Recommitting Ourselves to Nonviolent Tactics in a Time of War

Violence, on every level, simply begets more violence.

Americans protest US war-mongering policy in Middle East. (file photo)

Dear Peace Organizations,

A group of peace activists in Minneapolis met to see whether there was anything we could do to help counter the violence that has been erupting around the country and at some protests and demonstrations. We don’t want to see the hatred and violence ratcheted up further, and we want to remind people that nonviolent tactics are, and always have been, central in peace organizing. One idea we had was for peace organizations to reaffirm their commitment to nonviolent tactics, and we began circulating a “Nonviolent Tactics Letter” for organizations to sign. To date, 18 organizations have signed. Would your organization consider signing on to the statement below?  Our hope is that the groups signing will send the letter to their members, or post it on their website. We feel that the peace movement nationally must be proactive in adopting nonviolent tactics and opposing all forms of violence. Thanks.

Recommitting Ourselves to Nonviolent Tactics in a Time of War

At a time when violence plagues the U.S. — as seen in everything from steep increases in teen suicide; road rage incidents; mass shootings in schools, churches and other public places; shootings of and by police; and increasing economic inequality – there is a tendency towards political polarization and simplistic scapegoating to deal with these problems. Violence, on every level, simply begets more violence.

Experience has shown that, as long as there is a commitment to nonviolent tactics at public events, all groups can work together, even those that do not embrace nonviolence in their mission statement.

A variety of creative and nonviolent tactics are available to counter “hate speech” and racism. Respect for others’ rights, rather than being a problem that needs to be restricted, is required in order to maximize everyone’s freedom of speech, press, religion, association, etc. Therefore, the signing organizations confirm their commitment to peace and justice through the use of nonviolent tactics.

Coleen Rowley and Janet Contursi
Minnesota Peace Activists
Contact Janet at:



The Nonviolent Activist Magazine

The Parameters of Nonviolent Action: WHAT MAKES AN ACTION NONVIOLENT

The War Stops Here
By Daniel Berrigan

I think that over the years, from the Catonsville Nine to Plowshares, I recall the main discussion being twofold:

  1. Spiritual preparation: Time was given to spiritual preparation, to the venting of fear and second thoughts and consequences to family, friends, work undertaken. We realized that everything would change with the action and gave that time and gave time for one another.

  2. The search for symbols: We spent time together searching for symbols that would speak to us and speak publicly, symbols that would not inspire fear or revulsion.

So wanton thoughtlessness and mere destruction were out, from throwing trashcans to throwing bombs. The use of homemade napalm on draft cards and the pouring of blood of nuclear warheads seemed to speak to people. We did these actions with trepidation and wonder about how they would be received. And they were well received and started whole movements, so the Catonsville Nine set off a whole series of draft board raids, and the Plowshares Eight was the first of more than 60 disarmament actions.

Our apologies, good friends
… for the fracture of good order, the burning of paper instead of children,
the angering of the orderlies in the front parlor of the charnel house. We could not, so help us God, do otherwise….
We have chosen to say, with
the gift of our liberty, if necessary of our lives,
the violence stops here, the death stops here, the suppression of the truth stops here, the war stops here.
—Dan Berrigan on the burning of draft files at Catonsville, 1968

Daniel Berrigan is a poet, a Catholic priest and a founder of the Plowshares movement.

The Hole in the Ground: A Parable for Peacemakers
by Daniel Berrigan

The Hole in the Ground: A Parable for Peacemakers is a compelling account of the drain of the arms race on human and material resources and the complicity of corporations and the American community in supporting the death trade. In the face of despair, Daniel Berrigan asks us to choose life, to choose for our future and the future of the world’s children.

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