UPDATED: How many people it might need to bring down a dictator

In a the article “It may only take 3.5% of the population to topple a dictator” the Guardian, Erica Chenoweth, the author of the book Why Civil Resistance Works, speaks about the numbers of non-violent resistance and a few great examples in recent history where civil resistance proofed to be effective (Standing Rock, Pinochet, Milosevic).

She lists a few resources to carry out resistance activities (training manuals, strategy building tools and a list of references). In fact, it might only take 3.5% of the population to bring effective change, in other words to bring down a dictator. Also, non-vioplent action is twice as likely to succeed than violent action. She also gave a talk about the 3.5% rule at TEDx Boulder 2016 where she allows for a more in depth inside on how she conducted the research.

For the US, that would mean 11.249.000 people. This is 10 times as much members as ACLU (1.200.000) has today, or the sum of the population of New York and Los Angeles.

Last weekend, I had the chance to attend the Mobilization Quarterly Conference “Social Movements and Protest: Nonviolent Strategies and the State” at San Diego State University. Erica was one of the invited speakers. Excited to seeing her spiky hair sticking out of the crowd, she informed the audience about “Why civil resistance still works”. The Why Civil Resistance Still Works has been made publicly accessible.

She took on critical yet cynical remarks civil movements have encountered and limited by in recent world history. There is indeed a decline in non-violent resistance but this holds also true for violent action. As the space for civil society is being undermined in repressive states, there is opportunity for other civilians, philanthropists to support local actors and groups: “As more and more people around the world embrace the lessons of civil resistance, they should embrace both the positive examples and the cautionary tales.”

I want you to stop being afraid

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