Arrest totals approach 800 in peaceful capitol protests as Rosario Dawson joins the campaign in person.
Friday on Day Five of the Democracy Spring campaign, as many as 2,000 young people and students from across the nation took the stage and prepared for mass sit-ins as they demanded that Congress take action to end political corruption and restore access to the ballot in the states for students, young people and others disproportionately impacted by the gutting of the Voting Rights Act by an activist Supreme Court.
Joined by DC Vote and Emancipation Day supporters, they are protesting the District of Columbia’s lack of full voting representation in Congress. The activities began at 9:30 a.m. at Freedom Plaza at 15th and Pennsylvania Avenues and the peaceful protestors marched to the Capitol.
“This is what democracy looks like” chanted about 1,000 Democracy Spring marchers and other defenders of the Republic on Thursday as they brought union members and labor activists forward to call on Congress to overturn the Citizens United Supreme Court ruling that has flooded the political process with corporate money, giving billionaires free range to buy off whomever they want. Several members of Congress participated, including Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD), Keith Ellison (DFL-MN), David Cicilline (D-RI), Barbara Lee (D-TX) and Hank Johnson (D-GA). Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) tweeted support.
At least 62 democracy supporters were arrested on Thursday, bringing the week’s total near 800. All were peaceful and all were released after brief processing by U.S. Capitol Police. By the end of the day Monday arrests are almost certain to top 1,000 – a record for congressional protests.
On Friday law professor and democracy activist Larry Lessig planned to protest, along with Pulitzer Prize-winning author Chris Hedges and actor Rosario Dawson. Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) was expected to speak, along with Alexandra Flores-Quilty, president of the U.S. Student Association and Kim Perry, director of D.C. Vote. The march coincides with Emancipation Day, a government holiday in D.C. to celebrate the freeing of 3,000 slaves by President Lincoln in the capital city. But D.C. voters still do not have full representation in Congress.
“It’s fitting that on the weekend anniversary of the day that slaves were freed in the Washington we are assembling to right another wrong in our democracy, the enslavement of politicians to Big Money that holds all Americans captive to a corrupt system and demeans our country” said Democracy Spring lead organizer Kai Newkirk of 99Rise.
Saturday is the final day of the Democracy Spring rallies, focusing on climate change, and the start of the three-day Democracy Awakening, a mass mobilization endorsed by 300 organizations. Thousands of people from across the country will participate during April 16-18 in teach-ins, a rally, march, lobbying and civil disobedience. They will come by bus from states including Kentucky, Tennessee, Connecticut and Illinois. The teach-ins are Saturday. The march and rally and Sunday, with speakers including the Rev. William Barber II, a pastor and architect of Moral Mondays; Cornell William Brooks}, NAACP president; actress Kathleen Turner; United Farm Workers co-founder Dolores Huerta and others. About 55 heads of organizations and other high-profile people will risk arrest on Monday as part of the demand for a restoration of voting rights, campaign finance reforms and the filling of the U.S. Supreme Court vacancy.
The Democracy Awakening schedule is as follows:
Saturday, April 16 – Teach, Learn, Transform
Saturday will feature teach-ins, workshops and non-violent direct action trainings by leaders from around the country. Presenters will lead a discussion titled “Voting Rights, Money in Politics United in Struggle,” featuring Marge Baker (People For the American Way) and Ari Berman (The Nation). Other workshops will focus on the environment and democracy; attacks on organized labor, voting rights and campaign finance laws; the role of money in politics as it relates to the military; D.C.’s struggle for voting rights; the U.S. criminal justice system reform; building youth interest and power; and boosting small donor involvement in U.S. elections.
Where: All Souls Church Unitarian, 2835 16th St. NW, Washington, D.C.
When: 1-9 p.m.
Sunday, April 17 – Rally for Democracy
On Sunday, thousands of people from around the country will participate in a rally and march at the U.S. Capitol. Participants will march, chant, hold signs shoulder-to-shoulder along the National Mall until they reach the west front of the U.S. Capitol. Featured rally speakers include Cornell Brooks, president and CEO of the NAACP; Tefere Gebre, executive vice president of the AFL-CIO, the Rev. William Barber II, leader of the N.C. Moral Monday Movement; civil rights leader Dolores Huerta; radio commentator Jim Hightower; environmental activist Sandra Steingraber; actress Kathleen Turner; and civil rights activist David Goodman. See a complete list of speakers, presenters and panelists. After the march, a faith vigil will be held.
Where: In front of the U.S. Capitol, at Third Street NW in front of the reflecting pool between Madison Drive NW and Jefferson Drive NW.
March route: At the conclusion of the rally, organization leaders will lead participants in encircling the U.S. Capitol to call on Congress to stand up for democracy, then march to the U.S. Supreme Court and end at Columbus Circle for a faith vigil.
When: 1-3 p.m.: Rally for Democracy
3-4 p.m.: March around the Capitol to Supreme Court
4:30 p.m.: Faith vigil at Columbus Circle in front of Union Station
Monday, April 18 – “Congress of Conscience” Day of Action, Non-Violent Direct Protest
More than 60 organization leaders and high-profile people will join thousands of activists to first rally in Columbus Circle in front of Union Station and then head to Capitol Hill for a day of non-violent direct action and advocacy. Participants will call for a restoration of voting rights, money in politics reforms and a confirmation vote on the Supreme Court vacancy.
Where: In front of Union Station (south front); then the east front of the U.S. Capitol.
When: 9 a.m.: Rally in front of Union Station
9:45 a.m.: Head to the Capitol
9:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m.: Advocates will lobby members of Congress.
For more specific details or to RSVP for a certain segment, please email Angela Bradbery (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Laura Epstein (email@example.com).