We’re Shifting from Protest to Resistance – Just Like People Did in the 60s.

From History News Network:  http://historynewsnetwork.org/article/166903

by Holly Scott
10-15-17

It’s been a year of fiftieth anniversary celebrations: photos of the summer of love and re-plays of the Beatles’ Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. But 1967 marks another anniversary: the year the anti-war movement turned from protest to resistance. Resistance is back in 2017, bringing old dilemmas and a new level of acceptance.

By 1967 major anti-war protest was common. But the war grew, and protestors wanted to move beyond teach-ins and legal rallies. Resistance, a slippery term, could do this. For some it meant draft resistance, accepting prison rather than entering the armed forces. For many the slogan was still nonviolent; taking over a building may be disruptive but can be done without violence. Others saw resistance as creating chaos in the streets. It could mean evading arrest, building a barricade, or committing vandalism or sabotage. Resistance to the war took cues from the black freedom struggle; the interconnectivity of movements fueled the sense protest had gone unheard for too long. Radicals understood the war in Vietnam as US imperialism abroad and oppression of people of color as a related form of imperialism at home.

The anti-war movement accommodated diverse visions about resistance by creating a tiered approach to protest. At the March on the Pentagon in October 1967, demonstrators could choose to: attend a legal rally, engage in nonviolent civil disobedience, break into the Pentagon, or try to levitate it. Multi-option protest persists today and was on display in Charlottesville on August 12. With it come familiar questions: when does resistance, especially if it is not strictly nonviolent, do more harm than good?

Ironically, in the late 1960s, both the Vietnam War and the anti-war movement became increasingly unpopular. From protest to resistance did not sit well with the average American. Even less popular was the idea of going from resistance to revolution. Check any textbook and you’ll find this interpretation: the movements of the 1960s started out noble but grew increasingly radical, alienating most Americans and burning out in a fit of rage.

Historians have long noted the problems with this narrative. It ignores that most demonstrators remained peaceful throughout the 1960s and that organizing did not collapse in 1970 but transformed. The narrative also glosses over the resistance the “good” early 1960s protests encountered. Critics faulted Martin Luther King for breaking laws and inciting hatred and violence. Many Americans endorsed King’s cause but not his tactics. The civil rights movement, too, experienced a dynamic tension between nonviolence and self-defense. What did it mean for nonviolent demonstrators to be protected by groups like the Deacons for Defense? For SNCC workers to live in homes where host families were willing to shoot back when attacked? Social movements are always messier than they look in memory.

Traditionally, Americans have been skeptical of protests that blur the line between violence and nonviolence and are quick to write off movements (particularly on the left or by people of color) that come across “too angry.” A strong narrative about what went wrong in the late 1960s, and an overly simplistic idea of what the early part of the decade looked like, adds to this. And so it is not surprising that there would be critics of Antifa a few weeks ago in Charlottesville. The antifascist group is not nonviolent, and critics have argued they are more likely to alienate rather than draw people in to a movement.

Continue reading at:  http://historynewsnetwork.org/article/166903

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