This briefing has been written to help to inform members of the community about the principles of Peaceful Community Protest.
These principles have developed over a long history of non-violent community protests from around the world. PCP training (or similar non-violent action training) is a basic requirement for members of any organization that participates in and promotes civil disobedience as a last resort means to being heard.
The construction of a Pulp Mill in the Tamar Valley does not have a mandate from the people of Australia. It is environmentally, economically and socially disastrous. For these reasons we are in agreement that we cannot sit back and let this project start without continuing to voice our opposition.
It is a necessary and justifiable part of our campaign to prepare for Peaceful Community Protest as it appears we will need to engage in large scale demonstrations as part of a blockade. To have such a series of events we need the support of the rest of mainstream Australia. We need to be extremely mindful of the ways we act. A violent response would alienate us from the very people we need to reach for this campaign to succeed.
Peaceful protest is a strategy which allows us to continue to gather public support. The objective of such Peaceful Community Protests is to show Peter Garrett, Kevin Rudd and Gunns' financiers, the depth and extent of community opposition to the Pulp Mill. Hopefully it will be the catalyst which brings Federal intervention.
Should any protestor react violently, the Government may use that to turn the issue into a law and order campaign and we risk losing the support of large numbers of the community. For the benefit of the campaign we ask that all involved participate in a protest training workshop to learn the tools of Peaceful Community Protest and understand the need to refrain from aggressive behavior of any kind, (including damage to property), to maintain credibility, respect and support from the wider community of Australia.
All participants will be asked to agree to guidelines such as the following. This agreement enables large numbers of people from diverse backgrounds and beliefs to work together. They are a basic agreement to create a basis for trust, so we can work together and know what to expect from each other.
- We will not use or return verbal or physical violence towards any person.
- We will not bring or use alcohol or illegal drugs.
- We will not destroy or sabotage equipment or property.
- We will avoid physical contact with equipment being operated by the workers
- We will not place ourselves in obvious danger and try to ensure the safety of all people in and around the action.
The biggest breach of law that we will advocate (participants will make their own choice as to whether they breach the law) is trespassing. We will not advocate that people obstruct police, resist arrest or obstruct machinery.
It is important to understand that the workers and police are just doing their job, and we need to recognize that these are people with genuine fears when faced with a blockade situation. We will use police liaison in these peaceful protests to help build awareness of our concerns; trust in our motives and respect for our integrity. Organizers of any protest will advise relevant police authorities of the details of the protest.
The strength of good Peaceful Community Protest is that it allows and encourages ordinary people to be active participants in the struggle. While an action’s time and place is decided by the leaders of key groups such as TAP and TWS, the protestors are made up of many groups called affinity groups. These self-sufficient and autonomous groups form the structure of Peaceful Community Protests as the basic decision-making units and the source of security and support for demonstrators during the action, thus creating a feeling of trust and emotional support. These groups also need to have flexibility in being able to react to unpredictable and changing conditions during the action; and to hold a space where each person’s voice can be heard and taken into account.
There are a number of roles within each affinity group including: meeting facilitator, spokesperson, police liaison person, photographer, media spokesperson, communication person. Within the protest guidelines, affinity groups make their own decisions about the following: what legal risks to take; how to respond to potential aggressive behavior; tactics to take; what kind of chants or songs to voice; standing or sitting; mobile or fixed; and what primary message to convey. Each group will have an understanding of the full legal implications of any breach of law they may choose to take.
The history of Peaceful Community Protests and non-violent action has shown that consensus decision making works best in a situation where there is hundreds or thousands of people involved. It allows for all voices to be heard, and while it can sometimes take longer for an agreement to be reached, group cohesion is maintained.
It is a common misconception that Peaceful Community Protests is passive, submissive or an act of cowardice. PCP is taking action in the most beneficial way for the whole of the community. There is no assumption that the opponent will refrain from using violence against us; protest techniques are designed to operate against violence when necessary. The training has nothing to do with creating an elite group, or of trying to take control of any future action. We are simply wanting to create an informed community at this time when more confrontational actions may be required. There is a huge number of people who want to do something beyond what we have already done.
To be effective in stopping the pulp mill we need to know that everyone is informed to make good decisions and understand the responsibility that we are taking on. We can help to focus people’s energy (as well as the anger and frustration) in politically effective ways. The community can become empowered by being involved in well-planned peaceful actions, which can help to eliminate fears of being involved. It also empowers by strengthening people’s beliefs in themselves and their capacity to do something about this major issue facing us.
For training workshop dates, go to the events calendar or for more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org