Sit-ins have been used as a powerful form of civil resistance across some of the greatest social movements of our time…
…Indian Independence Movement
…American Civil Rights Movement
… Anti-war Movements
Etched in the global consciousness for advocating dignity in the face of oppression, strength in the face of repression, these peaceful movements were and still remain powerful for their respectful assertion of rights.
Operating under a broader strategy of non-violence, famously advocated by Mahatma Ghandi, sit-ins are a tactic which target illegitimate or irresponsible powerholders through occupying a recognised working space, as a symbolic protest or as direct intervention.
Perhaps the most well-known use of sit-ins is in the American Civil Rights movement. Sit-ins as a tactic began on February 1, 1960, when four black students now known as the “Greensborough Four” dressed in their Sunday best and sat down at the lunch counter of a local convenience store. The lunch counter was segregated for ‘whites only’ so the Greensborough Four were refused service, however they remained seated, nonviolent and respectful. A larger group of students returned the next day, and as the media picked up on the news, so too did other students around the country. Within two weeks, students held continual, daily sit-ins in eleven cities across the country. News spread North, and other students began solidarity pickets at targeted convenience store chains. Sit-ins also began at segregated bus terminals in Nashville.
By Easter, a national sit-ins conference was held and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) was formed to lead and continue the effort. Sit-ins spread to movie theatres and other segregated public spaces, and by August 1961 the movement had involved 70 000 people and had resulted in 3000 arrests. They marked a tipping point for the civil rights movement. Sit-ins moved debate into the public sphere, into everyday life, and engaged and empowered everyday people.
Our climate, and indeed the very fate of the planet, is at a crossroads. Polluting industries are sending our futures straight to their hip pockets, while politicians stand blindly beside them advocating weak and disastrous targets. Climate change is here, has happened, and is continuing to happen on our watch. We are the last generations with any chance to prevent runaway climate change. Let’s sit down, stand up for climate justice, and rewrite history.