Lakey, George

Lakey, George

George Lakey

1 December 2022Feature

As George Lakey publishes his brilliant memoir, Dancing with History: A Life for Peace and Justice, here are some wonderful stories from his life of committed nonviolence.

Quaker activist and master storyteller George Lakey chose these two pieces of writing for PN to show how stories from the past can stimulate today’s strategies. The first piece is an extract from his new memoir, Dancing with History: A Life for Peace and Justice (Seven Stories, December 2022). The second account adds to a campaign history included in Dancing with History.

Our baby had a fever. She lay in bed crying, turning her head from side to side, trying…

9 December 2020Feature

The power of activist training in times of rapid change

One of the gifts of the Black Lives Matter movement is that it doesn’t pretend that a quick fix will solve the problem. The many signs of change – from NASCAR [the US car racing organisation] giving up the Confederate flag to the majority of Minneapolis city council members resolving to dismantle their police department – are welcome, but not nearly enough.

Decades of failed reforms plus research into racism have come to the same conclusion: only radical change will deliver what we…

1 December 2018Feature

Activists need to go on the offensive argues veteran campaigner George Lakey

Women’s March, 21 January 2017, San Diego, USA. Photo: Bonzo McGrue (CC BY 2.0)

Protests are well known, and popular. The trouble is, when I look back on the one-off protests I’ve joined over the years, I don’t remember a single one that changed the policy we were protesting against.

In February 2003, I joined millions of others around the world on the eve of US/British war on Iraq. The BBC estimated that a million protested on 15 February in London alone. In the US,…

1 February 2018Feature

The lonely scholar who became a nonviolent warrior

Gene Sharp. Photo: Conor Doherty

Once again, I rang the bell at the brick row house in East Boston where Gene Sharp lived. When he opened the door I said proudly: ‘Today I drove here instead of taking the T [public transport].’

‘You drove?’ he said in mock horror. ‘Man, are you trying to get yourself killed? Haven’t you heard about Boston drivers? They show no mercy, especially toward Philadelphians!’ That was the Gene Sharp I knew, always loving to find a joke in the…

1 April 2017Feature

A long-time US peace activist tours the US with his ground-breaking book

George Lakey giving a talk at Boulder Book Store, Boulder, Colorado, 13 February 2017. PHOTO: Boulder Book Store

Americans tend to be self-obsessed. That condition goes with being in the centre of a world empire, as British people with long memories may recall. How, then, can people inside an empire get enough of a broader perspective to be able to think well?

‘This guy is fucking relentlessly on point,’ one journalist tweeted in the midst of an author event I led in…

1 August 2016Feature

The vigil at Philadelphia City Hall in solidarity with Orlando

Pride in London 2016: two Muslims hold placards on 25 June supporting the victims of the Orlando shootings. PHOTO: Katy Blackwood (CC BY-SA 4.0) via Wikimedia Commons

On 12 June, a gunman used an assault rifle and a semiautomatic pistol to shoot dead 49 people during a Latin night at a gay nightclub, the Pulse, in Orlando, Florida, USA. It was the worst attack against LGBT people – and the worst mass shooting – in US history. Longtime gay rights activist and nonviolent revolutionary…

1 June 2016Feature

How the Scandinavians got it right – and how we can, too

A woman demonstrates over the ‘Icesave’ failure, part of the Icelandic financial crisis, Reykjavik, 6 March 2010.Photo: Ane Cecilie Blichfeldt CC BY-SA 2.5 via wikicommons

When the Icelanders heard that their leader socked away money in an off-shore account in the Virgin Islands, 10,000 of them packed Parliament Square in Reykjavik on 4 April to demand his resignation. That’s partly because prime minister Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson had been urging his people for years to show…

31 March 2015Comment

24 December 1924 – 15 March 2015

Narayan Desai Photo: Yann Forget

Milan Rai writes:

I met Narayan Desai, the Indian pacifist regarded by many as the last living link to Mohandas K Gandhi, at the War Resisters’ International Triennial in India in 2010 (PN 2518). That gathering was held at Gujarat University (Gujarat Vidyapith) in Ahmedabad in the state of Gujarat in India; Narayan was chancellor of the university from 2007 until late last year. Narayan led us all in a huge swirling dance to close…

31 March 2015Feature

How Earth Quaker Action Team managed to win a climate victory

On 2 March, after five years of action by Earth Quaker Action Team, PNC bank announced a shift in its policy that will effectively cease its financing of mountaintop-removal coal mining in the Appalachia mountain region in the eastern United States.

This marks a major turnaround for the seventh-largest bank in the US, which for years refused to budge on this issue. After more than 125 actions, their desire to continue business as usual proved no match for Earth Quaker…

1 November 2013Feature

Re-writing an attacker’s script — George Lakey suggests ways of getting in practice to defuse violent situations

Have you heard the story about the woman who realised she was being followed on a dark, deserted city street? It was the night before trash collection. She went to the nearest trash can, lifted the lid, and had a brief, animated conversation with the contents. Cheerfully replacing the lid, she continued to the next trash can, lifted the lid, and chattered away as if with a long-lost friend.

She also noticed that her stalker turned around and left.

This is one of the…

8 June 2013Feature

Morning-after reflections on a Quaker action against mountaintop removal

We had decided to break the rules. Not a big thing for people whose temperament or life experience leads them to a defiant attitude toward authority. But we happened to be mostly middle-class people, heavily-conditioned to fit in, to obey the rules. Our socialisation had led to professional and, for the students, academic success.

And here we were, with a priority that required breaking the rules. For us, a big thing.

Twice before, Earth Quaker Action Team…

26 September 2012Feature

The practical advantages of nonviolent strategies in mobilising for revolution. 

In July, I participated in a Peace News Summer Camp workshop which discussed 'diversity of tactics' — the idea of including violent tactics in our actions and strategies for change. I was a little surprised when my fellow panellists wanted to turn it into a conversation about pacifism and whether violence can ever be justified.

Although I'm a pacifist, I didn't get their point. Most people who participate in nonviolent campaigns aren't pacifists; they choose nonviolent action…

2 July 2012Feature

The final part of our interview with US activist George Lakey  

Consensus decision-making has become dominant in activist circles. Not everyone practises it, but almost everyone wants to be using it, or to lay some claim to be using it. Among some folk, consensus decision-making has become not only an essential part of social change, but a pre-condition of working in a group.

We discovered in earlier segments of this interview (PN 2544 and 2545), that US activist and trainer George Lakey was one of the people who helped spread the ‘affinity-group-…

1 March 2012Feature

George Lakey ponders the lessons from Scandanavia's epic history of nonviolent struggle

George Lakey

While many of us are working to ensure that the Occupy movement will have a lasting impact, it’s worthwhile to consider other countries where masses of people succeeded in nonviolently bringing about a high degree of democracy and economic justice. Sweden and Norway, for example, both experienced a major power shift in the 1930s after prolonged nonviolent struggle. They ‘fired’ the top 1% of people who set the direction for society and created the basis for something…

1 September 2004Feature


GOALS To help participants move from thinking tactically to strategically; Introduction of a cognitive framework; Consideration of the values of different tactics as they fit within a larger strategy.



1.5 hours


As activists, many of us love tactics! So here's a tool which uses that to help us think about overall strategy more effectively.

Two methods for introduction:
Method 1: Mingling

Hand out letter-sized pieces of blank paper…