The most famous quotes on civil disobedience are by some of the most influential figures in history who took a stand for what they believed in, regardless of the consequences.
If you read about the history of civil disobedience, you’ll find that it has been used by many famous people throughout the course of history to make political statements.
They made an example out of themselves to prove their point, and they even went to jail in protest at times!
Their actions were incredibly brave, and their words on civil disobedience helped build movements that changed the world forever.
You might not feel like exercising your freedom of speech to voice your opinion on important issues, but that’s exactly what these famous civil disobedience quotes are encouraging you to do!
From Martin Luther King Jr. to Mahatma Gandhi, these famous quotes demonstrate how standing up for what’s right doesn’t necessarily mean becoming violent, but can instead be achieved through peaceful protests and the like.
These quotes from famous personalities will help inspire and motivate you to find the courage to stand up for what’s right.
Short Quotes on Civil Disobedience
Unjust laws exist: shall we be content to obey them? ―Henry David Thoreau
We are not seeking revolution. We just want democracy. ―Joshua Wong
If a plant cannot live according to its nature, it dies; and so a man. ―Henry David Thoreau
It is not always the same thing to be a good man and a good citizen. ―Aristotle
. . . we should be men first, and subjects afterward. ―Henry David Thoreau
activism: (n.) opting for a lifestyle of getting off your ass. ―Sol Luckman
New concepts should be introduced by the power of imagery. ―Douglas Coop
Civil disobedience is a preparation for mute suffering. ―Mahatma Gandhi
One has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws. ―Martin Luther King, Jr.
That which is not just is not law. ―William Lloyd Garrison
Let your life be a counter friction to stop the machine. ―Henry David Thoreau
Voting for the right is doing nothing for it. ―Henry David Thoreau
I have heard of juror disobedience. ―Monty Hormel
Disobedience to rigid laws is a revolutionary act. ―Lailah Gifty Akita
Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. ―Martin Luther King, Jr.
We need some civil disobedience. ―Marter Carter
You can’t be neutral on a moving train. ―Howard Zinn
If it takes civil disobedience, that’s what it takes. ―Pat Fitzpatrick
Rebellion against tyrants is obedience to God. ―Benjamin Franklin
It’s either the rule of law or the law of the ruler. ―Fuad Alakbarov
Get Inspired by These Civil Disobedience Quotes from Famous Personalities
There is a heady sense of manhood that comes from advancing from apathy to commitment, from timidity to courage, from passivity to aggressiveness. There is an intoxication that comes from standing up to the police at last. ―David T. Dellinger
When evil men make bad laws, righteous men disobey them. ―Pastor Butch Paugh
Civil disobedience becomes a sacred duty when the state becomes lawless or corrupt. ―Mahatma Gandhi
It is not a man’s duty, as a matter of course, to devote himself to the eradication of any, even the most enormous wrong; he may still properly have other concerns to engage him; but it is his duty, at least, to wash his hands of it, and, if he gives it no thought longer, not to give it practically his support. 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. ―Henry David Thoreau
Disobedience, in the eyes of anyone who has read history, is man’s original virtue. It is through disobedience that progress has been made, through disobedience and through rebellion. ―Oscar Wilde
I would say that I’m a nonviolent soldier. In place of weapons of violence, you have to use your mind, your heart, your sense of humor, every faculty available to you…because no one has the right to take the life of another human being. ―Joan Baez
My running mate, Ajamu Baraka, was out camping out with the homeless in Baltimore . We were both recently at the Standing Rock Sioux encampment where in fact we are both now, a warrant is out for our arrest for participating in civil disobedience to support this very critical stand being taken on behalf of our water, on behalf of human rights, on behalf of our climate. ―Jill Stein
Complete civil disobedience is a state of peaceful rebellion, a refusal to obey every single state-made law. ―Mahatma Gandhi
This spirit is resistance to illegitimate authority and to forces that deprive people of their life and liberty and right to pursue happiness, and therefore under these conditions, it urges the right to alter or abolish their current form of government – and the stress had been on abolish. But to establish the principles of the Declaration of Independence, we are going to need to go outside the law, to stop obeying the laws that demand killing or that allocate wealth the way it has been done, or that put people in jail for petty technical offenses and keep other people out of jail for enormous crimes. ―Howard Zinn
I ask for, not at once no government, but at once a better government. ―Henry David Thoreau
If the alternative is to keep all just men in prison, or give up war and slavery, the State will not hesitate which to choose. ―Henry David Thoreau
In any conflict area, it is always the women who are the first point of attack. But I think the more they have seen of oppression and violence, they have gotten more brave, more strong, more fearless than they were. You see this refusal to just keep quiet and do as you are told. ―Fatima Bhutto
Let not any one pacify his conscience by the delusion that he can do no harm if he takes no part, and forms no opinion. Bad men need nothing more to compass their ends, than that good men should look on and do nothing. He is not a good man who, without a protest, allows wrong to be committed in his name, and with the means which he helps to supply, because he will not trouble himself to use his mind on the subject. ―John Stuart Mill
That which is not just, is not Law; and that which is not Law, ought not to be obeyed. ―Algernon Sydney
If we don’t rebel, if we’re not physically in an active rebellion, then it’s spiritual death. ―Chris Hedges
There is civil disobedience against the military machine, protest against police brutality directed especially at people of color. ―Howard Zinn
The mass of men serve the state thus, not as men mainly, but as machines, with their bodies. ―Henry David Thoreau
Powerful Civil Disobedience Quotes by Famous Personalities
If… the machines of government… is of such a nature that it require uou to be the agent of injustice to another, then, I say, break the law. ―Henry David Thoreau
Little attention was paid, because the German people, no matter how hungry, remained obedient. ―Barbara W. Tuchman
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. I must get off him first, that he may pursue his contemplations too. ―Henry David Thoreau
Our legislators have not yet learned the comparative value of free-trade and of freedom, of union, and of rectitude, to a nation. They have no genius or talent for comparatively humble questions of taxation and finance, commerce and manufactures and agriculture. If we were left solely to the wordy wit of legislators in Congress for our guidance, uncorrected by the seasonable experience and the effectual complaints of the people, America would not long retain her rank among the nations. ―Henry David Thoreau
It is not what a lawyer tells me I may do; but what humanity, reason, and justice tell me I ought to do. ―Edmund Burke
The only obligation which I have a right to assume is to do at any time what I think right. ―Henry David Thoreau
An unjust law is itself a species of violence. Arrest for its breach is more so. ―Mahatma Gandhi
Only the truly evil do not believe in civil disobedience under any circumstance. If you refuse to disobey when the government demands that you commit atrocities, you are devoid of values. Every man with a conscience has some line in the sand over which the Government may not pass! ―Dennis Kreiss
Because the judge holds an important office, he can’t engage in civil disobedience. ―Rod Parker
If the injustice is part of the necessary friction of the machine of government, let it go, let it go; perchance it will wear smooth – certainly the machine will wear out. If the injustice has a spring, or a pulley, or a rope, or a crank, exclusively for itself, then perhaps you may consider whether the remedy will not be worse than the evil; but if it is of such a nature that it requires you to be the agent of injustice to another, then, I say, break the law. Let your life be a counter friction to stop the machine. ―Henry David Thoreau
Individual civil disobedience was everybody’s inherent right, like the right of self-defense in normal life. ―Mahatma Gandhi
Whenever there is authority, there is a natural inclination to disobedience. ―Thomas Haliburton
I view the United States, today, much like East Berlin. And I’m off the grid. I’ve tried for 20 years to warn the country about the Democrats and Republicans, and nobody’s listening. ―Jesse Ventura
Those whose conscience demands that they defy authority in some ways that involve great consequences must be willing to accept some penalty. ―Joseph Wood Krutch
Let us put it generally: if a regime is immoral, its subjects are free from all obligations to it. ―Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
Civic responsibility loses its role when politicians are addicted to compulsive lying. ―Qamar Rafiq
Famous Quotes on Civil Disobedience to Inspire You
Must the citizen ever for a moment, or in the least degree, resigns his conscience to the legislator? Why has every man a conscience, then? I think that we should be men first, and subjects afterward. ―Henry David Thoreau
Protest beyond the law is not a departure from democracy; it is absolutely essential to it. ―Howard Zinn
If there is civil disobedience, and violent civil disobedience, then we are prepared to make arrests and mass arrests if needed. ―Scott Fear
Far more violence has been done in obeying the law than in breaking the law. ―Robert Frost
A minority is powerless while it conforms to the majority; it is not even a minority then; but it is irresistible when it clogs by its whole weight. ―Henry David Thoreau
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. ―Martin Luther King Jr.
Powerful Civil Disobedience Quote by Mahatma Gandhi
Satyagraha and civil disobedience and fasts have nothing in common with the use of force, veiled or open. ―Mahatma Gandhi
We live in a nation where education and free thought are tantamount to treason, and I have to ask, under these circumstances, is treason such a bad thing? ― Michel Templet
I believe that Gandhi was correct. Non-violent civil disobedience is the only way to bring about change that allows people to enjoy the change and not get killed in the process. ―Edward James Olmos
Civil disobedience is not our problem. Our problem is civil obedience. Our problem is that people all over the world have obeyed the dictates of leaders . . . . and millions have been killed because of this obedience . . . . ―Howard Zinn
We need in every bay and community a group of angelic troublemakers. ―Bayard Rustin
The problem in this world is not civil disobedience…th e problem in this world is civil obedience. ―Howard Zinn
In an unjust society the only place for a just man is prison. ―Henry David Thoreau
The only thing we knew for certain was the American Civil War was not a prelude to a kiss. ―Aberjhani
Unthinking respect for authority is the greatest enemy of truth. ―Albert Einstein
Never do anything against conscience, even if the state demands it. ―Albert Einstein
There’s a reason survivors choose not to go to the police, and that’s because they’re treated as the criminals. The rapists are innocent until proven guilty, but survivors are guilty until proven innocent – at least in the eyes of the police. ―Emma Sulkowicz
Powerful Civil Disobedience Quotes by David Thoreau
I know this well, that if one thousand, if one hundred, if ten men whom I could name – if ten honest men only, – ay, if one HONEST man, in this State of Massachusetts, ceasing to hold slaves, were actually to withdraw from this co-partnership, and be locked up in the county jail therefor, it would be the abolition of slavery in America. For it matters not how small the beginning may seem to be: what is once well done is done forever. ―Henry David Thoreau
Each man must for himself alone decide what is right and what is wrong, which course is patriotic and which isn’t. You cannot shirk this and be a man. To decide against your conviction is to be an unqualified and excusable traitor, both to yourself and to your country, let men label you as they may. ―Mark Twain
Disobedience is the true foundation of liberty. The obedient must be slaves. ―Henry David Thoreau
I never read Civil Disobedience. They did assign it. ―Brian Spellman
I was not born to be forced. I will breathe after my own fashion. Let us see who is the strongest. ―Henry David Thoreau
If they are truly nonviolent, they must also realize that civil disobedience is an impossibility till the preliminary work of construction is done. ―Mahatma Gandhi
We have used civil disobedience in the past, but only when it has been absolutely necessary. ―Ramon Saul Sanchez
It was civil disobedience that won them their civil rights. ―Tariq Ali
It is easier to fool people than to convince them that they have been fooled. ―Mark Twain
I was not designed to be forced. I will breathe after my own fashion. Let us see who is the strongest. ―Henry David Thoreau
Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable. ―John F. Kennedy Jr.
I became convinced that noncooperation with evil is as much a moral obligation as is cooperation with good. ―Martin Luther King Jr.
Human history begins with man’s act of disobedience, which is at the very same time the beginning of his freedom and development of his reason. ―Erich Fromm
Mass civil disobedience is like an earthquake, a sort of general upheaval on the political plane. ―Mahatma Gandhi
A government of the people, a democracy, has room for peaceful civil disobedience—a practice that appeals to the humanity and sense of justice of the opposition (not defined as the ‘enemy’) and insists that we do all, in fact, belong to the beloved community. ―Diane Kalen-Sukra
I am free, no matter what rules surround me. If I find them tolerable, I tolerate them; if I find them too obnoxious, I break them. I am free because I know that I alone am morally responsible for everything I do. ―Robert Heinlein
A dog can bite you but you must not bite the dog! Your every movement in life must be peaceful; otherwise you lose your ethical superiority! Nonviolent civil disobedience is a genius; no power can beat it; use it when necessary! ―Mehmet Murat İldan
It means using such means as civil disobedience, outspoken criticism, protest, pacifism, voluntary poverty and even gentle violence if it comes to a matter of restraining some impetuous redneck. ―Gary Snyder
Our problem is civil obedience. Our problem is the numbers of people all over the world who have obeyed the dictates of the leaders of their government and have gone to war, and millions have been killed because of this obedience. ―Howard Zinn
I honestly do not know if civil disobedience has any effect on the government. I can promise you it has a great effect on the person who chooses to do it. Martin Sheen The burning of rebellious thoughts in the little breast, of internal hatred and opposition, could not long go on without slight whiffs of external smoke, such as mark the course of subterranean fire. ―Harriet Beecher Stowe
I believe strongly that Occupy Wall Street had such limits because the local authorities were able to enforce, basically in our imaginations, an image of what proper civil disobedience is – one that is simply ineffective. ―Edward Snowden
To sin by silence, when we should protest,
Makes cowards out of men. The human race
Has climbed on protest. Had no voice been raised
Against injustice, ignorance, and lust,
The inquisition yet would serve the law,
And guillotines decide our least disputes. ―Ella Wheeler Wilcox
Best Civil Disobedience Quotes You’d Love to TweetIf you're not going to use your free speech to criticize your own government, then what the hell is the point of having it? ― Michel Templet Click To Tweet One has not only a legal, but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws. ―Martin Luther King, Jr. Click To Tweet Civil disobedience is not something outside the realm of democracy. Democracy requires civil disobedience. Without civil disobedience, democracy does not exist. ―Howard Zinn Click To Tweet As long as the world shall last there will be wrongs, and if no man objected and no man rebelled, those wrongs would last forever. ―Edmund Burke Click To Tweet Politically, mass civil disobedience is appropriate only as a prelude to civil war – as the declaration of a total break with a country’s political institutions. ―Ayn Rand Click To Tweet
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What is civil disobedience?
Civil disobedience is when individuals or groups of people break a law for the purpose of bringing about change. Gandhi, for example, used civil disobedience as a strategy when he protested against the British rule in India by burning English goods such as cloth and paper.
What are some benefits of civil disobedience?
Some people might think that breaking the law is wrong because it could get you arrested. However, there are many benefits to civil disobedience: it can create an awareness of injustices in society; show people who disagree with the law that they’re not alone; demonstrate how much support there is for the cause being advocated; and empower the community by letting them know they have rights even if those rights aren’t acknowledged by government officials.
Who is your favorite civil disobedience quotes?
Some of my favorite famous quotes on civil disobedience come from Mahatma Gandhi.
His quote, First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win has always been one of my favorites because I believe this applies to most forms of activism. It helps me stay focused and committed to what I believe in no matter what others say or do.
What is the famous quote from Rosa Parks on civil disobedience?
The only weapon we have against our adversaries is our willingness to confront their injustice without fear. ―Rosa Parks
These quotes from famous personalities have always inspired generations.
These people risked their lives and reputations to make change in their communities, whether it was securing women’s right to vote or demanding that black students be given equal access to public education.
Let them motivate you as they have done for me.
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Nishu is the founder and a content writer at VersesQuotes.com website. She writes about a wide range of topics, from technology and business to health and fitness. Asides from her literary pursuits, you might find her reading the latest in news and pop culture or spending time with her family.