The art of peaceful protest

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Nadine Bloch, prominent nonviolence trainer, is coming to UVU’s annual Martin Luther King Jr. commemoration week.

On Thursday, January 23 from 10 am to 5 pm Bloch will be conducting a free nonviolent protest-training course for those in and around the UVU community.

“We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline,” Martin Luther King Jr. said. “We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence.”

The Philosophy Department organized this seminar based on Martin Luther King Jr.’s dedication to nonviolent protests, saying that there is no better way to remember the Civil Rights Movement leader than to spread education in nonviolence.

“This workshop would be an extraordinary learning opportunity for the students of UVU,” the Philosophy department said, “given that official training in nonviolence seminars are very rare and usually conducted at specialized training environments not typically available in the state of Utah.

“It will focus on nonviolent engagement in civil discourse as well as vitally maintaining nonviolence within a movement,” the Philosophy Department said, “Bloch of the International Center of Nonviolent Conflict will conduct the workshop.”

Bloch has been involved in what is referred to as “creative actions” for the last 34 years. She is an expert in nonviolent direct action campaigns and civil resistance. She said that she gravitated to the creative actions because it holds a power that other forms of protest do not.

“You see repetition in many cultures throughout history that different kinds of artistic expression have been censored,” Bloch said, “significantly because, like humor, it evokes emotional truth that people can no longer ignore. It moves people [to] action in a way that’s particularly empowering and builds a community of support within that expressiveness,” Bloch said.

Bloch often refers to such works as Pablo Picasso’s Guernica, Banskey’s The West Bank and Guantanamo Bay Comes to Disneyland, as well as the more recent peace statements of large groups of people gathering in a field to make a peace sign photographed aerially.

“Some of the most impactful and memorable moments from civil resistance and nonviolent movements are sung by the masses, printed by the thousands, enacted through craft, painted in vivid color, or performed in traditional dress,” Bloch said.

Bloch works go beyond artistic expression, she is involved in training individuals in a similar way to how Civil Rights workers were trained to cope with the potential threats their protests would bring. It was common practice to role-play the planned peaceful protests. They would act out various scenarios of violent responses, whether physical or emotional, that may come as a result of their peaceful protests, such as sit ins and marches.

Bloch expressed the need for this preparation so that people may have the tools needed to make a significant difference.

“In the bigger sense, building the movement is not just about mobilizing people but it’s building capacity, giving people the tools that they need. And it starts off very mundanely perhaps.”