Civil disobedience

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Civil disobedience is an active and often public nonviolent violation of particular laws, decrees, regulations, ordinances, military or police commands and other orders. This is usually done in protest of laws or orders which are regarded as immoral, unjust, or tyrannical and with the expectation and acceptance by the perpetrator(s) of the legal consequences of this disobedience. Sometimes an individual or group may disobey a particular law as a symbol of opposition to wider policies of the government, or the government’s rule itself. -Gene Sharp [1]

Civil disobedience involves "breaking a law in public in order to challenge the moral legitimacy of that specific law (e.g. racial segregation) or a greater injustice committed by the state (e.g. corruption)." -Beautiful Trouble [2]

The power of civil disobedience lies in respecting moral law, which is more powerful than the state’s laws.

Examples of Direct actions that used civil disobedience in so-called Canada


  • The Fairy Creek blockades to protect the old growth trees in so-called British Columbia, on Pacheedaht Nation territory (also employed 'tree-sits' in their direct action)
  • Human or structural blockades between police and houseless people in encampments, to protest the encampment eviction, lack of shelter space and housing for all.
  • Kanien’kéhaka (Mohawk) lands defense blockades in so-called Quebec, to protect a sacred burial ground and a sacred area.  


  • University student sit-ins, whether in university centres, board member's offices, meeting spaces etc., to pressure their universities to divest from fossil fuels.

Examples of Direct actions that used civil disobedience around the world


  • In Kenya, protestors sprayed political messages across the capital of Nairobi to spark public discourse.
  • See this video for more on the use of graffiti to spread political messages.


  • In Myanmar, students marched for education reform (i.e. student unions, ethnic language curricula etc).
  • Check out the following video to learn more about the marches.

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