Total personal noncooperation is a form of non violent protest designed to make the point that the imprisonment of a protestor is unjustified on moral or political grounds. In order to complete this form of protest an individual or group must withdraw all their cooperation with the authorities of a state as they pass through the legal system from arrest through to imprisonment and release on parole. Total noncooperation requires a complete withdrawal from the legal system with some risoners refusing to eat, drink or dress themselves; in essence the prisoner completing the protest refuses to do everything apart from breathe for themselves.
Noncooperation requires the protestor to ignore all warrants issued for their arrest and not to attend willingly any court dates set to hear offenses. In the U.K. the protestors taking part in the anti nuclear weapons protests at Greenham Common withdrew their cooperation with the British legal system by refusing to speak during their court appearances.
The most extreme case of total personal cooperation on record is the case of the American conscientious objector Corbett Bishop who withdrew all his cooperation with the U.S. authorities during World War II. After registering as a conscientious objector Bishop was required by the U.S. authorities to take part in a Civilian Public Service program; Bishop’s belief’s were so string he could not reconcile working in the program and withdrew from the program. During his arrest for failing to take part in the CPS program Bishop let his body go limp and refused to assist those arresting him. Upon arriving in prison Bishop spent the time refusing to complete even the simplest tasks and was kept alive by force feeding with a tube. Twice released on parole Bishop refused to sign any documents or make any promises on his behavior or participation in any programs. Corbett Bishop was finally released from prison and his four year jail sentence on March 12th 1946 after completing a protest of total personal noncooperation in jail that lasted for 193 days during his final stay in prison. By refusing to cooperate many protestors arrested lose their rights to release on a bond or bail and are usually sentenced to prison time equal to the fines they refuse to pay.
Continue reading the 198 Methods of Nonviolent Action.