Dr. Martin Luther King speaks on Civil Disobedience

spotlight_mlk-1Dr. Martin Luther King Speaks on the necessity of Civil Disobedience

(NBC) Our guest today on Meet The Press is Dr. Martin Luther King Junior who is in San Francisco. On our panel of reporters in Washington DC

(NBC) You have just met Lawrence Spivak our other reporters today and Tom Wickert of the New York TimesJames j Kilpatrick of the Richmond newsleader and John Chancellor of NBC News

(NBC) We’ll continue the questions now with Mr. Wickert

(Wickert) Uh… Dr. King you said a moment ago that Alabama was a state that uh gives respectability to the resistance and defiance of the law and you listed an observance of the law by local agencies in the south as one of the cardinal aims that you are seeking Yet on March the 9th you led the second march on Montgomery in a violation of a Federal injunction not to march you said that order was unjust and John Lewis one of your colleagues said that the negroes had a constitutional right to march injunction or no injunction now was that in keeping with the spirit of non violence and the restraint that is always characterized your movement and could explain your reasoning in defying the court order that day

(MLK) Well let me say two things to that Mr. Wickert, First I did not consider myself defying a court order that particular day. I consulted with my attorneys before the march and they stated that they felt that it was an invalid order and that it would not be… that I would not be in contempt of court of violating the court order if I led the march to the point of having a moral confrontation with the state troopers at the point where the people were brutalized on Sunday so I still don’t consider that uh braking a court order of braking what I consider an unjust law. On the other hand I must be honest enough to say, uh that

    I do feel that there are two types of laws, one is a just law and one is an unjust law I think we all have a moral obligations to obey just laws, on the other hand I think we have moral obligations to disobey unjust laws because non cooperation with evil is as much a moral obligation as is cooperation with good. I think the distinction here is That when one brakes a law that conscience tells him is unjust he must do it openly he must do it cheerfully, he must do it lovingly, He must do it civilly not uncivilly and he must do it with a willingness to accept the penalty and any man who breaks a law that conscience tells him ls unjust and willingly accepts the penalty by staying in jail in order to arouse the conscience of the community on the injustice of the law is at that moment expressing the very highest respect for law.

(Wickert) Well, I can, I can sympathize with a good deal of that but it seems to me you get into a very difficult point here at which one man’s conscience is is set in fact above the conscience of society which is which has uh invoked the law. How are we to enforce law when a doctrine has preached that that one man’s conscience may tell him the laws unust when other men’s conscience don’t tell them that

(MLK) I think you enforce it, I think you deal with it by not allowing anarchy to develop I do not believe in defying the law as many of the segregationists do I do not believe in evading the law as many of the segregationists do uh the fact is that most of the segregationists and racists that I see are not willing to suffer enough for their belief’s in segregation and uh they are not willing to go to jail

    I think the chief norm for guiding the situation is a willingness to accept the penalty and I don’t think any society can call a individual irresponsible who breaks a law and willingly accepts the penalty If conscience tells him that that law is unjust and I think that uh this is a long tradition in our society, its a long tradition in Biblical history Meshach and Abednego broke an unjust law and they did it because they had to be true to a higher moral law of the early Christians practiced civil disobedience in a superb manner academic freedom would not be a reality today if it had not been for Socrates and if it had not been Socrates willingness to practice civil disobedience and I would say that in our own history there‚Äôs nothing that expresses uh massive civil disobedience anymore than the Boston Tea Party and yet we give this to our young people and our students as a part of the great tradition of our nation, so I think we are in good company when we break unjust laws and I think those who are willing to do it and accept the penalty are those who are part of the saving of the nation…