Democracy Spring Blooms in DC

Photo by Anne Klaeysen

Hundreds of passionate Americans rallied at the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia on April 2 and then walked for ten days—about 140 miles—to the US Capitol in Washington, DC, spreading the message that our government must work for all people, not only the rich. The marchers braved nasty weather, overcame physical pain, and collected support along the way. (Here is a great video of their journey.)

Along with several other members of the American Ethical Union, I joined the marchers in DC on April 11 for the beginning of a weeklong sit-in, where thousands pledged to risk arrest for refusing to leave the Capitol. The rallies, march, and sit-in were all part of one of the largest civil disobedience actions in a generation, known as Democracy Spring.

Democracy Spring is a diverse coalition of over eighty endorsing organizations, including the American Ethical Union, who demand that politicians “listen to the people and take immediate action to end the corruption of big money in politics and ensure our elections are free, fair, and afford every American an equal voice, regardless of wealth.”

Specifically, Democracy Spring demands that Congress pass four bills: the Voting Rights Advancement Act (H.R. 2867, S. 1659), Voter Empowerment Act (H.R. 12), Democracy for All Amendment (H.J.RES. 22, S.J.RES. 5), and Government by the People & Fair Elections Now Acts (H.R. 20, S. 1538).

Most importantly, Democracy Spring is a non-partisan and non-violent movement of “leaders and citizens who want a government accountable to voters rather than big money interests.” Each day of the sit-in was accorded a theme (Elders, Racial Justice, Labor and Unions, Youth, and Climate Change) to emphasize that we must end corruption together in order to address the many issues we face as a nation. The police at the Capitol were very impressed that we stayed respectful as we stood our ground on the plaza and waited patiently for them to process a record-breaking number of arrests. (According to The Hill 1,240 people were arrested over the course of seven days, which includes arrests from Democracy Awakening events this past weekend that dovetailed with Democracy Spring.)

As a child, my parents taught me to “vote with your feet” as well as with the ballot, so I was excited to join the activities on a personal and professional level. I don’t consider myself to be a protestor, because I am selective of which chants I join and often prefer to quietly hold a sign. Yet, I was greatly moved and inspired by the energy at Democracy Spring from the daily nine a.m. civil disobedience trainings, to the rally at Columbus Circle, to the march to the Capitol where we stayed until the last activists were arrested. We waved and shouted to them, “Thank you!” and “You are what democracy looks like!” It was also empowering to see all the cameras surrounding us and know that our message was spreading. We were even trending on Twitter for a while. Each day brought more updates, videos, and photos on social media, including stories by CNN, MSNBC, Democracy Now, the Nation, the New York Times, and more.

Democracy Spring has finished its activities but has not given up on its mission. Those who were there are returning to their communities to share their stories. Those who are still in DC are meeting with politicians to support the aforementioned bills. Those who organized or spoke at events are holding interviews on why it was important. And all of you who support the need for free and fair elections should call your representative at (202) 225-3121 and tell them so. Together we will save our democracy.

Democracy Spring 06 - Credit Anne Klaeysen American Ethical Union Democracy Spring 03 - Credit Anne Klaeysen American Ethical Union Democracy Spring 02 - Credit Anne Klaeysen American Ethical Union

All photos by Anne Klaeysen, American Ethical Union

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