Teaching The Next Generation About Civil Disobedience

Civil Disobedience

Sometimes, civil disobedience runs in the family

There was a time where my family wouldn’t have been able to own property in this country. Being “culturally Catholic”, the term is, even if you don’t practice the religion, would have discounted us from being able to own a home, attend school, or vote. This isn’t ancient history we’re talking about — this is only about a hundred years ago.

There was a time where my family wouldn’t have been able to own the house we live in. Without sit-ins and peaceful rallies and marches, communities couldn’t prove to each other that they could be trusted. Even having Catholic-sounding names would have seen us driven out of our neighbourhood (at best) or physically assaulted (at worst). This isn’t ancient history we’re talking about — this is only about twenty years ago.

Both my husband and I were brought up in very political families, and both of us have fathers who were deeply involved in trade unions. We’re no strangers to public demonstrations, and now we’re introducing our own son to the world of civil disobedience.

Passing it on

Civil Disobedience
J. Hanratty

My son was 10 weeks old when he attended his first sit-in. It was a small, happy affair: a group of breastfeeding mothers and supporters gathered on the grounds of Belfast City Hall both to take part in the Big Latch-On and to protest some pretty ignorant comments about breastfeeding mums from local lawmakers. We didn’t face any loud nay-sayers and spent most of the time chatting with like-minded individuals.

This past weekend (you know, the one with the inauguration), we ramped it up a little. I organised another breastfeeding sit-in following a few nasty run-ins with angry passersby. We didn’t have much of a turn-out — it was a busy day for radical ladies, so I understand.

The same day was the local Sister Rally to the Women’s March on Washington. Police estimated that over 1200 people gathered for a peaceful and vocal rally at Belfast City Hall. The turn-out was inspiring because, as I noted at the time, Northern Ireland is part of a rather inward-looking little island thousands of miles away from the US with many more sheep than people. The rally had about as diverse a population as Belfast has to offer, and speakers ranged from members of the Belfast Feminist Network to Belfast Black Lives Matter. We even had a white man speaking because, despite popular opinion, feminists don’t hate them!

Counted among the numbers were lots of children, my little family included. Okay, so my seven month old might have fallen asleep as chants of “Women’s Rights are Human Rights!” rang out, but I’d like to think a little of it seeped in. After all, he might have to fight for his rights one day, too.

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