Student Life | The independent newspaper of Washington University in St. Louis since 1878

Students, community members discuss non-violent direct action

A workshop Thursday night brought students and St. Louis community members together to discuss nonviolent protests, their historical role on campus and broader applicability.

The Social Justice Center partnered with Missourians Organizing for Reform and Empowerment (MORE), an economic and environmental justice community organization, to put on the workshop featuring several community members who have had experience with nonviolent protests. The event’s organizers also screened a short film and led a few interactive activities.

Rudolph Clay, the head of library outreach at Olin Library, gave a brief synopsis of some Washington University history—namely, a few of the on-campus protests, such as the sit-ins and protests in 1968, 1989 and 2005.

Molly Gott, a 2012 Washington University alumna and current member of MORE, noted that students seemed more interested in social issues than in previous years.

“There is a lot more energy in these things and a lot more people here and a lot more heating up of issues that were just starting up when I was here,” Gott said.

At the event, students and alumni shared personal anecdotes to give a basic idea of the tactics and strategy involved in successful, nonviolent direct action. When the discussion transitioned into an open discussion period, participants were given stickers representing various topics of interest, including environmental issues, socioeconomic and racial diversity, and elementary and secondary education, to aid in conversation.

“I think that nonviolent direct action is a tool for students to use in the context of broader organizing and activism that they’re doing, which is a place where students can feel very disempowered and helpless and like there is no next step in the fights they’ve been taking on,” Gott said.

Some members of the University and greater St. Louis communities shared their experiences with direct action in their college years, including University College instructor Bill Hall and activists Jamala Rogers and Percy Green.

Danielle Taylor, a candidate for the Brown School of Social Work, said she enjoyed the workshop, finding it both informative and engaging.

“I thought the speakers were great because they all seemed to offer somewhat different perspectives but with the same interest in the topic, and they enjoyed hearing our opinions,” she said.

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Student Life | The independent newspaper of Washington University in St. Louis since 1878