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Friday, April 15, 2016

Democracy Spring: Thousands Descend on US Capitol, Over 400 Arrested

Over 400 activists were arrested outside the US Capitol. (photo: Paulina Leonovich/Twitter)
Over 400 activists were arrested outside the US Capitol. (photo: Paulina Leonovich/Twitter)


By Scott Galindez, Reader Supported News
 
housands of Americans have descended on Washington to launch one week of civil disobedience under the banner Democracy Spring. Over 400 people were arrested today, and over 3,000 have pledged to risk arrest over the next week. Their main demand is to get money out of politics. Before the marchers made their way to the Capitol, Cenk Uygur of the Young Turks thanked the 200 people who walked 140 miles over 10 days from Philadelphia. Uygur pointed out that the mainstream media has ignored Democracy Spring and explained that the reason is that they are part of the establishment. Uygur said that the media don’t want money out of politics, they depend on that money when it is used to buy campaign ads. Uygur declared that while this is just the beginning, they are no longer coming for us, but we are coming for them.

Kai Newkirk, a lead organizer of the event, told the crowd that if “we don’t have a democracy that represents all of us, we are in danger of losing what makes America great.” Newkirk went on to say, “We are here to send a message that there will be a political price to pay for siding with the moneyed interests over the people.” The organization’s website says: “This week we began the process of taking back our democracy, with hundreds arrested in our first mass sit-in at the Capitol on Monday, April 11. Now day after day through Saturday, April 16th, we will continue to reclaim the Capitol in a show of hope and for the truly representative democracy we see in our hearts. Over 3,500 people, coming to DC from near and far, have pledged to risk arrest this week.”

Thousands marched from Columbus Circle to the east side of the Capitol, where hundreds of people, including Cenk Uygur and Kai Newkirk, made their way to the Capitol steps. They sat down and received warnings from the Capital Police to move away from the steps or be arrested. Many heeded the warning and moved away from the building. Hundreds, in what is being billed as the largest civil disobedience action ever at the Capitol Building, remained and were arrested one by one over five hours.

Before the arrests were made, Uygur addressed the crowd with a bull horn and the people’s mic from the Capitol steps. “It’s time for civil disobedience. They think they have all the power, but we have the people. We are tired of the corruption. We want free and fair elections. We want our democracy back! We want our government back! We want our country back! We want our Constitution back! We want our Congress back! Thank you all for fighting back!

Why Democracy Spring? And Why Now?

According to the group’s website:
Every American deserves an equal voice in government. That is our birthright of freedom, won through generations of struggle. But today our democracy is in crisis. American elections are dominated by billionaires and big money interests who can spend unlimited sums of money on political campaigns to protect their special interests at the general expense. Meanwhile, as the super-rich dominate the “money primary” that decides who can run for office, almost half of the states in the union have passed new laws that disenfranchise everyday voters, especially people of color and the poor.

This corruption violates the core principle of American democracy – “one person, one vote” citizen equality. And it is blocking reform on virtually every critical issue facing our country: from addressing historic economic inequality, to tackling climate change and ending mass incarceration. We simply cannot solve the urgent crises that face our nation if we don’t save democracy first.

But if the status quo goes unchallenged, the 2016 election – already set to be the most billionaire-dominated, secret money-drenched, voter suppression-marred contest in modern American history – will likely yield a President and a Congress more bound to the masters of big money than ever before. And our planet and people just can’t afford that. But there is another possibility.
Democracy Spring is calling on Congress to pass four bills:
  • The Government by the People Act and Fair Elections Now Act
  • The Voting Rights Advancement Act of 2015
  • The Voter Empowerment Act of 2015
  • The Democracy for All Amendment
As the week goes on, many more high profile activists will risk arrest, including Mark Ruffalo, Gaby Hoffman, Lawrence Lessig, Talib Kweli, and Zephyr Teachout. The coalition putting on the event is endorsed by groups like the AFL-CIO, National Organization of Women, and MoveOn.org. On April 16th, Democracy Spring will be joined by Democracy Awakening, a broad coalition of organizations representing the labor, peace, environmental, student, racial justice, civil rights, and money-in-politics reform movements. According to their website, they “share a firm belief that we will not win on the full range of policy issues we all care about until we combat attacks on voting rights and the integrity of the vote by big money.”

They are fighting to protect voting rights, get big money out of politics, and demand a fair hearing and an up or down vote on President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee. Speakers will include Jim Hightower, William Barber II, and Annie Leonard.

I will be arriving in Washington on Friday for the last weekend of action after spending Wednesday and Thursday in New York covering the Democratic Party debate.


Scott Galindez attended Syracuse University, where he first became politically active. The writings of El Salvador's slain archbishop Oscar Romero and the on-campus South Africa divestment movement converted him from a Reagan supporter to an activist for Peace and Justice. Over the years he has been influenced by the likes of Philip Berrigan, William Thomas, Mitch Snyder, Don White, Lisa Fithian, and Paul Wellstone. Scott met Marc Ash while organizing counterinaugural events after George W. Bush's first stolen election. Scott will be spending a year covering the presidential election from Iowa.

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