2022 Abstracts Stage 2

WHERE SHOULD WE STOP OBEYING THE LAW? The Colston Statue and the Limits of Obedience: Revisiting John Locke and John Rawls on Civil Disobedience

Katherine Daubeney, 2022, Stage 2

This project examines where one should draw the line between obeying and disobeying the law, specifically focusing on the Colston statue controversy in Bristol, UK. It investigates the role of civil disobedience in the removal of the statue. The legitimacy of the actions taken by the Colston Four are considered, who were charged with criminal damage and brought to trial for their role in the statue’s removal. The perspectives of political philosophers John Locke and John Rawls on civil disobedience are utilised, with a view towards how their theories might relate to the Colston statue case.
It also considers the legal framework governing civil disobedience in the UK, examining the Colston Four’s legal defence and the judge’s ruling that they could not rely on a human rights defence. It questions whether the current legal system adequately protects individuals’ rights to civil disobedience and whether greater protections should exist. Ultimately, I argue that the Colston Four’s actions were justified as a form of civil disobedience aimed at rectifying a historical wrong and that the law should allow for greater latitude in cases of civil disobedience where the individual’s actions are aimed at challenging injustice and promoting equality.

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