Non- vs. Violent Protests’ Effectiveness Essay

Non-violent protest is a way of passing the message across without employing forceful means. Gandhi (2001) considers non-violent protest to be the kind of protest that has no defeat. Gandhi (2001) further tells us about its principles, “The first principle of non-violence is the non-compliance with everything that is humiliating.” In this case, it is not a sign of fear but stronger than violence. Further, he gives more explanation on this. He says, “The power of disposal of a non-violent person is always greater than he would have if he was violent.”

Human beings are the only creatures who can differentiate between good and evil. They, therefore, need to use their intellect and will to guide their reactions to oppression in the best way possible. It is important to realize that violence for violence is more destructive. Shelley (2012) trusted the idea of the power of the human mind. He believed that the mind is very useful in changing circumstances using non-violent ways. His last few stanzas of the poem The Mask of Anarchy show that non-violent is the best means of countering slavery.

Shelley (2012) proclaimed “… Like a forest close and mute,/ With folded arms and looks which are/ Weapons of unvanquished war Here, he reveals how people can approach their protest. Those who use violent ways will not last. The last laugh goes to those who approach it using non-violent protest. It is the best way to solve a problem.

When one engages in non-violent means to solve a problem, they reduce the physical suffering of the people. Non-violence does oppose the physical punishment to the victims. It respects the first moral principles that apply to all beings. It always encourages doing well and avoiding evil. It links all human beings to the true meaning of creation. This type of protest is simpler to take. It utilizes the human intellect and will. This is contrary to using violence that can lead to the use of manufactured weapons.

Non-violent protest is the most influential type of protest. This is because those involved use peace to attract the masses for their support. Their communication is always attractive, making their oppressors agree to listen to them. The oppressors get ashamed of disrupting peace if they employ force. In this case, they do not use force to reject their ideas. They employ dialogue that is the best means of solving crises.

According to the poem, The Mask of Anarchy, the consequences of violence are deaths, damages, slavery, and destruction among others. However, the last stanzas call for non-violent means to counter all damages. Gandhi (2001) cautions those who still think that violence is the way to go. He states that “So long as one wants to retain one’s sword, one has not attained complete fearlessness.” This is evident that man can obtain complete courage through non-violent means.

Non-violence brings about fewer losses to property and life. It is a professional way of countering looting and killing. It values property belonging to fellow human beings. Its main target is the freedom of the human race as it is, God made us be free. It uses the simplest means available to achieve the peace we seek every day. It is the only way to get out of violence as Gandhi (2001) puts it, “Mankind has to get out of violence only through non-violence.” He added that hatred is a vice that encourages violence. It is the worst action in which human beings can be involved. Love is the answer.

It is cheaper to train people to use non-violent means than using violent means. Gandhi (2001) argues that “Human dignity is best preserved not by developing the capacity to deal with destruction but by refusing to retaliate.” In this case, he views the training of humankind to adopt non-violent ways simpler compared to the training of people to use violence. He wonders why people still think that non-violence is difficult to learn. He considers it to be easier to use than using violence.

It is through non-violent protest that the opposition agrees to use non-violent means to solve the problem. This shows how good the peaceful means to promote peace even to the opposition. Alternatively, if one chooses to use violence to obtain a good, there will be violent retaliation. It is worthy to note that when one uses violence to counter violence, they cause double the damage. It does not lead to a solution.

Non-violence is preferable since it counters the cycle of violence and counter-violence. We should advocate it in all conflicts that we should solve. It is a useful way of getting things in order especially when we need a long-term solution. This is contrary to violence where a party uses it to gain control of a situation. It is more permanent as the two parties reach a common agreement, unlike violence. In violence, the one who loses the war agrees to the rules set by his conqueror.

When a non-violent brings about the common agreement, there is an option for future evaluation of the cord and immediate changing if need be. This is a good way of getting the best deal compared to engaging in violence. In violence, one agrees to the rules of his/her conqueror. However, they later retaliate when they feel that they can overcome the enemy.

Violence makes it very difficult to focus on matters at hand. Society is always in fear and panic. The media focuses on coverage of war instead of focusing on the main problem and its possible solutions. It is even confusing because it is difficult to get evidence in a place affected by social unrest.

Solving crises using non-violent means is the main teaching from different denominations and religions. This means that one who employs non-violent ways in solving a problem gets support from these religious bodies. This leads to quick solving of that problem.

Non-violence creates a foundation for a way of life. It is the only method of promoting unity among the human race. It is the only way to use it in solving our problems. It opens the way to self-realization as God created human beings to love and serve each other in their best ways possible.

Violent protests are the main source of shading blood. In the world today, the major crises to people are because of violence. The major problem commonly seen in developing countries is a dictatorship. This is an issue of concern considering the percentage of a nation’s resources taken by these dictators. Due to this, there are more struggles for power in order to gain wealth. The rebel groups arise and fight the government in an attempt to gain control of the rich resources for their wealth

To conclude, the country experiences many problems if its people engage in violence as their means of solving crises. It is clear that they spend most resources to sustain war instead of developing the nation. On contrary, there is higher economic growth in the countries that use non-violence. Human Labor spends more time destroying than building the nation. Therefore, violence is not the answer to crises.

Gandhi, M. (2001). Non-Violent Resistance. St. Mineola, New York: Dove Publication.

Shelley P. (2012). The Masque of Anarchy ( Kindle ed.) London: BiblioBazaar.

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Essay: Violent Protests for Climate Action

Essay: Violent Protests for Climate Action

April 01, 2022 • Essays • 10 min read

Disclaimer. This is an adaptation of a piece written for the master’s-level class “Advocacy in Global Challenges and Climate Change”. In order to fulfil the grading criteria, a challenging perspective was chosen, which does not reflect the opinions and beliefs of the author, nor the Green Office. Neither the author nor the Green Office condone the use of violence under any circumstances.

Climate change is one of the most pressing issues our society and planet are facing at the moment. Many are the debates and forums of discussion surrounding what is the best way to tackle it and ways to adapt to and mitigate its effects. Nevertheless, the harsh reality is that global governance is lagging behind, without upholding its promises. As such, inaction on climate issues has been defined as one of the biggest risks that humanity is facing.

Various interest groups, such as activist organisations, NGOs, and civil society groups, have taken this issue to heart. What these groups often use as a strategy for change is non-violent direct action. This essay, however, asks whether more violent forms of protesting could be more effective for catalysing decisions to reduce emissions and generating attention for climate action? The question posed is relevant because, when it comes to reducing CO2 emissions, the global response has not yet been sufficient , despite the concerns expressed by the scientific community and activists. Furthermore, it is necessary, in this day and age, to reflect on how change should occur. The political discourse often remains stuck on whether a change of status quo should occur at all; this essay argues that more violent forms of protests are required if governance goals are to make a real impact. My analytic framing lies in Critical International Relations theory, and Marxist influence.


One thing is clear: climate change needs to be tackled through the diffusion of power . Governments are not the only actors that can coordinate and act for change. Although global governance is still determined by hierarchy and power , which translates into one group’s governance, beliefs, and interests prevailing over others, this power can be contested by non-state actors through means of politicisation. I argue for further adapting the system in such a way that prevents powerful states from abusing it and allows for more and better participation of other actors.

For context: the most important forums of discussion for the global governance of climate change are the Conference of the Parties (COPs) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Lately, COPs have become, in theory, the place that allows for a facilitated dialogue between states and interest groups about climate action. This has been identified as “ hybrid multilateralism ” and institutionalised in the Paris Agreement. These interest groups comprise NGOs, CSOs, but also the private sector. As a result, each actor plays a different role in terms of their (perceived) authority, influence, power, but also the interests that they advocate for. Despite this attempt to incorporate non-state actors in the diplomatic dialogue on climate action, the extent of their impact remains unclear . Conflicting interests and the inability to concretely affect the end results of COPs leave interest groups on the margins.

It is understood that this multilateral participation, for many advocates of climate action, is not enough. This is especially because, in the past, COPs forums have allowed for the participation of actors whose environmental strategies are based on greenwashing, making other actors question the legitimacy of the institutional setup. For this reason, many NGOs and climate activist organisations have turned to the power of social movements. Depending on the type of organisation, the mobilisation of groups often takes place in the form of protests. Social movements may appear as disorganised action, nevertheless many resources and implementable mechanisms are necessary for effective mobilisation.


Borrowing Entman’s definition , this paper regards framing as “selecting elect some aspects of a perceived reality and make them more salient in a communicating text, in such a way as to promote a particular problem definition, causal interpretation, moral evaluation, and/or treatment recommendation for the item described”. In the context of climate change and climate action more specifically, NGOs and activist networks frame the issue in a different manner than states or profit-driven companies. Where some see acting to tackle climate change as an opportunity (e.g., the EU), others understand that acting is the only way to prevent an existential threat from having a worse impact than it already has. Framing influences thinking, and frames are often not explicit. Viewing an issue from different frames, is to define different problems .

The framing and extreme politicisation of an issue, can result in such an issue being securitised. Securitisation in (anti-traditional and European) International Relations is often defined following the Copenhagen School. Securitisation in these terms deals with the ways in which issues can be perceived as a threat and how they can ultimately be turned into conflic t. For this to take place, there needs to be an actor (usually a state) claiming that something (or someone) is existentially threatened by something considered harmful. An audience needs to be convinced that it is wise and a matter of security to take countermeasures to deal with such a threat.

In this essay, I advance two points of criticism to this view, based on the critical approaches of the Aberystwyth School. First, securitisation should not be state centred . Second, securitisation should be understood as human emancipation . The state is not to be understood as the provider of security but rather as an actor fostering insecurity. By not acting on the imminent threat of the consequences of climate change in a swift manner, states and the international system as a whole are the perpetrators of insecurity to populations. Although deniers may claim that climate change is not a security matter, it is. However, states often securitise the environment in a harmful way : when the beneficiaries of the security actions are not the people but the state itself. But securitisation can be used in a productive way and for good ends, if done by the people.


In 2019, the German group Ende Gelände engaged in “civil disobedience” by storming the Gaezweiller coal mine. This action was defined as violent. One year later, Extinction Rebellion (XR) activists were defined by Priti Patel as “criminals” who pose “attack[s] on our way of life, our economy, and the livelihoods of the hard-working majority”. Contradictorily, both groups (and many others) affirm that what makes them strong is their use of a non-violence strategy .

But what is violence? Similarly as to what was argued before, how political violence is understood and framed moulds the perception of it being or not being effective, necessary, and justifiable. Despite previous work on non-violence (see: Sharp and Chenoweth), the question of what does or does not constitute violence remains alive. There is no public agreement on the contested concept. Moreover, studies arguing for the success of non-violence strategies are often focused on civil resistance addressing precise and case specific issues . However, climate change is a global existential threat that needs active involvement.

Historically, civil disobedience has been strongly associated with non-violence. This is, however, not necessarily true. Assuming that civil disobedience involves breaking the law, acting intentionally with the aim to change a specific policy, and being willing to be held accountable for the violation of the law, Lang argues that there can be a distinction between civil disobedience and non-violence. When adding destruction as a feature of disobedience, there is no incompatibility between civil disobedience and violence if the aims are fulfilled.

Additionally, it is the viewpoint of this essay that violence has permeated and is present in every aspect of society. Slavoj Zizek defines two categories of violence : “subjective” and “objective”. The former refers to a “violent perturbation of the normal state of things” whilst the latter is systemic, less visible and contained in everyday life. Becoming aware of the objective violence that comes from state inaction on climate change is crucial to understanding how to act.


What is there to do, then? COPs have failed and states are not going to be the catalysers for change. Becoming carbon neutral by 2050 is unrealistic . Here my answer: social movements and organisations should frame climate inaction as a security risk. Most importantly, these movements should engage in disruption . Such disruption should be pursued in a justifiable manner and only limited to property and not towards persons. It is necessary to highlight that the destruction and sabotage should be not of just any kind of property, but of property that is instrumental to the perpetration of CO2 emissions and environmental disaster.

Maintaining a strategy of non-violence is not enough in a context that requires more. Even if violence alone will not achieve change, it is destabilising enough to be more effective in pressuring states into taking action. Moreover, given the fuzzy lines between violence and non-violence, most of the time, the actions undertaken are already framed and perceived as being violent. In the United Kingdom for instance, XR’s disobedience has led to a more stringent approach by the Home Office to protests in general, limiting other civil issues. By pursuing an active violent sabotage of CO2 emitting facilities, however, there would be no new laws created, but stronger signals sent.

The fact that a mass wave of property destruction has not yet occurred can stand for the strength of the non-violence ideals, while at the same time it can be seen as “ a failure to attain social depth, articulate the antagonisms that run through this crisis and, not the least, acquire a tactical asset” . Why such actions have not taken place have been named by Malm as the “Lanchester’s paradox” ( Lanchester being the one first posing the question), highlighting the inaction that stems from those most advocating for direct action. Although other studies suggest that violent action and high-risk activism may occur at the final stages of a social movement and when this has lost most support, the case of climate change activism may differ given the nature of the threat: existential and with actors to blame for its risk.

More direct action and involvement are needed if a revolution is to occur. As history shows (from the French Revolution to the Stonewall riots), if the goal is to make an impact, policy papers and campaigns are not enough. At least not for our liberation from the already oppressing violence of a system that is ignoring its environmental faults. Change often comes because of violence used, and non-violence often ignores this . It is from securitising climate change that the potential for emancipation and revolution comes from. This does not assume violence to be the only means to achieve the needed change, but sees in its careful “ethical” execution potential for the initiation of more effective actions to counter climate change.

To note: it is of outmost importance to recognise the potential of pitfalls that carrying out violence may lead to and this essay does not serve to advocate for potential acts of harmful terrorism in any way.


To give a direct answer to the question that has guided this essay, more violent protests can be argued to be more effective. Different framings of both climate change and violence lead to different perceptions of the issues and actions. Nevertheless, it is not possible to state the effects a wave of property disruption might have given that similar large-scale sabotage has not taken place yet. At the same time, current tactics employed by organisations and movements have not been having the required impact and effect for change. To this reason, recommendations for social movements and organisations on how to act and impact global governance are as follows:

  • Engage in large scale disruptive and destabilising protests.
  • NOTE : such violence should be limited to property that engages or represents an engagement with environmental destruction.
  • In other words, not as state centred and/or as emancipation of the people.
  • To achieve more active and impactful involvement at COPs decisions/negotiations.

REMINDER. This is an adaptation of a piece written for the master’s-level class “Advocacy in Global Challenges and Climate Change”. In order to fulfil the grading criteria, a challenging perspective was chosen, which does not reflect the opinions and beliefs of the author, nor the Green Office. Neither the author nor the Green Office condone the use of violence under any circumstances.

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Violence And Protest Movement Essay

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Civil Disobedience In Dr. Martin Luther King's Letter From Birmingham Jail

In many recent occurrences, American citizens have demonstrated their ignorance towards the definition of civil disobedience by rioting and looting. In order to protest issues in an effective manner, the definition of civil disobedience must be known. Many high ranking historical and modern day figures tend to agree that civil disobedience must have a just cause, it must be an action that disrupts the status quo in some way, and finally, the civil disobedience must be proportional to the impact of the injustice on the rights and the lives of American citizens. In order for “Civil Disobedience” not to devolve into aimless complaining, the civil disobedience must develop out of an injustice perpetrated on a person, a group of people, or a society.…

Explain Some Historical Court Cases That Violated The Bill Of Rights

Throughout history and even to the present day, the government has made laws that didn’t always please everyone. Laws, taxes, tariffs, bans, they were all created to place boundaries on citizens and even government officials. Some historical court cases violated the rights that citizens obtained in the bill of rights and the constitution. Peaceful resistance, in my opinion, benefits the society more than it causes disruptions.…

The Effects Of The Stonewall Riots

Through out the past century our people have continuously been brought down and shoved aside for who we are and what we stand for. The civil rights act of the 1960's was as peaceful as the country would allow but with every peaceful moment the country had brought down intense force trying to stop the change that was heading for America. Where in 1969 the Stonewall Riot was brought about when the patrons began rioting against the police in hopes to stop the police brutality. It then lead to several days of demonstration that helped cause a nationwide appearance of the LGBT+ community. In 2014 after many cases of cops shooting innocent men and some children the Ferguson Riots came to surface.…

Second Amendment Right To Civil Disobedience

However, the year is 2016, and the bottom line is that protests just do not work. Police officers do not suddenly mend their "wrongs," instead they distance themselves even further away from the people they are obligated to protect with every protest.…

Electoral Rhetorical Analysis

Many people are discontent with the United States government. Ironically, the very same peoples’ actions often contradict their extensive complaints. An innumerable number tend to sit around and whine that things could be better while playing the role of spectators. They act as though they are watching a stage performance; they clap when the show is going well, and boo when it is not to their satisfaction, instead of participating in the show to add improvements. Peaceful resistance is frequently overlooked, but can prompt favorable changes in a society.…

The Baltimore Riots

Riots can have some good results, in this case the Ferguson and Baltimore riots spawned the peaceful #Blacklivesmatter movement to draw awareness to the police brutality that is occurring across America. There are always more peaceful solutions that can still lead to the same if not better outcomes in the long…

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s Letter From A Birmingham Jail

In free societies, one way in which people can demonstrate their thoughts and concerns to the government is through peaceful protest. Throughout history this has been a way to make changes to unjust laws in ways that positively impact a free society. In our United States history, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was an active civil rights leader who preached reform via peaceful protest. As he wrote in “Letter from a Birmingham Jail,” “One has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws.” This signifies that it is not only important to resist unjust laws, it is necessary.…

Ricky Byrdsong Memorial Race Against Hate: A Comparative Analysis

As Ricky Birdsong was walking with his son and his daughter, he was shot by a white gunman in Evanston. The white man who shot him also shot many others, including a fifteen year old boy. Ricky Birdsong was killed in this tragedy. Although his children were not hurt, they saw their father murdered. His daughter voiced, “To come together just for common humanity means a lot, because the opposite of that is what took away my dad.”…

Does Henry David Thoreau Mean By Peacefully Resisting To Unjust?

In today’s modern society, peacefully resisting to unjust laws is almost an everyday thing. All around the globe today, we see prime examples of nation’s citizens peacefully demonstrating their opinions and believes to their ruling governments. That being said, civil disobedience and peacefully resisting to laws positively impact a free society. By peacefully resisting, societies come together to achieve a common goal, which is to fight back against their ruling governments due to unjust and unfair laws that negatively impact the governed.…

Peaceful Resistance During The Civil Rights Movement

With what is going on in the United States currently, peaceful resistance is something we see every day. Peaceful resistance can be shown in many ways, not just civil disobedience. One of the most successful forms of peaceful resistance is that of protesting. Things such as President Donald Trump's so-called immigration ban, have triggered an era of peaceful resistance. CNN reported of several airports being affected including, "Los Angeles, San Francisco, Washington, Dallas, New York's JFK, Raleigh, Houston, Seattle, Portland, Atlanta and more."…

Civil Disobedience And Pessimism Essay

Robert O’Connor Concord High School New Hampshire Like many things in life, civil disobedience, is all a matter of perspective. Whether it be the Great Muhammad Ali peacefully opposing his selection for the draft or Rosa Parks literally sitting down instead of standing up for what is right on a bus ride home, each and every case of civil disobedience has its ups and downs. Though, when talking about basic human rights, there is no room to be neutral, and that is why peaceful resistance to laws most certainly impacts a society positively. From an optimistic perspective, everything will be alright in the end. Despite Ali’s…

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