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Although civil disobedience is considered to be an expression of contempt for law, King regarded civil disobedience to be a display and practice of reverence for law: "Any man who breaks a law that conscience tells him is unjust and willingly accepts the penalty by staying in jail to arouse the conscience of the community on the injustice of the law is at that moment expressing the very highest respect for law." An early depiction of civil disobedience is in Sophocles' play Antigone, in which Antigone, one of the daughters of former King of Thebes, Oedipus, defies Creon, the current King of Thebes, who is trying to stop her from giving her brother Polynices a proper burial.She gives a stirring speech in which she tells him that she must obey her conscience rather than human law.
Protesters often undergo training in advance on how to react to arrest or to attack.
Civil disobedience is usually defined as pertaining to a citizen's relation to the state and its laws, as distinguished from a constitutional impasse, in which two public agencies, especially two equally sovereign branches of government, conflict.
When I saw the title of Thoreau's great essay, I began to use his phrase to explain our struggle to the English readers.
But I found that even "Civil Disobedience" failed to convey the full meaning of the struggle.
I therefore adopted the phrase "Civil Resistance." though sometimes violence has been known to occur.
Often there is an expectation to be attacked or even beaten by the authorities.For instance, if the head of government of a country were to refuse to enforce a decision of that country's highest court, it would not be civil disobedience, since the head of government would be acting in her or his capacity as public official rather than private citizen.However, this definition is disputed by Thoreau's political philosophy pitching the conscience vs. The individual is the final judge of right and wrong.Pro Public and typically peaceful resistance to political power would remain an integral tactic in modern American minority rights politics.It later became an effective tool by various peoples who objected to British occupation, such as in the Egyptian Revolution of 1919.I must get off him first, that he may pursue his contemplations too. I have heard some of my townsmen say, "I should like to have them order me out to help put down an insurrection of the slaves, or to march to Mexico;—see if I would go;" and yet these very men have each, directly by their allegiance, and so indirectly, at least, by their money, furnished a substitute.By the 1850s, a range of minority groups in the United States: Blacks, Jews, Seventh Day Baptists, Catholics, anti-prohibitionists, racial egalitarians, and others—employed civil disobedience to combat a range of legal measures and public practices that to them promoted ethnic, religious, and racial discrimination.In the essay, Thoreau explained his reasons for having refused to pay taxes as an act of protest against slavery and against the Mexican–American War.He writes, If I devote myself to other pursuits and contemplations, I must first see, at least, that I do not pursue them sitting upon another man's shoulders.Following the Peterloo massacre of 1819, the poet Percy Shelley wrote the political poem The Mask of Anarchy later that year, that begins with the images of what he thought to be the unjust forms of authority of his time—and then imagines the stirrings of a new form of social action.According to Ashton Nichols, it is perhaps the first modern statement of the principle of nonviolent protest.