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Civil Disobedience: A Guide Toward Successful Movements

Updated on April 16, 2020
Kyler J Falk profile image

Developing concepts that solve complex problems has always been a specialty and hobby of mine.


Before we jump into the steps of successful civil disobedience, let us first define the phrase, "civil disobedience."

As defined by the Oxford dictionary: "The refusal to comply with certain laws considered unjust, as a peaceful form of political protest."

However, my definition goes a little something like this: Any action taken by an individual, or group of individuals, in pursuit of resisting any literal, figurative, perceived, imposed, suggested, etc. unfair means of external bodies/institutions governing their individual being(s). These actions can be peaceful, and they could be violent, because civil means anything and anyone within the private sector.

My definition is the one I would like you to keep in mind, and I will address why it is I am using my definition near the end of this article.

Step 1: Cause and Timing

When attempting successful civil disobedience, make sure that you choose a clear cause and know when it is and is not appropriate to practice civil disobedience. Picking a cause can be difficult, because most causes will not attract others to them, so ensure your cause sounds pithy and just. Once you have your cause in mind, make sure you know at what point in time bringing this cause to light through your disobedience will have the greatest effect.

As I write this, police are arresting people for no reason other than they made up some new rules that close the beach to the public. The man was not putting anyone in immediate, direct, nor indirect danger, and the arrest was said to be for the purpose of "sending a message" to the public. The police broke their own rules, the rules this man was following, to ignore social distancing and arrest this innocent man. This is a possible cause for civil disobedience, and now would be the time to get the word out.


Step 2: Get the Word Out

This is the most crucial aspect in your plan for civil disobedience, because if no one knows about your plan and its cause then you have no power at all. Don't be that weird hippy who makes a bunch of signs then goes down to the corner and screams at people, they don't bring about any change and serve only two purposes. Those two purposes are an eyesore, or a meme opportunity, and that is not the goal of civil disobedience.

Ensure that you contact every news source, amateur, expert, and professional, send out mass emails, texts, make your own web pages and articles... it doesn't matter what you do to get the word out, only that you do it. Writers such as myself will jump at the opportunity to stir up some trouble with our writing, and when we do make sure you share it everywhere! Make sure you include the dates and locations of your gatherings, or else it will be a really short and lackluster show of civil disobedience.

Even better, contact every local militia leader and ask that they provide resources for your civil disobedience. Militias are there to protect the people, and they always have been.


Step 3: Gather Together

It is very important that once you establish your civil disobedience infrastructure that you, yourself, organize all individuals involved and get them together before, during, and after the disobedience in order to show organization and solidarity. Take a lot of pictures, videos, and other forms of recording for posting on the internet. Show your opponents that you are not alone, and make them shake in their boots.

The more individuals you can gather together, the more successful your civil disobedience will be. Where you gather is also quite important, as gathering in an unpopulated area will not send your message to the masses. Gather in public areas, areas with the most visibility and foot traffic, this is for your own safety as well as your cause. The more witnesses, the less likely the government or authorities will abuse their power to silence you.

Make sure you don't give them a reason to abuse their power, and if you do, you better be ready for the consequences.


Step 4: Maintain Civility

I know I told you to get as many people involved as possible, but it is important that you do not involve anyone with direct, professional ties to the government. Civility is for the private sector, and the second you let a public figure with government ties into your movement your cause will be hijacked and demented for the gain of others. It is great to have public figures, but civil public leaders are the key, not people who already have the power to work for change at the same level you are fighting against.

Look back on the occupy Wall Street movement, and how fast it ended when public figures above the civil level got involved. Those public figures drew massive crowds, drew cameras to their own causes, and the influx of media around public figures quickly demented the purpose of the movement. Soon after public figures from the government started speaking, so did people start to get labeled "domestic terrorists", "anti-American extremists", "anti-government extremists", and "direct threats"

Make sure you aren't letting wolves into the chicken coop, keep it civil.


Step 5: Repeat, Repeat, Repeat

You now have all the steps to accomplish successful civil disobedience, and steps one through four need to be repeated over and over again. It can take days, or it could take years, sometimes your civil disobedience will never pay off. Please, don't give up and keep repeating these steps for all our sake. If you can pull off one successful show of civil disobedience, you can pull off many more, and in the face of the growing tyranny of our governments we need more leaders willing to civilly disobey.

We will stand behind you, so long as you put in the effort, but we need you to take those first steps for us!

Civil Is Not Always Peaceful

Never will I ever encourage illegal violence, but history tells us that civil disobedience is not always peaceful. In fact, the legal definition of civil disobedience has changed over the years to discourage the public from protesting at all, making the definition more rigid so prosecutors have an easier time pushing punishments on those partaking.

To try to discredit your movement inorganically, and sometimes with force, all major leaders of movements go from being labeled "activists" to "anti-government extremists" by the media. Do not let their scare tactics fool you, stay strong and true to your cause and its leaders! The government has to have serious evidence to try you as a domestic terrorist.

We have seen this occur many times throughout history, here where I am in America and abroad, and they will push you and your followers to become violent by pushing the boundaries of their power. Make sure you are ready for when they begin to hit your soft spots, when they try to entice violence out of your cause, and don't let them win. Know your enemy inside and out, rally your followers around your cause, and be the one to turn the other cheek when your opponent casts the first stone.

There are ways to legally block the abuse of power, make sure you keep yourself tactically knowledgeable as well as legally, and as they prod at your weak points you will be able to smash theirs. Best of luck out there people, and may we all maintain our liberties forever.

Liberty is in our hands!


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    • Kyler J Falk profile imageAUTHOR

      Kyler J Falk 

      12 months ago from California

      As always Mr. Happy I enjoy your input, you always have a wealth of wisdom to shed on these sorts of subjects. I'd also ask that you take much of what I've said with a grain of salt, as I have kneecapped my own words so as not to encourage anything illegal. Encouraging violence would see my article removed, and I'd rather not have my words hidden, if you catch my drift.

      You'd be surprised about the stupid locations I have seen people protest in, literally like you said, in the middle of the forest where foot traffic is limited to hikers and animals. Some people need to hear this sort of advice, lest they go prop themselves up in a cave on the side of a mountain for a day thinking they are making a difference.

      In America, if you involve a direct political leader or someone with direct ties to the government you have taken your "civil disobedience" to the level of "political revolution/insurrection". Once a movement becomes political it legally becomes "anti-government" here in america. It takes the list of options that the government has to eliminate you from simple use of shield walls, to using violence if necessary. The next step is to get you to fight back, at which point lethal force can be used on any perceived threat with very little provocation. Let the politicians speak, that is their job, but keep them in the office and on the podium where they belong.

      As far as what I meant when discussing the Occupy movement, it is alleged that an organized group/set of groups ranging from private contractors to public law enforcement were going to begin assassinating the leaders. The redacted FBI documents show it was confirmed to be a real threat, and they refused to investigate and arrest the individual(s) on suspicions of intent to commit acts of terror. The only reason the info went public is because it was requested by a civil liberties firm in DC. Big mess, but the point being politicians getting direct involvement really muddles the situation if all they are doing is publicity while on the front lines.

      As for being the first one to stand up, you know me. I operate in the shade. No need to get directly involved until a real push can be made, and at that point I'll be in the forward team and perhaps acting as the squad leader, but until then I'm content to act when I'm invisible.

      A very important point you brought up, not becoming a martyr, because when all your friends are either in the hospital, dead, or arrested the morale of the movement drops swiftly. Martyrdom is always the last ditch effort, and should only be used in cases of extreme tyranny!

      As always, thank you for reading and for your amazing input, Mr. Happy!

    • Mr. Happy profile image

      Mr. Happy 

      12 months ago from Toronto, Canada

      "Don't be that weird hippy who makes a bunch of signs then goes down to the corner and screams at people, they don't bring about any change and serve only two purposes." - Now-now ... haha!! "Weird hippy" might eventually get some followers. Never know 'till You try.

      "Even better, contact every local militia leader and ask that they provide resources" - Okay, I'm in Canada. We don't have the "militias" You guys have down there. It would be illegal here. So, instead of contacting militias, we here contact the media for support. The media is so bored, they'll come-out at a ten people protest, with a hundred officers around. That way, the media will spread the word, especially if there is even a tiny amount of possible violence.

      "gathering in an unpopulated area will not send your message to the masses" - Haha!! Yes, do not protest by yourself in the middle of a forest. You'll just disturb our animal cousins.

      "Gather in public areas, areas with the most visibility and foot traffic" - Yes, very good advice. I prefer the middle of highly trafficked down-town intersections. Stop busses, streetcars, cars, everyone. Or, as many of us did earlier this year: railroads. When trains stop, trade stops, travel stops, basically a huge part of the economy stops. Was very effective earlier this year but we did it across the country from the east coast to the west coast: block roads, bridges and railways. You'll see how quick the word gets out. Haha!!

      "it is important that you do not involve anyone with direct, professional ties to the government." - Some politicians who support the causes of protesters have shown up in the past and we welcome their supportive message. Politicians are just our representatives in gov't. That's what they are there for, to implement OUR message. So, yes they are welcome at protests.

      "Look back on the occupy Wall Street movement, and how fast it ended when public figures above the civil level got involved." - yes, look back: the talk about the 1% vs the 99% started at Occupy. I still have a sign from back then (it's in my bedroom) which reads: "We Are the 99%". That talk was picked up by Bernie and we are here a decade later still talking about Jeff Bezos, I mean the1% lol And Bernie did force the !$#hole's hand to give his employees a $15 minimum wage. One tiny battle won.

      "We will stand behind you, so long as you put in the effort, but we need you to take those first steps for us!" - I saw a protest sign once which read: "“I wondered why somebody didn’t do something. Then I realized that I am somebody”. So, I am always out there. I have been out there since 2001, when cops tossed over 5,000 canisters of tear-gas at us in one week-end in Quebec City at the Summit of the Americas. I'll never forget that weekend. It was brutal.

      "Never will I ever encourage illegal violence" - I will! I will! *raises hand* Haha!!

      You see, I was born and raised in a dictatorship. Something in between Cuba and North Korea today. Not as nice as Cuba but not as devastating as North Korea. In 1989 I was there during the revolution. It was illegal to protest and it was illegal to engage in violence against the dictatorship (state) but people did it and many died. I saw tanks on the street and AK-47 tracers at night. Buildings looked like Swiss Cheese in the aftermath. It depends on the situation but sometimes You have to do what's right, not what's legal because "legal" is in the eye of the beholder.

      I do agree with You though: in most cases try not to damage property, try not to burn cop cars, try not to beat-down officers and keep it safe. Also, think about not becoming a martyr. Those only help in very extreme situations. The same with immolation. These are very extreme last to be used tactics. They are tactics though.

      Thank You for the article. All the best to everyone!


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