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Hundreds of pro-democracy activists marched 140 miles from the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia to the National Mall in D.C. to advocate for getting money out of politics. (Photo: Every Voice/Twitter/cc)

Mass Convergence in D.C. for 'Sit-In to Save Democracy'

Grassroots coalition launches unprecedented week of mass nonviolent action to call for campaign finance reform

Nika Knight Beauchamp

After walking nearly 150 miles over the course of nine days, hundreds of marchers arrived in D.C. on Monday and joined thousands of supporters to launch a full week of mass sit-ins and direct actions in the nation's capitol in an unprecedented protest against moneyed interests' influence over politics.

The thousands of grassroots activists took part in training sessions for civil disobedience upon their arrival in D.C., and announced planned rallies, direct actions, sit-ins, and teach-ins to take place throughout the week.

The mass march for democracy was organized by a coalition called Democracy Spring, and this week the movement blooms into Democracy Awakening, which has organized the teach-ins and rallies. Democracy Spring is also coordinating a series of mass sit-ins in front of congressional offices.

The events will culminate "with a Congress of Conscience Day of Action on Monday April 18, where hundreds more from both groups have pledged to risk arrest," Democracy Spring writes.

Besides calling attention to the broader issue of campaign finance reform, the coalition has several concrete demands. Democracy Spring is "calling on Congress to pass four bills," the coalition writes:

  1. The Government by the People Act and Fair Elections Now Act.
  2. The Voting Rights Advancement Act of 2015.
  3. The Voter Empowerment Act of 2015.
  4. The Democracy for All Amendment.

The groups are also "calling on the Senate to confirm a nominee to the Supreme Court who will vote to uphold political equality."

Hundreds of advocacy groups and unions that represent a wide range of interests—from the environment, to voting access, to reproductive rights, to public health, and LGBTQ community advocacy—are taking part. The organizations are united by a focus on breaking big money's grip on political power in the United States.

Democracy Spring argues that its campaign is headed inevitably toward victory, no matter the reaction of the powers-that-be:

Given the current makeup of Congress, immediate reform is extremely unlikely. In fact, we expect that the defenders of corruption in Congress will choose to put thousands of Americans in handcuffs instead of passing perfectly-viable, on-the-table pro-democracy reforms supported by the vast majority of the country.

But no matter what happens in the immediate endgame, we win. Because mass nonviolent action at this moment, on this issue, will focus the nation’s attention—as never before—on the urgency of this crisis, the existence of solutions to it, and the strength of the popular demand to enact them.

The activists are fighting for what "astounding majorities of Americans want," as Public Citizen president Robert Weissman writes. But "it's plain enough that public opinion is not enough," says Weissman. "We need massive public mobilization, to tear down the political barriers that stand in the way of winning the policies Americans support but plutocrats oppose."

The mass march that set off the Democracy Spring week of action was partly inspired by last January's New Hampshire Rebellion, a small group of 25 people who walked 145 miles to the New Hampshire state capitol in Concord to bring attention to the issue of campaign finance reform.

Marchers started off on April 2 from Philadelphia's Liberty Bell, and included Democrats, socialists, Independents, Republicans, and people from "all racial backgrounds," as Adam Eichen wrote in Common Dreams on Saturday.

"You don’t walk 140 miles for fun; you do it because you believe in your cause. No matter their political leanings, these voters are frustrated, as they see their voices get drown out by big money interests. They see no choice but to take their message directly to Washington," said N.H. Rebellion organizer Brian Beihl.

On Monday, the groups plan to rally at Union Station at 11am, to be followed by a mass sit-in at the capitol at 12:30.

Tweeting under the hashtags #DemocracySpring, #DemocracyAwakening, and #FightBigMoney, participants will chronicle the historic week-long campaign of civil disobedience.

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