Democracy Spring and Democracy Awakening protesters rally in front of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. on April 18, 2016 (Reuters/Joshua Roberts)

1,240 arrested in past week as "Democracy Spring" movement against money in politics spreads throughout U.S.

Activists carried out one of the biggest acts of civil disobedience in recent history—yet got little media coverage


follow us in feedly
Ben Norton
April 20, 2016 10:58PM (UTC)

It was one of the most massive acts of civil disobedience in recent U.S. history. Over the past week, well over 1,000 people were arrested in an enormous sit-in protest at the U.S. Capitol.

The demonstration is part of a new movement that calls itself "Democracy Spring." Activists are calling for ending the chokehold money has on U.S. politics, overturning Citizens United and restoring voting rights.

Advertisement:

On April 2, activists launched a colossal 10-day, 140-mile march from Philadelphia to Washington, D.C. This was the preface to the mass arrests.

At least 1,240 protesters were arrested in the week from Monday, April 11 to Monday, April 18, according to police, on charges of crowding, obstructing or incommoding. Some activists even tied themselves to scaffolding in the Capitol rotunda.

Activists say even more people were arrested. The Nation put the figure at 1,400. The left-wing magazine refers to Democracy Spring and the allied Democracy Awakening protests from April 16 to 18 as "the most important protest of the 2016 election."

A host of celebrities and prominent figures joined the protesters. Actress Rosario Dawson — who has become an outspoken Bernie Sanders supporter — was arrested, as was Harvard professor Lawrence Lessig, along with leaders from the Sierra Club, Greenpeace, the AFL-CIO and the NAACP.

https://twitter.com/tylercreighton/status/721021435922292736?ref_src=twsrc^tfw

And although the Washington, D.C. demonstration officially ended Monday, Democracy Spring is only just beginning.

Leaders in the movement say they plan on expanding it throughout the country.

"Despite this unprecedented call to action, the congressional leadership did nothing," Kai Newkirk, the campaign director of Democracy Spring, explained.

Advertisement:

"Now we will take the battle into their offices in D.C., their home districts and to their fundraisers, to the party conventions and beyond."

Democracy Spring activists are asking that all U.S. political candidates sign the Equal Voice for All Declaration, which maintains that the "government should be free from the corrupting influence of big money in politics and solely dependent upon the People" and calls "for pro-democracy, anti-corruption reforms, including voting rights protections, citizen-funded elections, and a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United."

The movement is non-partisan and is not affiliated with any political candidates or parties. It has been organized by a coalition of more than 120 organizations, activist groups and unions, which share principles of unity.

Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders has expressed support for the new movement.

Advertisement:

"We must overturn Citizens United if we are serious about maintaining the foundations of American democracy," his campaign tweeted.

"Americans understand that our gov't is dominated by big money. Glad to see people taking action to restore democracy."

The fact that more than a thousand Americans willingly got arrested in order to protest corporate influence in politics sounds like it would make a good story, but it did not get as much media attention as one might think.

On April 11, more than 400 people were arrested at the sit-in. An analysis by The Intercept found major cable news networks devoted just 30 seconds of coverage to the story.

Perhaps this is unsurprising, given another analysis by The Intercept found that, while Bernie Sanders is more popular among Americans than Donald Trump, the average daily ratio of Trump-to-Sanders mentions in the U.S. media is 29-to-3.

Advertisement:

The protesters were painfully aware of this lack of coverage. While they were getting arrested, some chanted "Where is CNN?"


Ben Norton

Ben Norton is a politics reporter and staff writer at AlterNet. You can find him on Twitter at @BenjaminNorton.

MORE FROM Ben Norton

BROWSE SALON.COM
COMPLETELY AD FREE,
FOR THE NEXT HOUR

Read Now, Pay Later - no upfront
registration for 1-Hour Access

Click Here
7-Day Access and Monthly
Subscriptions also available
No tracking or personal data collection
beyond name and email address

•••






Fearless journalism
in your inbox every day

Sign up for our free newsletter

• • •