POLITICAL RIGHTS

Authoritarian regimes can seem too difficult to topple because we think of power as coming from the top down. But what if we see power as coming from the people themselves?

The anti-apartheid movement in South Africa and the Civil Rights Movement in the United States—with others throughout history—reveal that when mass numbers of people simultaneously refuse to cooperate with oppressive systems, they can win.

BIRMINGHAM CAMPAIGN

A sustained, nonviolent campaign called “Project C” demands desegregation and equal employment opportunities for black residents of Birmingham, Alabama, USA.

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DANISH RESISTANCE AGAINST NAZIS

When Nazi soldiers occupy Denmark to exploit its farms, factories, and workforce, Danish citizens resist through a powerful noncooperation campaign.

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MONTGOMERY BUS VICTORY

Residents of Montgomery, Alabama challenge racial segregation through a year-long boycott and court case, launching the Civil Rights Movement in the United States.

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BOYCOTT IN SOUTH AFRICA

Black South Africans in Port Elizabeth organize and protest against apartheid with a massive, strategic, and sustained boycott of local, white-owned businesses.

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The Birmingham Campaign: A Turning Point for Civil Rights in the USA

In 1963, Birmingham, Alabama was often cited as “the most segregated city in the South.” As a result, the city was strategically chosen by civil rights organizers to launch “Project C” with the “C” standing for confrontation. Sit-ins, marches, and boycotts were part of sustained, strategic, nonviolent action that demanded desegregation and equal employment opportunities for black residents of Birmingham. Brutal police attacks and the arrests of thousands of youth protesters catapulted the protests onto a national stage. Considered a turning point, the campaign eventually lead to the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

 

SOME TACTICS USED
  • MASS STREET PROTEST
  • SIT-IN / KNEEL-IN
  • BOYCOTT
  • VIGIL, PRAYER RALLY

Danish Resistance to German Occupation: Survival Through Noncooperation

In 1940, Nazi forces began occupying Denmark without firing a shot. When Danish politicians stopped cooperating with the Nazis and resigned, an umbrella group of activists became the de facto leaders. They coordinated citizens in a campaign of non-cooperation resistance with tactics like strikes, work stoppages and slowdowns, sabotage, song gatherings, marches, and more. The Danes managed to protect most of their citizens from brutality, including almost all of Denmark’s Jews, and limited resources Germany was able to take from Denmark for the war.

 

SOME TACTICS USED
  • MASS STREET PROTEST

Montgomery Bus Victory in the Streets and in the Courts

The Montgomery Bus Boycott is considered the first large-scale campaign against segregation in the United States. For more than a year, 96% of the city’s 50,000 black residents boycotted the racially segregated public bus system. Organizers also created a parallel rideshare program that gave 20,000 free rides a day. Even in the face of extreme violence, this economic noncooperation—coupled with a legal challenge to the U.S. Supreme Court—forced the integration of the bus system in Montgomery. National leaders emerged and the campaign’s success helped inspire the decade long U.S. Civil Rights Movement to follow.

 

SOME TACTICS USED
  • BOYCOTT
  • LEGAL ARGUMENT
  • PARALLEL INSTITUTION
  • RALLIES, SPEECHES

Boycott in South Africa Helps Shift Power to the People

In 1983, black South Africans and all non-white residents were living under a brutal apartheid regime. Activists in Port Elizabeth went on the offensive, shifting from high-risk protests to noncooperation tactics with a boycott of the white-owned business district. 500,000 black South Africans maintained 100% compliance for more than half a year, shopping only in black neighborhoods. Massive state repression at various points drove the movement underground, but the boycott helped shift power into the hands of black South Africans and onto the international stage, eventually bringing down apartheid.

 

SOME TACTICS USED
  • BOYCOTT
  • PARALLEL INSTITUTION
  • RALLIES, SPEECHES
  • DIVESTMENT CAMPAIGN
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