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Billy King


Nonviolence News


Readings in Nonviolence

July 2006

[Go back to related issue of Nonviolent News]

This first selection here is chosen and introduced by Roberta Bacic:

52 True Stories of Nonviolent Success

In June 2001 the War Resisters League in the United States produced its 2002 calendar based on this topic. It was edited by Tom Hastings & Geov Parrish. In their introduction they wrote:

“In 1989 alone, 3 nations, comprising 1.695.100.000 people – over 32 percent of humanity experienced nonviolent revolutions that succeeded beyond anyone’s wildest expectations in every case but China. We heard much about the fall of the Berlin Wall and the iron curtain, but very little about how they fell . . .

It is a truism that the 20th century was the bloodiest in human history. It is, however, also true that the 20th century has given us a remarkable number of examples of masses of people demanding, and frequently getting, greater freedom and relief from tyranny through nonviolent means. In telling these world’s stories, our media, our historians, our generals, and our politicians gravitate toward war. It is the rest of humanity that gravitates towards peace, and it is our stories that this calendar tells.”

We could argue if, in the societies where these nonviolent actions happened, people experience at present freedom and a just society, but what we can not argue is that these happened and that nonviolence is still a valid means to struggle that allows the social body to participate actively. The challenge is always how to get these processes triggered, started, implemented, followed up, etc.

Here we present three of these ‘true stories’ in the hope we can keep once in a while sharing some others. The three chosen follow no other criteria but that they are known and part of my own life experience.

Chile Outs Pinochet

From the murderous 1973 coup that took the life of President Salvador Allende through 17 years of military rule, the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet used torture and assassination to instil terror into the Chilean people. For a brave few, the plan did not work.

Opposition groups sprang up almost immediately, taking risks large and small to protest for human rights and democracy. In an atmosphere of renewed repression, after ten years of dictatorship, a small group prepared to confront the regime more openly. They decided to protest at the site where prisoners were being tortured. The groups gathered in front of a clandestine jail; unfurled a banner that said, “Torture is Happening Here,” pointed their fingers to reveal brutality taking place in that building, and sang a song of protest. Subsequent actions included padlocking themselves to the buildings where torture was happening, bannering during rush hour, leafleting on the metro, and protesting at media offices, courts and churches.

Finally, in October 1988, the regime held a plebiscite on military rule. In an atmosphere of fear, the junta expected to win easily. But months of preparation taught people techniques for dealing with intimidation and state terrorism, and Chile’s people turned out in greater numbers than expected – 91 percent eligible voters – and voted Pinochet out of office and an end to military rule. Chile will be remembered as the only nation to establish socialism via parliamentary democracy and to end dictatorship at the ballot box.

Protective Accompaniment Save Lives

Peace Brigades International (PBI) was founded in 1981 to provide nonviolent escorts for human rights workers and opposition activists threatened by the governments. Observers from the United States and Europe were sent to countries in Latin America and Asia to deter violence.

PBI’s Colombia Project has provided protective accompaniment to a growing number of human rights organisations and defenders, including Mario Calixto, President of the Sabana de Torres Human Rights Committee. Threats against Calixto worsened when his group published a report entitled “The Violence Continues.” The PBI Colombia Team began nearly around-the-clock accompaniment and met with Colombian officials, security forces, and diplomats.

On the evening of December 23, 1997, two armed men forced their way into Calixto’s house, indicating that they wanted to “have a chat” with Mario Calixto. The two PBI volunteers quickly identified themselves, which left the two men with a puzzled look. Mario took advantage of the moment to flee out his back door. The two men held both volunteers and the rest of the family at gunpoint and continued making verbal threats until the hostages managed to convince the men to leave.

The team immediately informed emergency contacts in the PBI project office and support network. Within an hour Colombian authorities received phone calls from PBI organisations and supporters around the world, embassies, and the U.N. High Commission on Human Rights Colombia office. This rapid reaction forced the Colombian authorities and security forces to take action and protect Mario Calixto and his family.

SERPAJ: Nonviolence in Times of Torture

Latin Americans have used nonviolent action to resist oppression for decades. In Argentina in 1974, the Service for Peace and Justice (SERPAJ) was founded to more systematically promote nonviolence to resist military rule. In 1980 SERPAJ founder Adolfo Pérez Esquivel received the Nobel Peace Prize, an honour that brought prestige and financial support, allowing the network to spread to other countries. One of those was Uruguay, which suffered widespread torture and disappearances under a U.S.-backed military government.

In 1983, Father Lúis Pérez Aguirre and two other supporters of SERPAJ initiated a simple nonviolent action to support human rights and denounce state terrorism. They fasted for fifteen days in a spirit of prayer and reflection, asking other Uruguayans to reflect on their responsibility for the atmosphere of repression that gripped the tiny nation. The state reacted swiftly to isolate and snuff out this resistance. No one was allowed near the SERPAJ office where the fasters were staying.

But word of this creative and dramatic action went out. The rest of the nation showed support on August 25, 1983, the fast’s final day. At 8p.m. virtually everyone in Montevideo, Uruguay’s capital, turned out their lights. A few minutes later, a spirited protest broke through the darkness as everyone began a caceroleada- the banging pots and pans in protest. Police frantically shined searchlights into private homes, trying to catch or intimidate protest participants, but they failed. The fasters listened, and the city listened to itself. The military listened and knew that its days of power were numbered.

The (USA) War Resisters League website is at

Copyright INNATE 2016