New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio failed at mayoring the other day when his only response to police brutality was a failed history lesson. When asked about the violent arrests of 137 protesters and his own history of activism arrest, he basically said that civil disobedience means politely doing what the cops tell you to do.
“The civil rights movement, maybe you’ve heard of it?” the mayor replied (“maybe you’ve heard of it”? Did he pop his gum and roll his eyes too?). “Civil disobedience, it’s called civil disobedience. Gandhi, King, et cetera. You plan with the police what’s going to happen.”
Aside from the fact that Gandhi and King almost never coordinated with authorities and were actively surveilled, imprisoned, and harassed by them, that’s not actually what “civil disobedience” means.
De Blasio fell into the ol’ two-meanings-with-the-same-spelling trap. Don’t worry dude, we got you covered.
Civil, when used in the term “civil disobedience,” means “of or relating to ordinary citizens and their concerns,” as in “civilian” — not the etiquette handbook definition of “courteous and polite.”
Civil disobedience is defined as “the active, professed refusal to obey certain laws, demands, or commands of a government, or of an occupying international power”.
Civil disobedience is as old as “laws, demands, or commands of a government”, but the term was coined by Henry David “Most men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them” Thoreau in an essay originally titled “Resistance to Civil Government” which was eventually renamed “Essay on Civil Disobedience.”
In other words, “civil disobedience” can equal rowdy resistance, failure to obey, blocking traffic… and that’s kind of the point.
There you have it. So now in the spirit of learning and resistance… hashtag challenge!
The hashtag #signsofspringnyc was being used for an online contest, and now it’s been hijacked by #blackspring demonstrators. Get on Twitter and post your favorite pictures of resistance along with the hashtags #civildisobedience, #signsofspringnyc and #blackspring. Don’t forget to tag Mayor De Blasio by adding @billdeblasio to your tweet. Apparently the guy could use some history lessons.