[*BCM*] Martin Luther King would like to comment on CM.
turtle at zworg.com
Thu Mar 3 17:36:29 EST 2005
"Sometimes a law is just on its face and unjust in its application. For
instance, I have been arrested on a charge of parading without a
permit. Now, there is nothing wrong in having an ordinance which
requires a permit for a parade. But such an ordinance becomes unjust
when it is used to maintain segregation and to deny citizens the First
Amendment privilege of peaceful assembly and protest."
~ MLK in "Letter from Birmingham Jail"
Now we can debate - about whether or not a CM ride is a parade - 'till
our fingers turn blue, but the more important issue is that the police
are using the "parade" law as an excuse to harass bicyclists off of
public streets, and to discriminate against a minority.
I agree with MLK in that civil disobedience is not the ideal way to make
progress, but that it can be useful. He emphasized that participants in
civil disobedience must be prepared to be arrested, and react
non-violently to any police brutality. Then he goes on to say,
"You may well ask: "Why direct action? Why sit-ins, marches and so
forth? Isn't negotiation a better path?" You are quite right in calling
for negotiation. Indeed, this is the very purpose of direct action.
Nonviolent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and foster such
a tension that a community which has constantly refused to negotiate is
forced to confront the issue. It seeks so to dramatize the issue that it
can no longer be ignored. My citing the creation of tension as part of
the work of the nonviolent-resister may sound rather shocking. But I
must confess that I am not afraid of the word "tension." I have
earnestly opposed violent tension, but there is a type of constructive,
nonviolent tension which is necessary for growth. Just as Socrates felt
that it was necessary to create a tension in the mind so that
individuals could rise from the bondage of myths and half-truths to the
unfettered realm of creative analysis and objective appraisal, we must
we see the need for nonviolent gadflies to create the kind of tension
in society that will help men rise from the dark depths of prejudice
and racism to the majestic heights of understanding and brotherhood."
Obviously, not all CM rides would qualify as civil disobedience. (Just
as some wouldn't qualify as a parade.) But when participants do choose
to disobey laws in order to challlenge the laws themselves or to create
tension in order to bring about a discussion, then they might do well
to learn from previous campaigns that sought justice through
On the other hand, if you just want to ride in CM for fun, or for the
protection that a large group of bicyclists provide, then you might
want to be respectful of the traffic laws and act like you belong
Peace, love, and bicycles,
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