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From the Archive: Small Acts of Civil Disobedience Together Can Make a Big Noise

“Any government that treats its people as the property of the state cannot be tolerated.”
– Adam Michnik at the New York Public Library in conversation, “Revolution: A User’s Manual” April 29, 2006

As demonstrations in both Tunisia, which successfully toppled the regime of Zine Al Abidine Ben Ali, and the ongoing siege on the streets of Egyptian cities where the government of (likely) outgoing dictator (sorry, Joe Biden) Hosni Mubarak have shown, small acts of civil disobedience together can make a big noise. From the archive, small acts of civil disobedience.


Desmond Lane, 11, with his father, Darick Lane, 38, opponents of the death penalty, during a prayer vigil near the entrance to the Greensville Correctional Center in Jarratt, Va. hours before the 9 p.m. execution of John Allen Muhammad, the so-called “Washington sniper” responsible for gunning down 10 and wounding three in the D.C.-area in 2002, on November 10, 2009. Gov. Tim Kaine refused to grant a stay of clemency and the U.S. Supreme Court turned down the request for a stay of execution despite religious objections due to Muhammad’s mental health.



Signs in a cornfield on rural Illinois Route 71 protest the closure of the Arcelor Mittal plant in nearby Hennepin, Illinois on July 20, 2009. The plant, owned by the largest steel company in the world, Mittal, previously employed 280 hourly workers and an unknown salaried employees.



Denetta Reddick, 38, hands out a flyer to a passing trucker as Richard Erwin, 37, looks on as part of the informational picket outside the main gate of the Arcelor Mittal plant in Hennepin, Illinois on July 20, 2009, which closed after several rounds of layoffs in between March 1-20, 2009. The plant, owned by the largest steel company in the world, Mittal, previously employed 280 hourly workers and an unknown salaried employees; an informational picket set up at both the main and west gates to the plant has claimed one major success, the refusal of a company to strip the plant and send the machinery offshore. Both Erwin and Reddick worked at the plant for 7.5 months.


In Chicago, even police take to the streets at opportune moments, like this protest outside the legendary Fifth Floor, the mayor’s suite, during the International Olympic Committee’s visit to the city for a final tour of an ultimately unsuccessful bid for the 2016 Olympics. Knowledgeable insiders attributed the bid’s loss to Rio as a considerable factor in Mayor Daley’s decision not to run for reelection this year for the first time in 21 years.


Chicago police officers protest the absence of a working contract for two years, wrapping around Chicago’s city hall with signs that read “Daley doesn’t protect your neighborhood” and “end monarchy,” on April 2, 2009 as the International Olympic Committee arrived for its final assessment of the city’s bid for the 2016 summer games.