement response to these protests was sometimes militaristic, severe, and contributed to (and, sometimes initiated) the violence. In Portland, for example, President Trump sent in Federal agents, ostensibly to protect the federal courthouse, but some commentators observed, the goal was actually to stoke violence in order to bolster Trump's "law and order" bona fides in an election year. Regardless of intent, that did, indeed, transpire—violence increased dramatically once the federal troops arrived.
Much discussion has ensued — among protestors, other activists and advocates as well as scholars — about whether violence or nonviolence is a better strategy for addressing instances of racially-motivated police brutality and, for highlighting "systemic racism" throughout the United States.
|Although nonviolent direct action has been used successfully for many years, a common WRONG assumption is that nonviolence is weak, and if one wants to project power, one must use violence to show who is more powerful.|
Although nonviolent direct action has been used successfully for many years, a common assumption is that nonviolence is weak, and if one wants to project power, one must use violence to show who is more powerful. That was the attitude of many Black activists in the Black Power movement in the 1960s and 70s. They thought King's nonviolent philosophy was ineffective: it just set up Blacks to be beaten and killed. (Other observers both then and now assert that King's strategies were not at all "nonviolent," as they provoked violence on the part of the police and other whites.) That is true--but that is part of the philosophy of nonviolence: it provides a striking contrast between the nonviolent actors and the violent oppressors. It is designed to win the "hearts and minds" of people in the dominant group by showing that the minority is actually more "peaceful" and "less threatening" than the police or white supremacist counter protestors. Violent protests, on the other hand, tend to frighten bystanders and give support to the heavy-handed "law-and-order" advocates.
|"Though it defies consensus, between 1900 and 2006, campaigns of nonviolent resistance were more than twice as effective as their violent counterparts. Attracting impressive support from citizens that helps separate regimes from their main sources of power, these campaigns have produced remarkable results, even in the contexts of Iran, the Palestinian Territories, the Philippines, and Burma."--Chenoweth and Stephan.|
For instance, looking back, although it may be coincidental, it seems suspicious that the "War on Crime's" Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968 was passed shortly after the violence which erupted in the days and month after Martin Luther King was killed, when Black uprisings occurred in 125 cities across the United States.  This act was followed by the militarization of local police, the "War on Drugs," and the establishment of for-profit prisons, all of which resulted in the imprisonment of countless Blacks. Certainly not all of this was caused by the fear that Black violence caused among Whites, but it seems likely that such fear was a significant driving force.
In their 2011 book Why Civil Resistance Works: The Strategic Logic of Nonviolent Conflict, nonviolence researchers Erica Chenoweth and Maria J. Stephan. conclude:
Though it defies consensus, between 1900 and 2006, campaigns of nonviolent resistance were more than twice as effective as their violent counterparts. Attracting impressive support from citizens that helps separate regimes from their main sources of power, these campaigns have produced remarkable results, even in the contexts of Iran, the Palestinian Territories, the Philippines, and Burma..
And directly relating to U.S. race relations, Omar Wasow has published an article explaining the effectiveness of Black nonviolent protests in the 1960s.
|"Evaluating black-led protests between 1960 and 1972, I find nonviolent activism, particularly when met with state or vigilante repression, drove media coverage, framing, congressional speech, and public opinion on civil rights" --Wasow.|
Evaluating black-led protests between 1960 and 1972, I find nonviolent activism, particularly when met with state or vigilante repression, drove media coverage, framing, congressional speech, and public opinion on civil rights. Counties proximate to nonviolent protests saw presidential Democratic vote share increase 1.6–2.5%. Protester-initiated violence, by contrast, helped move news agendas, frames, elite discourse, and public concern toward “social control.” In 1968, ... I find violent protests likely caused a 1.5–7.9% shift among whites toward Republicans and tipped the election. 
Other scholars are not as convinced about the superiority of nonviolence, however, arguing that it was actually the combination of nonviolence with the threat of, or actual use of violence that brought about U.S. civil rights progress. For instance, in "Violence and/or Nonviolence in the Success of the Civil Rights Movement: The Malcolm X–Martin Luther King, Jr. Nexus", August Nimtz asserts:
that it was the combination of that course [non-violent action] and the threat of violence on the part of African Americans that fully explain those two victories [the Civil Rights Act (CRA) and the Voting Rights Act (VRA)]. A close reading of the texts and actions of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X is indispensable for my claim. The archival evidence, as well, makes a convincing case for the CRA, its proposal by the John F. Kennedy (JFK) administration and enactment by Congress. For the VRA, its proposal by the Lyndon B. Johnson (LBJ) administration and enactment by Congress, the evidence is more circumstantial but still compelling. The evidence reveals that for the threat of violence to have been credible, actual violence was required, as events in Birmingham, Alabama, demonstrate. Such violence, the “long hot summers” of the 1960s that began with Birmingham, probably aided and abetted subsequent civil rights gains—a story that has potential lessons for today’s struggles for social equality. 
If one is considering the efficacy of violence over nonviolence, however, Guy Burgess suggests one do a thought experiment. "Pretend you are being confronted by two people whose beliefs are polar opposite your own, and who are trying to get their policies enacted, which would greatly harm you. One approaches you with threats, saying if you don't let them have their way, they'll burn down your business or your house or send protesters out to harass you. The other one approaches you and asks to sit down with you, explain their concerns, get your reactions, see if there are areas of common ground, and find a constructive way of dealing with differences. How would you react to each?"
Guy also points out that Trump and his followers are trying hard to create the impression that violent Antifa thugs are coming to ransack conservative communities. The goal is to frame the Antifa and the Left, in general, as violent adversaries. If violent threats are so effective, then why would Trump be trying to make his opponents appear more violent (and, hence, more effective)? The answer: he isn't. He knows that most people don't like others who are violent—they turn against the violent actors and towards those who promise law and order. (Just as Wasow said.)
So we (Guy and Heidi Burgess) come down on the side of nonviolence, and urge you to read more about the theory behind it, and its past uses in Maire Dugan's original Beyond Intractability article.
 Yasmeen Serhan "The Common Element United Worldwide Protests." The Atlantic. November 19, 2019. https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2019/11/leaderless-protests-around-world/602194/
 Chris McGreal and Martin Pengelly "What is happening in Portland and what does Trump hope to gain?" The Guardian. July 26, 2020. https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2020/jul/26/portland-oregon-protests-what-is-happening-trump-chicago-albuquerque] and https://nymag.com/intelligencer/2020/07/trump-portland-protests-federal-agents-polls.html/
 Elizabeth Hinton "MLK Now" Boston Review. Sept. 10, 2018. http://bostonreview.net/forum/mlk-now/elizabeth-hinton-violence-and-nonviolence
 Erica Chenoweth and Maria J. Stephan. Why Civil Resistance Works: The Strategic Logic of Nonviolent Conflict (New York, NY: Columbia University Press, August 2011). https://www.ericachenoweth.com/research/wcrw
 Omar Wasow. "Agenda Seeding: How 1960s Black Protests Moved Elites, Public Opinion and Voting" American Political Secine Review. June 25, 2020. https://politicalsciencenow.com/agenda-seeding-how-1960s-black-protests-moved-elites-public-opinion-and-voting/
 August H. Nimtz "Violence and/or Nonviolence in the Success of the Civil Rights Movement: The Malcolm X–Martin Luther King, Jr. Nexus" New Political Science Volume 38, Issue 1, Feb. 5, 2016. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/07393148.2015.1125116?src=recsys&journalCode=cnps20