PANDEMIC, SHUTDOWNS SPARK INNOVATIVE APPROACHES TO CIVIL RESISTANCE
Despite being confined to their homes due to COVID-19 shutdowns, and even at the risk of retaliation, some activists in the Global South have found ways to keep their movements invigorated and to get powerholders’ attention, according to the presenters of “Creative Resistance During Pandemic,” a recent ICNC Webinar.
Ingabire Merab and Phil Wilmot of Uganda and Luke Espiritu of the Philippines said rather than silence their movements, the raging worldwide pandemic and government restrictions have galvanized resistance movements, spawning new tactics that are sometimes surprisingly effective.
“[We] ask workers to do a noise barrage within their own homes and record this in social media so that, even with these restrictions, workers will be able to see that we are not silenced by this,” said Luke Espiritu, national president of the Solidarity of Filipino Workers. He said his organization also now hosts weekly webinars for activists – a routine that has drawn the media attention his workers’ rights movement long craved.
“Before the lockdown and the quarantine, media doesn’t cover us,” Espiritu said. “But because of our webinars, where we are able to articulate our issues, just recently media has also tuned in order to listen and even invite us for some of our views in their own programs.”
The communications director for Solidarity Uganda, Merab told the story of COVID-infected Ugandans forced to quarantine in hotels with expensive nightly rates and pricey food, only to be forbidden to return home even after clearing the mandatory 14-day isolation and repeatedly testing negative.
“Most of them went on hunger strikes, which pressured the government, the ministry of health, to release their health certificates and let them go,” she said. “The way that they exercised their power and leadership shows us that we’re supposed to take power.”
Phil Wilmot, founder of Solidarity Uganda, said that while the current crisis has given authoritarians a pretext for oppression, that is only fueling the resistance as ordinary people become more aware of the government’s heavy-handedness.
“The risk is becoming lower to do something than to keep the status quo and I think that’s ripe for the revolutionary spirit,” he said. “In this moment, it’s absolutely essential that organizers appeal to the day-to-day sufferings and challenges that people are going through.”
Read presenter Phil Wilmot’s ‘Minds of the Movement’ blog post, ‘COVID-19: Harnessing the Obstructive Power of Constructive Program’