Vigils are a form of non-violent protest that have been used for centuries. It is characterized by solemnity. Many perceive it to be religious in nature, but this does not have to be the case. Vigils rely on the power of numbers and usually consist of many individuals who join together in a public place. It is similar to picketing, but it will usually last for a much longer period of time. It is not uncommon for a vigil to last for several months or even a year.

There are many particular incidents which shed light on the effectiveness of this form of non-violent protest. One example from history is found in Netherlands during the early 1900s. During this historical epoch, a new constitution was being drafted in a building that was in the downtown core. Women were protesting their lack of suffrage and held a vigil outside the building. They remained on the scene for several weeks. Though women were not expressly provided the right to vote in the constitution, their protest was effective. Voting was later assured through the passage of legislation which the vigil helped to bring about.

Another of the most notable vigils from the history books is a campaign that was conducted on the grounds of Fort Detrick in Frederick, Maryland. In this non-violent protest, individuals maintained a presence outside of the germ warfare building for over a year. They ultimately were unsuccessful, but they did prompt a change in the way that the government held much of its testing. Protesting also brought this issue to the public attention. This was one of the main goals of the protestors, so in a way, their vigil was successful.

Nuclear weapons and proliferation has also been the subject of a host of non-violent protests. Red Square in Moscow was the sight of vigils during the early 1960s. In these gatherings, protesters maintained their presence for several months. They had banners to draw attention to the threat that is found in nuclear weapons.

The current Occupy movements also have the characteristics of a vigil. During these movements the protesters have occupied numerous parks in some of the largest urban areas around the world. They have brought a host of publicity to their campaign. Their protest is non-violent, and their vigils have helped protesters gain media publicity. The issues they are trying to bring to light are now being aired on the news in many of the largest cities around the world.

Continue reading the 198 Methods of Nonviolent Action.

Also check out The Politics of Nonviolent Action Part One / Part Two / Part Three.

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