On Monday I joined hundreds of others to get arrested at the U.S. Capitol building. It’s been a while since I last engaged in civil disobedience. But I am just one of millions of people in America who want to stop the growing attacks on our democracy.
Organizations representing those millions have come together last week for a Democracy Spring and Democracy Awakening. Before Monday, 900 people have been arrested in carefully planned acts of civil disobedience, and after Monday, that number will be much, much larger. News flash: Capitol Police just confirmed that Monday’s arrests totaled over 300.
On Capitol Hill, I joined Rev. William Barber, Cornell Brooks of the NAACP and the leaders of unions, civil liberties groups, democracy defenders and allied progressive organizers, and rank-and-file folks who came together to get arrested and call attention to what we view as a crisis of democracy.
My democracy awakening started in 1965 and 1966 when I worked with the Virginia Students Civil Rights Committee, an interracial, statewide group of students, to help African-American people in the Virginia counties along the border with North Carolina to take the big step of demanding their right to vote. It took a lot of bravery for people in Southside Virginia to stand up to the Ku Klux Klan and the local white power structure after centuries of slavery, Jim Crow, and “massive resistance.” But the movement that led the Selma to Montgomery march in Alabama had forced the national government to pass the Voting Rights Act – and for decades afterward it seemed as if progress was being made. By 2007 African Americans in those Southside counties came out in record numbers, and, as a result, Barack Obama won the electoral votes of Virginia and North Carolina.
At the Capitol rally before the arrests began, Pam Horowitz, widow of Julian Bond, reminded us that just before his death, Julian was sounding the alarm about how, 50 years later, the Voting Rights Act was being dismantled by the Supreme Court, by conservative governors, and by right-wing lobby groups.
So, I got arrested to demand strengthening of voting rights for all Americans.
For the last several decades I have worked to build a populist movement to make economic change: demanding public investment to create jobs, build a new green economy, and generate healthy economic growth that will pull people into high-wage employment and raise wages for people at the bottom. But while that movement is growing, we all know that to be successful, we will have to defeat conservative members of the House and Senate to get a Congressional majority progressive enough to pass a new New Deal to rebuild America. And that means overthrowing the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision and passing legislation to get big money out of politics.
So, today I got arrested to demand we fix our democracy – so we can fix our economy.
But my decision to get arrested was not just an individual decision. The Democracy events all this week were organized by thousands of activists – most of them working for one of hundreds of progressive organizations who have come to the realization that if we don’t have a functioning democracy, we can’t make any other changes in our economy or our society.
Several weeks ago my organization, the Campaign for America’s Future, put out this email to promote the Democracy Awakening. It gives some indication of where the Democracy Movement might be going after these rallies and arrests in Washington.
In just a few short years, we lost so much, it’s hard to keep track.
Voting Rights Act? Gutted.
Corporations? They’re now people.
Our voice? Overpowered by an incessant and unaccountable din of dark money ad buys.
In the last century, we marched, we sat in – some of us gave up our lives for our democracy. The assault we face now surpasses the darkest fantasies of the Nixon era.
What are you going to do about it?
Join the Democracy Awakeningmovement and tell Congress to get the money out of politics and restore the Voting Rights Act. This is huge. Dozens of groups are participating in massive actions from the streets of Capitol Hill to the doors of Congress.
131,312 people have signed the petition – to Tell Congress to Act Now to strengthen democracy.
Join the Democracy Awakening movement and take action RIGHT NOW by adding your name to send the below message to Congress – then come join the mobilization April 16-18 in Washington, D.C.
To Congressional leadership:
It’s time to awaken a democracy that is accessible to all and is not beholden to big-money interests. We call on you to support these pieces of legislation:
● The Voting Rights Advancement Act, which would restore and increase protections against voting discrimination.
● The Voter Empowerment Act, which would modernize voter registration and ensure equal access to voting for all.
● The Democracy For All Amendment, which would overturn U.S. Supreme Court decisions likeCitizens Unitedand limit the undue influence of money in politics.
● The Government By the People Act/Fair Elections Now Act, which would amplify small contributions from everyday Americans.
And we call on the U.S. Senate to fulfill its constitutional obligation to give proper consideration to a Supreme Court nominee, including timely hearings and a vote by the full Senate.
Wealthy special interests are flooding our elections with unlimited, often secret money that threatens to drown out the voice of the people. Voter suppression – targeting communities of color, students, and low-income Americans – is running rampant. Yet Congress sits twiddling its thumbs.
Now, the Senate is even blocking the simple fair consideration of a Supreme Court nominee. It’s time to demand action!
Threats to our democracy – like the Supreme Court’s decisions inCitizens United v. FEC, which helped unleash unlimited big money in our elections, andShelby County v. Holder, which gutted a key provision of the Voting Rights Act – can be overcome if Congress acts. But Congress has repeatedly thwarted the will of the people and balked on passing popular measures to address these challenges.
That’s why the entire pro-democracy movement is coming together in our nation’s capital this spring, from April 16-18, for a Democracy Awakening to demand that every voice be heard and every vote count.
Sign to send the above message to Congress, and continue to stay informed about the Democracy Awakening. We need you in this movement.
All of these groups joined together to send out this email, generating over 150,000 signatures from people all over this country.
American Family Voices
Brave New Films
Campaign for America's Future
Center for Biological Diversity
Center for Popular Democracy
Communications Workers of America
Food & Water Watch
Free Speech for People
Institute for Policy Studies
In the Public Interest
League of Conservation Voters
National Organization for Women
People Demanding Action
People For the American Way
Pride at Work
Social Security Works
The National LGBTQ Task Force
The Other 98%