More than 400 protesters were arrested on the steps of the U.S. Capitol on Monday after staging a political sit-in. The sit-in began at noon, yesterday, following a rally near Union Station. A mass of protesters were quickly led away from the east front of the Capitol in plastic handcuffs by police and funneled on to a bus and shuttle vans prompting cheers from the remaining protesters.
The demonstration was the first part of a series of “Democracy Spring” protests planned in Washington this week by a coalition of groups. Yesterday was the first day of what is expected to be week long demonstrations. The arrested protesters are pushing for a series of legislative actions, including the passage of four bills aimed at reducing “the influence of money in politics” while seeking to “expand and protect voting rights.”
The four specific bills the protesters are calling for are “to create a public campaign financing system; restore a provision of the Voting Rights Act struck down by the Supreme Court that requires federal approval of changes to voting procedures in certain states; modernize voter registration; and overturn the Citizens United decision that allows corporations to spend unlimited sums in elections,” according to The Hill.
The lead organizer for the movement, Kai Newkirk, says that the way that money dominates how the government is run is just wrong. “Almost every American agrees our democracy is seriously out of whack — that our elections and government are dominated by wealthy special interests. And yet Congress is doing nothing. So today we say no more,” he said.
“This inaction is not acceptable. The enthusiastic public response to Democracy Spring demonstrates Americans’ deep frustration with a political system they no longer feel hears their voices. Democracy Spring will turn widespread frustration into a powerful force to fulfill our country’s promise of government of, by, and for the people.”
Protesters were heard chanting “one person, one vote” and “money out of politics” as they peacefully sat in the East Front of the Capitol before they were taken away. Police claim the protesters were arrested for obstruction and crowding according to CNN.
The U.S. Capitol Police released a statement yesterday evening saying the 400 protesters were arrested for “crowding, obstructing and incommoding.” Video of the protest Monday showed a police officer saying, “if you don’t want to be arrested, move on back to 1st street.”
“More than 400 individuals have been arrested for unlawful demonstration activity, and are being processed using mass arrest procedures.”
The arrested protesters are part of the group Progressive Change Campaign Committee (PCCC) and have planned rallies and events right through the week to “draw attention to our corrupt campaign finance system and rigged voting laws.”
PCCC co-founder Adam Green was among the liberal leaders and protesters arrested on Monday. “Today, I join others in non-violent civil disobedience in order to help focus the nation’s conversation on these key democracy issues — and the public needs politicians to start acting now,” he said.
The protests began on April 2, when protesters who are part of the “Democracy Spring” campaign marched nearly 150 miles during a 9-day trek from Philadelphia to Washington. More than 3,600 people from 33 different states have pledged to join the protests this week in the Capitol “to demand Congress take immediate action to end the corruption of big money in our politics and ensure free and fair elections in which every American has an equal voice.”
The protesters were supported along their 9-day trek by countless groups and organizations, activist groups and notable figures including churches and community groups, Lawrence Lessig, author-activist Frances Moore Lappé, Congressman C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger, actor Sam Waterston, and actress Gaby Hoffman according to Common Dreams.
Despite over 400 protesters being arrested, the sit-in at the U.S. Capitol is expected to continue all week. To take part or learn more about what “Democracy Springs” is protesting for visit here for their calendar and here for their list of events.
[Photo by J. Scott Applewhite/AP]