Democracy Spring: Money Out of Politics

What is Democracy Spring?

Democracy Spring is a nonviolent, nonpartisan action aimed at restoring democracy by calling on the removal of big money from politics.  DS launched a 10-day march from the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia, PA, on April 2, 2016, and arrived in D.C. for a massive sit-in on April 11.  Nonviolent actions of civil disobedience took place throughout the week from April 11-15, when the sister group Democracy Awakening began its own actions over the following few days.

Word about #DemocracySpring began spreading in the fall of 2015, when I was one of many to receive an email about the event.  But the idea for the protest that aimed to get money out of politics developed sometime before then. In 2012 Kai Newkirk, Director of Democracy Spring, co-founded 99Rise, a grassroots organization dedicated to getting money out of politics.  Stemming from the 2011 Occupy Movement, the organization sought to give a real voice to the 99 percent by holding elected officials responsible to their constituents, and not responsible for big money interests.  Newkirk gained more attention in 2014 when he and Ryan Clayton of Wolf Pac brought a camera into the Supreme Court and protested the expected decision of McCutcheon v. FEC, which Newkirk described as “Citizens United 2.0.”  Newkirk was allegedly the first person to ever bring a video camera into the Supreme Court, and he was filmed disrupting the court by making a speech before being arrested.  Then in May-June 2014, Newkirk and 99Rise led a 480-mile march from L.A. to Sacramento to protest big money in politics.  It was after this march that certain members of 99Rise formulated the possibility of a march on D.C.

By the fall of 2015, DS emails were going out across the country asking people to risk arrest in April 2016 to get big money out of politics.  Newkirk gained more attention for the cause after getting kicked out of a Donald Trump rally in December 2015, when he stood up and interrupted Trump by saying: “The American people deserve a clean and fair election and not billionaire auctions.”  Unlike the Occupy Movement, Democracy Spring laid out four specific demands – two dealt with getting big money out of politics and the other two sought to expand the right to vote and voter access.  One bill called for a citizen funding of elections so citizens could run for office without the need to be funded by billionaires. The second dealt with overturning Citizens United. A third bill would repair the damage done by the Supreme Court over the Voting Rights Act. The fourth bill, the Voter Empowerment Act, would make it easier for citizens to go to the polls and vote.

The non-partisan action invited people of all political alignments to participate, since the majority of people in public opinion polls disfavor big money in politics. I immediately put down my organization, East Coast Cannabis Coalition (ECCC), as an endorser, which became one of 140 organizations to do so by April. ECCC endorsed the event because Big Pharma and the Private Prison systems are the two major lobbyists for cannabis prohibition, and this lobbying could only end by getting money out of politics.

Democracy Spring: The March

Democracy Spring launched from the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia, PA, on Saturday, April 2, 2016, and would end in D.C. in a massive sit-in on April 11. The march took place during the Primary election season to expose the corruption of money in politics during 2016, which became the most heavily funded election up to that time.  Several hundred demonstrators appeared at the launching of march in Philadelphia on the cold and rainy day, and just over 100 pledged to walk the entire way.

I didn’t join the march in Philly that day because I attended the Smoke-Out in D.C. that day, where 500 of us smoked in front of the White House without being arrested.  The rally gained huge media attention, something Democracy Spring lacked due to a media black-out.  This blackout consisted of corporate media, but the march gained some attention from small newspapers.  Unfortunately the march also gained the attention of many conservative news outlets, including many online websites, that spread lies about the march from the beginning. The infamous Libertarian radio fanatic Alex Jones led the way in denouncing DS, which picked up momentum in the lily-white Libertarian sector.  Then in March 2016, after thousands of activists shut down a Donald Trump rally in Chicago, which gained national news after Trump supporters attacked the nonviolent activists, the conservative websites and newspapers launched an aggressive campaign against DS by labeling the event and organizers as being “anti-Trump.”  Not only that, but at the same time these news outlets invented the fabrication that the march was funded by George Soros, one of the top 30 wealthiest persons in the world, as a means to discredit the goals of the march to get money out of politics.  During the march, however, many of us turned the Soros rumor into an ongoing joke. For example, most nights before sleeping on the wooden floor inside a church we would say, ‘I can’t wait to stay in my own private hotel sweet paid for by Soros,’ or as we ate handmade peanut butter and jelly sandwiches we commented, ‘This sandwich is only holding me over until my Soros-funded lobster and steak meal arrives.’  Despite labeling the entire event as being nonviolent, the conservative media outlets made the event appear to be violent, such as by posting pictures from violent street actions into the article.

I was not able to join the march on Monday, April 4, either because I had to stay in NJ to hand in the 50 signatures I collected for Bernie Sanders to get him on the state’s primary ballot. I arrived at the Newark, Delaware church in the morning of the fourth day of marching on Tuesday, April 5.  I found over a hundred people listening to individual speakers inside. It turned out the walkers were serious about making this event non-partisan, as the room cheered the sole Republican who announced his support of the march. I was then greeted by some of the most considerate and intelligent people I’ve ever met. Almost immediately I received compliments on my black and white striped prison outfit, which represented the millions of nonviolent offenders incarcerated due to the drug war that was funded by corporations. Due to my creative outfit I appeared in many newspaper outlets along the march, including a picture of me in the Cecil Daily News the following day. That night we slept in the first hotel during the march, and nearly all of us watched Bernie Sanders win the primary in Wisconsin.

 

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Photo taken and appeared in Cecil Daily News on April 5, Elkton, Maryland. Kyle Moore sitting in back left.

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Marching through Maryland on April 6. (Photo by Kyle Moore)

The majority of the walkers were white, although Native Americans, Latinos and blacks were represented as well. Yet we were diverse in many other ways.  There were more men than women, but not by wide margins. Geographically we were extremely diverse, stemming from at least 33 states, and later would represent at least 40 states.  Politically nearly every single walker supported Bernie Sanders, but the organizers held a strict non-partisan standpoint and posters of Sanders were not allowed.  I was also delighted to discover how open minded these people were. Nearly every person I spoke with supported marijuana legalization, Black Lives Matter, environmental issues and $15 Now without hesitation.  Most surprising was the fact that this was the first protest for many of these people, despite being so knowledgeable about politics.  Lastly this was not a Millennial action.  We estimated the average age of the walkers to be around 40 years old.  There seemed to have been as many people over 50 years old as there were people under 40 years old.  The older people in their 50s,60s and 70s that I spoke with were previously involved in the anti-nuclear and anti-war movements of the 1960s-1970s, but did not get involved with politics again until now.  There were definitely less people in their 40s, perhaps due to the political apathy of Generation X. Some of the top organizers were in their 30s, and had previous experience in the Occupy Movement and similar actions in the past five years.  Dozens of people were still in their 20s, including me, and it was this age group that had many people involved in their very first protest.  All were still knowledgeable, but were most likely too young or inexperienced to get involved in Occupy five years earlier.

This Occupy Movement split can be seen in the Millennial timeline: older millennials born in the 1980s (1980-1989) were more actively involved in Occupy, while younger millennials (1990-2000) became politically involved in BLM (2014) and the Sanders campaign of 2016.  The older millennials had an anarchist trend found in the Occupy Movement, which functioned on a purely horizontal and decentralized level. The younger millennials partially held onto this decentralized strategy – as seen with BLM, $15 Now, cannabis legalization – but were also willing to develop an ad hoc vertical power structure to achieve certain aims.  Occupy brought everyone on the Left together, creating an entirely new political language (“We are the 99 percent”) overnight. Then special interest groups went their different ways to form new movements based off a singular idea (BLM & $15 Now), but the social networks between these groups remained intact to a strong degree.  Then came Bernie Sanders, who took up the mantle of nearly every main group from Occupy, but managed to deliver Occupy’s message in a direct manner, listing each cause as a platform of his campaign.  This gave the younger millennials the opportunity to fight for numerous great issues while being able to articulate the precise goals of the campaign. Therefore younger millennials combined the anarchist trend with a form of democratic socialism, which might seem crazy, but actually made sense to many of us who grew up listening to top intellectuals like Noam Chomsky, who advocated a form of anarcho-syndicalism (anarcho-socialism). Moreover the younger millennials did not discard the lessons from these intellectuals, who taught us the meaning of how power corrupts.  With this in mind young people did not join the Democratic Party, but rather occupied the Democratic Party in order to cleanse it and restructure it so it serve as a tool for the 99 percent.  Hence why young people are referring to themselves as Berniecrats and not Democrats, leading to the famous phrase “Bernie or Bust.”  If the occupation of the Party does not succeed, and Clinton is voted in, then the Democratic Party will most likely be viewed as unchangeable, and activists and young peoples distrust of the system could expand dramatically.

On April 6 we began our march on the boarder of Maryland.  A Native American chief by the name of Rain led the morning off in a spiritual worship, where everyone reached their hands out in praise to the East, West, North, South, the sky then the ground.  My friends and I joined every morning and joked about how we were “drinking the kool-aid” – meaning we took part in spiritual rituals we didn’t necessarily agree with, but were not cynical enough to ignore the appreciation we had of the earth that we felt more connected with than we typically did on a normal day.  We then marched more than 15 miles through Maryland on a sunny day and slept at another hotel.

On April 7 we quickly entered Baltimore during a rainstorm, but gained significant publicity from Baltimore ABC News that sent out a helicopter to report on the march. The police helped block off traffic along a dangerous highway, and afterward many of us were surprised to be greeted by one of the police officer’s who actually marched with us only the day before. He shook our hands and thanked us for continuing the march. The sun eventually came out and our group split in two: one faction continued to march, while the second faction received car rides ahead in order to meet with Baltimore Congressman Dutch Ruppersberger (D), who endorsed our demands.  This was exciting but the mood was dampened when he announced he did not support the civil disobedience action, claiming he thought this would lose support for our cause.  Many of us disagreed, pointing out that the media would have ignored the march had it not been for the call of civil disobedience, as well as saying the sit-in expressed our demand to return politics back to the people and not to big corporations.  The incident reminded me of the Black Lives Matter march I took part in last April from NYC-DC.  When I arrived in Baltimore in April 2015, the BLM group was greeted by the city’s mayor, Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, who thanked us for marching for a cause she felt so deeply about.  However, only two weeks later, when the Baltimore riots broke out over the police murder of Freddie Gray, this same mayor blamed the riots on “outside agitators” and “professional agitators.”  This made it hard for me to trust another Baltimore politician. After the somewhat anti-climatic meeting with Congressman Ruppersberger, both DS factions regrouped at Baltimore City Hall. By pure coincidence we arrived to find another rally of a hundred people taking place for Black Lives Matter and police reform.  Both protests joined one another and speeches were made by Kai Newkirk and Native American chief, Rain. That night we slept in two different churches.

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Marcher Chris Wood on right seen shaking hands with Maryland Police Officer who marched with us the day before. April 7.

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Baltimore Congressman Dutch Ruppersberger lending support to Democracy Spring March, but not support for the DS action of civil disobedience. April 7.

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Marching in the Baltimore rainstorm on April 7.

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Democracy Spring group (left) doubled the size of the police reform rally outside Baltimore City Hall on April 7.

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Baltimore-BLM organization allowed DS director Kai Newkirk to speak at the police reform rally, where he connected money out of politics with BLM. April 7.

On the morning of April 8 the walkers watched the Baltimore ABC News Channel 2 coverage of our march from the day before, when the station sent out a helicopter to videotape us.  The video included a shot of me walking with another 100 people, and showed a clip of Congressman Ruppersberger saying he supported our fight.  After that we gathered once again at Baltimore City Hall.  Our spirits rose high after we were joined by “Law & Order” and “Newsroom” actor Sam Waterston, who spoke in support of our cause and marched the first several miles with us before returning to Hollywood.  Waterston’s presence garnered us news attention that day from the Real News Network, which later livestreamed the civil disobedience actions in D.C. An article for the political news website, Inquisitr.com, also appeared that day with a Twitter picture of me in my prison suit. That night we took shelter in an indoor soccer/volleyball center, where we slept on the soccer field.  The most notable thing for me that night was smoking cannabis with 10 other people outside the stadium, many of them being the top organizers of the event, who I previously hid my stash from out of fear of getting kicked out of the march. But smoking weed was as common as breathing air for us young people, not to mention all the older people I spoke with who used to smoke weed all the time back in the day and those who still spark up occasionally.  They are not marijuana activists, but politically intelligent people who prefer cannabis to relax rather than a more dangerous substance like alcohol.

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Twitter photo by Justin Jacoby Smith #DemocracySpring, re-posted on Inquisitr.com on April 8. Photo taken April 8 in Elkridge, Maryland.  Kyle Moore marching in prison suit.

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Kyle Moore (left) with Law & Order actor Sam Waterston (right) at Baltimore City Hall, April 8.

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Marching through Baltimore city, April 8.

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Marching in Maryland April 8.

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Police blocking off traffic along highway in Maryland, April 8. Activist seen offering a handshake to the police officer, who happily shook the hand of every marcher who offered.

By April 9 the march had over 150 persons walking.  We began walking that morning in a rain storm that later turned into a hail storm.  The pebble-sized hail didn’t seem to bother most of us because it was better than getting drenched in the rain.  The group even made a joke out of it by saying we walked 140 miles in rain, snow and sleet without stopping.  Harvard Law Professor and political activist Lawrence Lessig, who ran for the Democratic presidential ticket in 2016 on a platform to get money out of politics, marched with us that day and gave a moving speech afterward, saying each person in the march gave him the hope and courage to continue marching.

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Hail coming down on the marchers on April 9.

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Lawrence Lessig speaking to the crowd after marching on April 9.

On April 10 we launched off with 200 walkers.  One person dressed up in an Uncle Sam outfit that had dozens of corporation logos attached to it.  Another friend of mine dressed up as former President James Madison, with the colonial outfit and accent and all. At lunch we joined several students at the University of Maryland for a rally, which was reported on by Ban.jo News (US-Canada).  A few more miles down the road we finally entered D.C. My close friends in the march tackled me with hugs as we all jumped up and down in excitement after marching 140 miles to the nations capitol.

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Kyle Moore (left) with James Madison impersonator, April 10.

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#DemocracySpring Twitter photo by Ahmed Abdelkader, re-posted on Banjo.com April 10, at University of MD.

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#DemocracySpring Twitter photo by Taralei G, re-posted by Banjo.com on April 10, at University of MD.

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Uncle Sam outfit, April 10.

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Kyle Moore, April 10.

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Kyle Moore and others entering D.C. on April 10.

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Marching in D.C. streets on April 10.

Our march concluded that day with a rally of more than 200 persons outside Union Station.  We were all emotional and speakers had to wait several minutes for the crowd to settle down.  Our excitement turned into seriousness as each person announced out loud someone they marched for, and people began yelling the names of Mike Brown, Eric Garner, Martin Luther King, Jr., Dorthy Day, and a long list of activists and freedom fighters.  After the rally we walked into our large white tent inside the park across the street from Union Station, which served as our headquarters for the next week.  The permit allowed us to have the tent up from April 10-18, requiring someone to be there at all times, although we were not allowed to sleep there.

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Marching toward Union Station, April 10.

After eating we marched two miles to the building where we held our nonviolent civil disobedience training workshop, which people were required to attend in order to be arrested the following day. When we arrived there we were met by a bizarre sight – over 200 people were waiting outside the door to get in.  None of these people had marched with us, but hundreds of people who were unable to participate in the march arrived there that night to join the workshop. The workshop held over 400 of us and many more were turned away because it hit max capacity.  I remember feeling like a veteran around all the new people, but I also reminded myself that we would all be on equal footing the following day when we expected to be locked up in jail together.  The large influx of new people required the organizers to house one group in St. Stephens church, another group in another church, and a few other people in local housing.

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April 10 march into DC.

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April 10 march into DC

The D.C. Arrests

I arrived at our tent near Union Station early Monday morning, April 11.  I had to run around and collect the $100 cash needed to post bail, which I finally received from my friend from the march, Chris Wood.  Early in the morning the first police officer that week arrived to check up on our permit for the tent.  He was actually a nice young officer who seemed to have no problem with our group specifically.  Although he seemed typical of most cops when he complained about the D.C. Occupy space from 2011, which he said left the park a mess and required D.C. officials to spend millions of dollars to repair it.  We followed by saying the Occupy Movement was spawned by the big corporations that robbed the working classes of billions of dollars during the Great Recession, and therefore Occupy should not be blamed for organizing hundreds of thousands of people in public spaces.

Over a thousand people gathered at the park around noon, where every rally that week would launch from at that time.  The most famous speaker that day to get arrested was Cenk Uygur, the main host of the political commentary program “The Young Turks” (TYT), which millions of viewers followed because of its progressive standpoints and the show’s willingness to critique corporate media blackouts on subjects like the Bernie Sanders campaign.  Captain Ray Lewis, former Philadelphia police captain who was arrested at Occupy Wall Street and has since become a radical activist, also appeared that day and was arrested in his police uniform, although he was held for 25 hours for refusing to hand over his sign. Activists also arrived in creative outfits.  The Bread & Puppet theatrical group arrived with a large politician puppet with bags of money strapped to each hand. The most famous costume was of the woman who dressed up as the Statue of Liberty, who’s picture would go viral on social network that night after an amazing picture was taken during her arrest.

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Cenk Uygur of TYT speaking at the rally, April 11.

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Kyle Moore (left) and Captain Ray Lewis at Union Station park before arrests. April 11.

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Kyle Moore with Ms. Liberty Bell on April 11, prior to arrests.

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Democracy Spring Meme of crowd on April 11.

Between 1,000 and 2,000 people marched the few blocks to the Capitol Building, where we were greeted by less than 50 police officers and a D.C. police bus that could fit 50 people.  A short rally was held on the steps of the capitol building, before police gave us the two warnings before arrests began.  More than 450 of us stayed and would be arrested that day.  At least 100 people immediately began the sit-in on the steps of the capitol building, while the rest of us expanded the sit-in another 100-feet away from the steps. Those who were not arrested stood behind the police line that was set up at least 50 yards away.  The arrests didn’t begin until half an hour later.  The first man arrested was asked to stand up, to which he complied to as per order of the nonviolent training the night before, and was handcuffed and taken to the side near the police bus.  The police continued to arrest people in this individual fashion for another half hour before realizing it took to long.  Eventually the police asked people to stand up together in groups of 10, so all of us could be taken aside, patted down, and then taken to the bus.  This process still took several hours, however, and most people had to wait on the side-lawn in handcuffs for the police bus to return to take the next 50 people.  Out of the 450 people arrested, I must have been around the 200th person arrested. I actually made a lot of cops smile, including my arresting officer and the officer driving the bus, after they saw me wearing my prison outfit.  As I waited on the lawn for the bus to return it was announced that the arrests were halted for the moment because we had successfully filled up the jails.

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April 11 Sit-In.

Only two more groups were taken to the prison on the bus over the next hour.  I arrived on the second to last bus to the holding area, which turned out to be a large garage-type room filled with chairs.  We entered the garage and found more than 200 people there sitting in handcuffs. At the front of the room were several long tables lined up against one another, where a dozen officers sat on one side as they called people up individually to go through the processing steps. When people first entered they provided their I.D. at this table, then sat down for an hour before getting called up to provide more information, and were called up to the table two hours later to receive their citation and leave.  Like most people I sat there for four hours with my hands tied behind my back before I could leave.  Despite having no water or food, the experience was not that bad. I think it would have been much worse if I didn’t have hundreds of other people sitting right next to me, or else I would have doubted my action or at least would have been more fearful about what charges would be used against me.

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Kyle Moore arrested in his prison uniform April 11.

During my first hour I witnessed the first few dozen people leave, but this wasn’t quick enough for the police to start bringing in new arrestees.  Not wanting to leave the last few hundred people at the capitol building during this process, the police began transporting the remaining arrestees to the station and placed them behind barricades outside the building.  Once enough people inside were processed, another group from the outside would filter in.  It was night time by the time I was released, and people were still just being processed. Prior to leaving a police officer announced that at least 430 of us were arrested, with more still outside.  One of the last groups to enter the garage contained Kai Newkirk and Cenk Uygur of TYT.  When Uygur walked inside, hundreds of people sitting in their chairs began chanting the theme song of TYT, and the modest Uygur bowed down to us and said it took all of us to shut down the Capitol Building.  The last group of people didn’t leave until midnight, and by then the police combined the first two stages of processing in order to get people out quicker.

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April 11 sit-in.

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April 11 sit-in.

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April 11 sit-in.

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April 11 sit-in.

Over 430 persons were arrested at the Capitol Building that first day, making it the largest arrest during a single day in the 21st Century.  This was a huge accomplishment, with arrests expected to continue all week.  That night we all talked about the media coverage of the event, which amounted to a corporate media blackout. One chant during the arrests that day was, “Where is CNN?”  That night CNN provided a short clip of the action, MSNBC mentioned it for 12 seconds, and Fox News devoted only 17 seconds. Small news outlets prevented the story from being completely blocked out. This included coverage by the small progressive outlet Common Dreams, NPR, Russia Today (RT), Inquisitr.com, MSNBC, Washington Post, Democracy Now, Real News Network, Truth-Out, The Young Turks Network, and a few other outlets. But U.S. Uncut, one of the leading progressive online journals that covers most of what corporate media ignores, released an article with the proper headline : “Media Silent as Massive Protest in D.C. Fills Jails Beyond Capacity.” Social networking once again provided the majority of news coverage.  Democracy Spring became the number one trend on Twitter that night.  Corporate politicians were also silent.  Only one politician came out in support of the arrests that day: Bernie Sanders.  Without meeting or speaking with the organizers of the action, Bernie Sanders sent out two Tweets that night on Twitter, both with the hashtag #DemocracySpring.

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Democracy Spring Meme of picture taken inside the police garage where more than 400 of us were held overall on April 11.

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Picture of Ms. Statue of Liberty getting arrested April 11, which went viral on social networks.

On April 20, Media Matters released an analysis of the media coverage on Democracy Spring from April 11-18, titled: “Broadcast Networks Ignored Democracy Awakening, Democracy Spring Protests.”  The analysis found that out of the four broadcast network evening shows — ABC’s World News Tonight, CBS’CBS Evening News, NBC’s NBC Nightly News, and PBS’s PBS NewsHour — “only PBS NewsHour devoted any airtime to covering” the sit-in arrests.”The coverage on PBS was scant, however, with only two segments totaling 29 seconds devoted to the demonstrations.” In addition, out of the five network weekend programs — ABC’s This Week, CBS’ Face the Nation, NBC’s Meet the Press, Fox Broadcasting Co.’s Fox News Sunday, and PBS’ PBS NewsHour Weekend — news coverage of the sit-ins were “entirely omitted” during their April 16-17 airtime.  The same analysis criticized the lack of quality in the coverage: “The minimal coverage garnered by the protests made no mention of the goals of Democracy Awakening and Democracy Spring, instead emphasizing how many protesters were arrested.”  Lastly: “Our analysis included any segment devoted to the Democracy Spring and Democracy Awakening protests and sit-ins in Washington, D.C., as well as any substantial mention of money in politics or campaign finance directly pertaining to the protests. Discussions of campaign finance reform or money in politics not pertaining to the protests were excluded. Reruns, teases for upcoming segments, and passing mentions were excluded.”

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Media Matters analysis chart on lack of coverage of sit-ins.

Around 80 persons were arrested the next day on Tuesday, April 12, outside another section of the Capitol Building.  Those arrested were mainly elderly people because the protest that day focused on issues that concerned elderly people. Only a few news outlets covered the event, like Vice and RT News. The headline of Amy Goodman’s article for an online journal the next day read: “85 More Arrested in ‘Democracy Spring’; Corporate Media Ignores Protests.”  The major precedent set during the second day of arrests was that the police did not transport those arrested to jail. Instead, the police merely took those arrested to the side and immediately issued them a citation.  Apparently the day before taught them that the transportation and holding of us turned out to be too expensive.

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Kyle Moore with Climate activist Mr. Polar Bear, April 12.

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April 12 photo from Vice.

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Corporate American Flag photo taken April 12.

Just under 100 people were arrested on the third day, Wednesday, April 13, for the sit-in representing Black Lives Matter.  During the rally at the Union Station park that day, police untimely asked for the tent permits, attempting to disrupt the rally. My organizer friend Dylan said to the cop point blank: ‘We didn’t have a problem from you all week and now all of a sudden this comes up on the day of Black Lives Matter.”  The BLM speakers on stage came from the local DC-BLM organization.  The speakers praised the mostly white crowd for getting arrested.  They explained that poor black people could not risk arrest in DC because they risked being kicked out of public housing if arrested, or simply couldn’t pay the $50 citation.  For that reason white people should understand their privilege in this situation, explained the female speaker, who recognized the need for all groups to unite against social injustice.

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Kyle Moore at BLM Rally April 13. “D.C. spends more money on policing & prisons than we do on D.C. Public Schools.”

The arrests took place without much difference as the other two days, except that day those who were not arrested played a major part.  During the first two days, whenever police announced the two warnings about arrests, everyone not getting arrested simply walked back the required 50 plus yards distance required.  But on this day those not getting arrested lined up only 20 feet away from those performing the sit-in. The police formed a long line between us and those getting arrested, but it was a single line, as in there was no second line of police behind them.  This was totally different than the protest line, that had at least 10 rows behind the first row.  I was originally in the front line, which dealt with the police asking us to move 30 feet backwards, but we only moved a few inches and claimed we could not go back further without tripping. Ten minutes later we had only moved about ten feet, with police demanding more aggressively that we step back.  Since I was carrying a very large sign, I dropped back to the second row and pushed my sign into the back of the person in the front row to prevent them from getting pushed back. This actually worked. After a few seconds of police trying desperately to push us back, they relented and we celebrated like it was a victory. We then waited for those issued citations to be released, which took less than an hour.  I can be seen in a video posted by RT News protesting in support of those getting arrested.

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Police ordering activists back on April 13.

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April 13 BLM.

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Police ordering activists back on April 13.

The day of the BLM rally was the same morning I paid my $50 citation from Monday.  I waited with a dozen other people that morning for two hours before I could pay it.  Most people arrested complained about the short hours of when we could pay the ticket (9am-noon).  Only one officer was doing the paperwork when I was there, but half-a-dozen stood outside patrolling the long line that went out the doors. Throughout the week the processing part took even longer, becoming a top complaint for most of us present.  Police were clearly trying to harass us anyway they could.

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Kyle Moore on police line, April 13.

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Kyle Moore paying his citation Wednesday, April 13.

On Thursday morning the police made their presence known.  For the first time they parked police vehicles on the park property where they were visibly seen.  Both vehicles had K-9 dogs that barked at me as I passed by with a joint in my pocket.  Then when we reached the rally that day for $15 Now and unions, the police were out in numbers not seen earlier in the week, and five different police buses were lined up outside the Capitol Building.  Cops gave us the two warnings immediately and began pushing our support line back.  There were so many officers that instead of staying in a straight line like the day before, they now swarmed in on both sides of our defense and circled us, warning everyone they were about to be arrested in extremely angry tones.  They pushed us back all the way to a grassy spot, which was twice the distance we were required to stay compared to the other three days.  It was pure malice in their actions.  A 10-year old child of one reporter was playing in the tree when one angry white cop screamed at him and threatened to pull him down from there, until the kid jumped down and the cop realized it was only a child.  This was my last day before I went home and plan for my 420 rally in Trenton, NJ, on April 20.

The next day, Friday, April 15, the media blackout began to waver, at least for the coverage of famous people being arrested. As WhoWhatWhy.org wrote on April 22: “The only time the media seemed to find anything worth reporting was when celebrities were taken away in shackles.”  That day over a dozen people were arrested in the capitol rotunda.  Gaining even more attention were the arrests of actress Rosario Dawson (of the popular Netflix show, Daredevil)  and activist Chris Hedges.  Then the press blew up again on Monday, April 18, when Ben and Jerry of “Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream” were among the 300 persons arrested that day.

Between 1,200 and 1,400 people were arrested overall, and I am proud to say I was one of them. This broke the amount of arrests within a week’s time span in the 21st century, breaking the previous record of 1,200 arrests against the Keystone XL Pipeline in 2014. I believe the action was greatly needed at this moment in time, and should serve as a significant historical landmark in the radical year of 2016.  The arrests of cultural icons and of over a thousand activists signified the time is ripe for change within the electoral system, but only time will tell the impact of this massive action.

Social media blew up a few days after the arrests, when media outlets shared this headline: “Lawmakers Respond To Democracy Spring Protests With Call For Democracy Hearings.”  Nearly 100 members of Congress called for hearings on voting rights and campaign financial reform.

 

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