Members of a group known as Democracy Spring have spent the last week conducting a peaceful protest on Capitol Hill. Since the start of the protest on Monday, upwards of 900 people have been arrested for varying offenses. Of those arrested were two familiar public faces: Rosario Dawson and once presidential hopeful, Lawrence Lessig.
Democracy Spring is conducting the Washington, D.C., protest in order to try and change the way politics are viewed in the United States. The hope of protesters is that they will be able to get “big money” out of politics in order to ensure a fair process of electing officials into office.
The protest began with a significant march from Philadelphia to Washington, D.C., which included people from roughly 33 different states.
The Democracy Spring website was very clear that their protest is meant to be system-altering, but completely non-violent.
“Now is the time to take mass nonviolent action on a historic scale to save our democracy. Following a ten-day, 140-mile march from Philadelphia to Washington DC, thousands are gathering this week in our nation’s Capital 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.”
Although it may seem that the protest mostly involves people that lean to the left, many would be surprised. Several different groups are part of the Democracy Spring protest, including republican groups such as “Take Back Our Republic.”
According to what political author Wendell Potter told USA Today, many groups on both the democratic and republican sides can see value in the protest because they share a “common concern about what’s happened to our democracy.”
“We’re seeing it with the surprising support for Senator Sanders, who has made it a central part of his campaign, and when Trump says he can’t be bought,” Potter went on to explain about support for the protest. “That resonates with people who realize the system is rigged against them.”
Many of the people that were arrested from the protest were carrying signs condemning the Citizens United Supreme Court finding from 2010. They also wore clothing advertising for their favorite presidential candidate, a large portion of those indicating support for Bernie Sanders.
All week, people were arrested from the protest for violating a stature that prohibits “crowding, obstructing, or incommoding,” according to the Guardian.
On Friday, the numbers of those arrested included actress Rosario Dawson and Harvard law professor, Lawrence Lessig.
Lessig was arrested for the very first time. For him, the benefits of a protest had never outweighed the cost of possibly being arrested. Until now.
“I’m a law professor,” Lessig told USA Today. “I don’t get arrested.”
The former presidential candidate went on to express how impressed he was by the quality of people involved in the protest.
“I’m so incredibly excited with the kind of passion and the mix of people that were there,” he said.
Meanwhile, Rosario Dawson is no stranger to being arrested for her political stance. In 2004, she was arrested while part of a protest against former President George W. Bush, according to Entertainment Online.
— Rosario Dawson (@rosariodawson) April 15, 2016
The Marvel actress made it a point to tell the Guardian that although the police consistently warned her that she risked getting arrested during that portion of the sit-in protest, she just really “wanted personally to be in solidarity with the other folks who put themselves on the line.”
Although she was arrested and fined $50 for her part in the protest, she explained that “the police were really great” with her. However, she suggested that might be because of her celebrity status and the fact that it would bring a significant amount of publicity if they weren’t.
“The police were really great with us, really lovely. I have to say that is not the case for so many people: Dreamers, Black Lives Matter activists, so many people are not seeing this kind of courageousness… I hope that officers across the nation can take heed of that and recognize that the peaceful protest that is going around the nation should also be treated in the same way as we are being treated today.”
Democracy Spring will not be protesting on Sunday, and they intend to conclude their protest activities this Monday.
Editor’s note: a previous version of this story referred to Lessig as a “Harvard law graduate,” rather than professor.
[Photo by AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais]