OUR OPINION: Gandhi, King triumphed with full non-violence

Daily Journal Editorial

The bloodshed this week linked to political and religious differences in Egypt is a sad reminder of how highly peaceful protest and tolerance should be valued.

Many despots and brute national leaders have earned a place in history, but the greater names and strongest leaders earned their standing because of their nonviolent dedication to change. Two figures whose methods profoundly changed life in the 20th century for the better were the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Mahatma Gandhi.

Gandhi’s nonviolent resistance to the British Empire’s rule of India and to racial discrimination in South Africa led to Indian independence and, less directly, to eventual dismantling of apartheid in South Africa.

King was a Gandhi disciple, and his nonviolent resistance to segregation led to its dismantling, but not without violent reprisals from his opponents, including his own murder in Memphis in April 1968.

The Christian Science Monitor in 2012 reported major situations in which King’s methods triumphed or are worth remembering and emulating:

• Montgomery bus boycott, 1955-56

Lasting just over a year, the Montgomery bus boycott was a protest campaign against racial segregation on the public transit system. The protest began, on Dec. 1, 1955, after African-American Rosa Parks was arrested for refusing to give up her seat on a bus to a white person. The next day, King proposed a citywide boycott of public transportation at a church meeting.

The boycott proved to be effective, and its official end signaled one of the civil rights movement’s first victories and made King one of its central figures.

• The Birmingham campaign, 1963

Lasting about two months in 1963, the Birmingham campaign was a strategic effort to end discriminatory economic policies. King encouraged nonviolent tactics so that the city’s jails would overflow. Police used high-pressure water hoses and dogs to control protesters. By the end of the campaign, many segregation signs at Birmingham businesses came down, and public places became more open to all races.

• March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, 1963

Perhaps King’s most famous act as a civil rights leader came during the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, on Aug. 28, 1963. The largest political rally ever seen in the U.S., it drew between 200,000 and 300,000 participants, to whom King delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.

• Bloody Sunday, 1965
King and several other civil rights leaders organized three marches from Selma, Ala., to the state capital of Montgomery, in a bid for voting rights for all. The first, on Sunday, March 7, 1965, involved nearly 600 protesters. When film footage of the police brutality was broadcast around the country, it sparked widespread public outrage and helped to boost support for the civil rights movement.

King put his peaceful influence to work in countless other situations, too. When violence happened it was almost always instigated by King’s opponents. Those opponents lost the war against justice. King and his followers triumphed.