Civil disobedience is a political act where a person protests a law or policy etc... that he or she finds to be unjust and/or unfair. It's a nonviolent form of protest against a governmental law or policy.
The author Henry David Thoreau coined the term in his famous essay in 1849. His act of protest was against a particular taxation at the time. He protested the tax law by openly not paying the tax and purposefully taking the punishment of jail time that comes from not paying that tax.
the refusal to obey certain laws or governmental demands for the purpose of influencing legislation or government policy, characterized by the employment of such nonviolent techniques as boycotting, picketing, and nonpayment of taxes.Compare noncooperation (def. 2), passive resistance.
(initial capital letters, italics) an essay (1848) by Thoreau.
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2010.