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It pays to protest: MIT is offering a $250,000 award for civil disobedience

The Media Lab at Massachusetts Institute of Technology is offering a $250,000 cash prize for civil disobedience. The application deadline is May 1 and a winner will be announced July 21. (William B. Plowman/Getty Images file photo)

It turns out it can pay — and pay big — to protest.

The Media Lab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge is offering $250,000 to a group or individual engaged in civil disobedience that, according to Boston Magazine, pushes some sort of societal boundary in a peaceful way toward a progressive end.

"Questioning authority and thinking for yourself is an essential component of science, of civil rights, of society," Joi Ito, director of MIT's Media Lab, said in an announcement video about the award. "At some level, disobedience is at the root of creativity."

According to the MIT website, the cash prize comes with "no strings attached."

"This idea came after a realization that there’s a widespread frustration from people trying to figure out how can we effectively harness responsible, ethical disobedience aimed at challenging our norms, rules or laws to benefit society," the department website reads.

Several political protests — many aimed at opposing President Donald Trump — have broken out in recent weeks. From the Women's March last month and the "Day Without a Woman" protest this week to the environmental activists gathered at Standing Rock protesting the Dakota Access Pipeline and the countless anti-Trump demonstrations across the U.S., there is no shortage of protests to take part in.

However, according to CNN, the Media Lab said the award is not a response to the Trump administration.

"You don't get a Nobel Prize for doing what you're told, you get it for questioning authority," Ito said, mentioning Martin Luther King Jr., the Environmental Protection Agency officials who have opposed Trump, and those fighting for LGBT causes.

Those applying for the award must espouse principles of "non-violence, creativity, courage and taking responsibility for one’s actions." In addition, eligible applicants "must have taken a personal risk in order to affect positive change for greater society."

"This disobedience is not limited to specific disciplines; examples include scientific research, civil rights, freedom of speech, human rights and the freedom to innovate," the prize description reads.

The application deadline is May 1 and a winner will be announced July 21.

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