Civil Disobedience In America

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This paper will consider the question “Do the protestors in Ferguson, Baltimore, and other places where there have been riots protesting police brutality have a duty to obey the law?” by drawing off of Joseph Raz, John Rawls, and Martin Luther King’s interpretations of civil disobedience. Civil disobedience is the active, professed refusal to obey certain laws or commands of a government; it is a symbolic violation of the law, rather than a rejection of the system as a whole. I shall argue that the protestors in Ferguson, Baltimore and other places where riots have emerged, do not have a duty to obey the law; civil disobedience is justified among the individuals protesting against police brutality.
Police brutality is the deliberate use of
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Jim Crow laws). John Rawls states that civil disobedience is a political justice addressing the majority. The rioters’ civil disobedience in Ferguson and Baltimore was justified because the protestors did not identify with a community where African Americans are being targeted by police and are brutally abused. The duty to obey the law is a social contract theory, if the government violates the rights of the people then people do not have a duty to obey the laws the government implements, an example being Ferguson and Baltimore. When the execution of a law becomes unjust, the government lacks authority, this results in protestors rioting against the injustice to bring about a …show more content…
The Civil Rights Movement occurred to change the policy of segregation as the protestors believed was unlawful. The boycotting done by African Americans made it difficult for the system to function, their actions would be considered coercive. Martin Luther King’s letter from Birmingham jail explained his reasoning behind his non-violent civil disobedience. King mentioned “one has a duty to disobey unjust laws” the unjust laws being segregation. King also states “I submit that an individual who breaks a law that conscience tells him is unjust, and who willingly accepts the penalty of imprisonment in order to arouse the conscience of the community over its injustice, is in reality expressing the highest respect for the law”. MLK understands that civil disobedience should be the last resort in correcting unjust laws, King would not support the violent riots in Baltimore and Ferguson that resulted in property damage or the injury of others. King believed that violent protests cause violent retaliation from the authorities which is not beneficial for the aim of correcting unjust laws. The distinction between violence against property and violence against people cannot be made, simply because both actions involve violence; civil disobedience is usually defined as