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Saturday, October 21, 2017

Since April 11, hundreds of protesters have stood outside the U.S. Capitol, protesting political corruption and getting arrested in scores. Over the past week, over 1,000 protesters were arrested not far from the steps of the Capitol.

“We demand that 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,” read a statement on Democracy Spring’s website. The group is a coalition of 120 civic organizations pushing for action on a variety of progressive causes, central among them campaign finance reform.

“We will demand that Congress listen to the People and take immediate action to save our democracy. And we won’t leave until they do — or until they send thousands of us to jail, along with the unmistakable message that our country needs a new Congress, one that that will end the legalized corruption of our democracy and ensure that every American has an equal voice in government.”

Led by Democracy Spring, thousands of protesters arrived on Capitol Hill on April 11 with four key demands: the overturning of the Citizens United Supreme Court ruling, restoration of voter protections promised under the Voting Rights Act, greater transparency in the voting process, and publicly financed elections.

By the end of a week of protests, the organization claimed that around 1,300 people had been arrested for unlawful protesting. At the start of the event, 3,500 people had pledged to be arrested. The protests, initially ignored by the major TV networks, were buoyed with some coverage following the arrests of notable politically active public figures.

Rosario Dawson, who has emerged as a prominent supporter of Bernie Sanders, was arrested last Friday during the protests. On Monday, Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield, of Ben & Jerry’s fame, were also arrested for taking part in the protests. They too have emerged as important backers of the Sanders campaign.

Even Larry Lessig, a professor at Harvard Law School who briefly ran for the Democratic nomination, was arrested during the protests. “I’m a law professor,” he said. “I don’t get arrested.”

The protests highlight the deep level of dissatisfaction most Americans have with the state of their democratic institutions. The anger bubbling against the influence of money in politics may partially explain the rise of both Sanders and Donald Trump, who have each eschewed support from so-called super PACs. Trump often mentions that his supposedly “self-financed” campaign means that he is not beholden to any special interests, and while most, if not all, of the groups under the Democracy Spring umbrella are progressive, disgust with the state of money and politics appears to be bipartisan.

Photo: Flickr user alsacienne.

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