A nonviolent but unlawful act that is publicly performed in order to protest a law, government policy, or action of a private body whose conduct has serious public consequences.

“Civil disobedience is the intentional violation of a law for reasons of principle, conscience or social change.  The following examples provide the best definition of civil disobedience and attempt to capture its essentials. First of all, civil disobedience involves breaking the law: demonstrations, pickets or other protests are not civil disobedience unless they involve intentional violations of the law. On the other hand, not all intentionally unlawful conduct is civil disobedience.  Civil disobedience is traditionally non-violent in that no harm is directed toward any persons.  Some practitioners of non-violent civil disobedience suggest that willing acceptance of punishment should be part of civil disobedience; others disagree.”  William P. Quigley, The Necessity Defense in Civil Disobedience Cases: Bring in the Jury, 38 New Eng. L. Rev. 3, 15–16 (2003).

“Civil disobedience is an act of protest, deliberately unlawful, conscientiously and publicly performed. It may have as its object the laws or policies of some governmental body, or those of some private corporate body whose decisions have serious public consequences; but in either case the disobedient protest is almost invariably nonviolent in character.”  C. Cohen, Civil Disobedience: Conscience, Tactics, and the Law 39-40 (1971).

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