From jail in Birmingham, Alabama, Martin Luther King, Jr., wrote “One may well ask: ‘How can you advocate breaking some laws and obeying others?’ The answer lies in the fact that there are two types of laws: just and unjust…One has not only a legal but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws.”
It was King’s persistence in civil disobedience of unjust laws that finally began to break through long-standing barriers to civil rights in the US. The struggle is far from over and we are living now through a resurgence of deploying law and law enforcement to crush dissent and silence voices for justice. This is not only a domestic concern. Internationally, people are also standing up against right-wing, supremacist regimes of oppression. No better example is found than in movements to resist the US ally, Israel, in its actions against the Palestinian people.
What can we learn from movements at home and abroad about unjust laws, the people resisting them, and their methods of resistance?