Timeline of civil disobedience

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This is a timeline of civil disobedience, a form of protest or resistance in which individuals deliberately and openly violate certain laws or regulations that they consider unjust or morally objectionable.

Full timeline

Year Event type Details Country/location
5th century BCE) The play "Antigone" by Sophocles depicts civil disobedience, as Antigone defies the king's order to give her brother a proper burial, prioritizing her conscience over human law. Ancient Greece
16th century Conrad Grebel and Anabaptists advocate civil disobedience as a means to combat oppression.
17th century The English Midland Enlightenment develops a method of voicing objection to illegitimate laws, challenging the divine rights of kings and man-made laws.
1765-1783 American Revolution. American colonists engage in various acts of non-revolutionary civil disobedience to protest against British rule and unfair taxation. The Boston Tea Party in 1773 is a notable act of civil disobedience, where colonists dump tea into the Boston Harbor to protest against the Tea Act. United States
1819 The Peterloo massacre in England leads to Percy Shelley's poem "The Mask of Anarchy," considered a modern statement of nonviolent protest and an inspiration for civil disobedience movements.
1849 Henry David Thoreau publishes his essay "Resistance to Civil Government" (later titled "Civil Disobedience"), advocating for nonviolent resistance against unjust laws and expressing personal responsibility.
1850s Various minority groups in the United States, including African Americans, Jews, and racial egalitarians, employ civil disobedience to combat discrimination.
1879 Irish nationalist leader Charles Stewart Parnell proposes the tactic of shunning individuals involved in evictions, leading to the term "boycott" and legal reforms in Ireland.
20th century Civil disobedience is employed in various movements worldwide, including the American civil rights movement, Czechoslovakia's Velvet Revolution, anti-apartheid protests in South Africa, the Singing Revolution in Baltic countries, and more recent protests in countries like Georgia, Ukraine, South Korea, and Belarus.
1914-1919 Egyptian Revolution of 1919 against British occupation utilizes massive civil disobedience, led by Saad Zaghloul, bringing together different communities and resulting in independence and a constitution in 1923.
1920s Mahatma Gandhi adopts civil disobedience, specifically nonviolent resistance (Satyagraha), as a powerful tool in India's fight for independence from British rule.
1950s-1960s The Civil Rights Movement in the United States utilizes civil disobedience as a powerful tool to challenge racial segregation and discrimination. Rosa Parks' refusal to give up her bus seat to a white passenger in Montgomery, Alabama, in 1955 sparks the Montgomery Bus Boycott, a mass protest against segregation. United States
1950s-1990s The anti-apartheid movement in South Africa employs civil disobedience as a means to challenge the discriminatory policies of the apartheid regime. Protests, strikes, and acts of civil disobedience, such as the Sharpeville Massacre in 1960, played a crucial role in dismantling apartheid.
1960s-1970s Anti-Vietnam War Protests. The anti-war movement during the Vietnam War sees a significant rise in civil disobedience and protest actions. The burning of draft cards, sit-ins, and large-scale demonstrations were common forms of civil disobedience during this period.
1970s Agorism Emerges - Samuel Edward Konkin III introduces the concept of agorism, promoting counter-economics and voluntary exchange outside of government control.
1980s Billboard Hacking - Culture jamming techniques, including billboard hacking, gain popularity as a form of artistic activism, subverting commercial messages and promoting alternative viewpoints.
1990s Rise of Internet Activism. The widespread adoption of the internet provides a new platform for organizing and mobilizing anti-establishment and activist movements.
2000 Battle of Seattle. Demonstrations and civil resistance against the World Trade Organization's Ministerial Conference in Seattle highlight concerns about globalization, sparking a new wave of anti-establishment activism.
2005 Extinction Rebellion. The climate disobedience movement, Extinction Rebellion, is founded in the United Kingdom, advocating for urgent action on climate change through nonviolent direct action and civil disobedience.
2010s-present The fight against climate change is seen a surge in civil disobedience actions by activist groups like Extinction Rebellion and Fridays for Future. Activists engage in protests, blockades, and acts of civil disobedience to demand urgent action on climate change from governments and corporations.
2011 The Occupy Wall Street movement emerged in 2011 as a response to economic inequality and corporate influence in politics. The movement employed various forms of civil disobedience, including occupying public spaces and engaging in nonviolent protest actions.
2011 Arab Spring. A series of colour revolutions and civil resistance movements spread across the Middle East and North Africa, demanding political change, democracy, and social justice.
2013-present The Black Lives Matter movement, sparked by the acquittal of Trayvon Martin's killer in 2013, utilizes civil disobedience to bring attention to systemic racism and police violence. Protests, marches, and acts of civil disobedience, such as blocking highways and occupying public spaces, are prominent features of the movement.
2019 Hong Kong Protests. Mass incidents in China, particularly the protests in Hong Kong, showcase the power of civil resistance and dissent against perceived encroachments on democratic rights and freedoms.
2020 George Floyd Protests. Following the killing of George Floyd by a police officer, widespread protests against police brutality and racial injustice erupt globally, highlighting the power of direct action and grassroots organizing.
2021 Nonviolent Revolution in Myanmar. Civilian-based defense and nonviolent resistance are employed by pro-democracy activists in Myanmar, opposing a military coup and advocating for the restoration of democracy.
2022 Rise of Climate Disobedience Movements. Climate disobedience movements, such as the nonviolent resistance group Tree Sitting, gain traction as activists engage in tree-sitting protests to protect old-growth forests.
2023 Nonconformism to the Established Church of England. Dissent against the established Church of England grows as non-conformists challenge its practices, advocating for religious freedom and alternative forms of worship.

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