Movement Voices - Nonviolent Direct Action and Prison Witness
Nonviolent Direct Action and prison witness have been core elements of the SOA Watch movement since its beginning. In Crossing the Linethe tradition of Gandhi, Dorothy Day, Martin Luther King Jr., Aung San Suu Kyi and countless others, SOA Watch activists have used nonviolent resistance to expose the horrors of the SOA and to express solidarity with our sisters and brothers in Latin America. As a result, over 300 human rights defenders have collectively spent over 100 years in prison and served probation. Their sacrifice and steadfastness in the struggle for peace and justice provide an extraordinary example of love in action and have given tremendous momentum to the effort to change oppressive US foreign policy and to close the SOA/ WHINSEC.

Now, in the context of an increasingly militarized prison system, is there a need to shift to other creative ways of continuing the tradition of direct action? What is your take on nonviolent direct action and prison witness considering both our movement’s history and today’s context?
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written by Huffman, Vernon, August 07, 2013
I proudly list the jail time I've done for peace as part of my resume. It was important for my personal growth and perhaps helped to move the world just a little bit closer to the ideals we imagine. Nonviolent civil disobedience has been an important tool for social change because it defies the control of violence. I'm now involved in training techniques of NVCD to people concerned about the impacts of fossil fuel exploitation on our climate.

But we should never allow routine arrest to become an institution of our movement. The meaning can be lost when dozens of CD veterans regularly line up to be carted away in pre-agreed catch and release operations to plead out and receive community service.

Look at the potential of trial as an opportunity to speak truth to power. Do not plead guilty for using your first amendment rights. Serve as your own attorney, because you will be allowed to say things in court that no lawyer would dare. If you qualify, ask for a court appointed back-up attorney. This will give you a confidential relationship with someone who thinks just like the judge, a great way to test your ideas for creative courtroom actions.

I can't promise it will turn out well, but it might. The judge at Hanford gave us seven times the normal sentence for getting media publicity when he refused to let us share the Constitution with the jury. On the other hand, when we resisted conviction for protest in our Senator's Portland office, the judge remanded us to go to DC, as we were planning, to protest at the Senator's office there.

Study the history of courtroom activism. Read the writings at FIJA.org. Speak your truth and demand to be heard. Do not cooperate with a system that criminalizes right action.
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SOA PoC, Sep-Dec 2002
written by Chuck Booker, August 19, 2013
I am uncertain why SOA ncd and prison witness have decreased so substantially. That being said, my "take" is that all direct action need be nonviolent for the witness to have any impact vis a vis the systematized violence that lies at the core of the evil. Prison witness should still be emphasized and supported, with other creative ways explored
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Now more than ever...
written by Tina Busch, August 19, 2013
Because of the increasingly militarized prison system our nonviolent direct action and prison witness is now more appropriate and is needed now more than ever. When we engage in nonviolent direct action we stand up to and expose an unjust, violent and discriminatory system that not only continues to use power and domination to control resources, ie. the ideology that keeps "schools" such as WHINSEC alive, as well as exposing how the prison industrial complex dominates and controls the poor and people of color in this country.
Our use of nonviolent direct action and prison witness exposes and connects the dots with regards to how power, militarization and economic control is used to dominate, exploit and control individuals and countries for our own "National interests". The Military Industrial Complex and the Prison Industrial Complex work hand in hand to continue to oppress. Our use of direct action and prison witness is one important way to expose the connections.
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Relentless Persistence
written by Ed Kinane, August 19, 2013
Our Latin American sisters and brothers talk about “relentless persistence.” The remarkable and protracted SOA Watch court and prison witness campaign embodies such persistence...and inspires other nonviolent resistance and solidarity throughout the Western Hemisphere.

That campaign inspires our actions here in Central New York against the weaponized Reaper drone hub at Hancock Air Base (with well over 100 arrests at the base’s main gate). La lucha continua!
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Synthesis not Compromise
written by Ed Osowski, August 19, 2013
Gandhi spoke of the purity of means when engaging in a nonviolent struggle. In applying the principles of a struggle, he recognized that engagement should be encouraged but also saw that it needs to be effective and to have substance.
We need to be careful that the movement maintains substance in everything that it does. If we engage in activities that have no substance for the simple purpose of creating an energy that is false, we will be setting ourselves up for failure as a movement. For Gandhi, firmness in the truth comes out of conflict that is resolved not through compromise but through a higher synthesis. What should result from a nonviolent conflict is synthesis, not compromise. The position of the proponent should become the position of both the protagonist and the antagonist.
Civil disobedience for the sake of civil disobedience or due to a conscious or a unconscious motivation to be a martyr will not result in a synthesis.
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