Democracy Spring: Over 1,200 Anti-Corruption Protesters Arrested in D.C.

Created: 18 April, 2016
Updated: 16 October, 2022
3 min read

Since last week over twelve hundred protesters have subjected themselves to arrest outside the U.S. Capitol building, with thousands more pledging their willingness to join them.

Their goal? To draw attention to widespread fears about corruption and the influence of money in American politics.

The organization behind the nonviolent protests, Democracy Spring, has been arranging mass sit-ins outside the Capitol rotunda since last Monday. The movement’s leaders also held related festivities over the weekend in the nation’s capital.

Peter J. Callahan, the communications director for Democracy Spring, said that police had arrested more than a thousand protesters last week. He projected a total of 1,400 to 1,500 arrests by the end of Monday.

DCList.com reported Monday afternoon that arrests reached 1,240, according to the U.S. Capitol Police. Protest organizers say internal tallies showed much higher numbers and expect the police department to revise its numbers.

According to its website, Democracy Spring is organizing protesters around a series of bills pending action in Congress that would strengthen voting rights and whittle down the amount of money in politics.

Key demands importantly include rolling back the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision and pressuring the Senate to confirm a justice who would keep it that way.

“We need to fix the big money corruption in our system right away,” Callahan told us by phone.

Nearly 20,000 registered to participate

Close to 200 full-time walkers marched earlier this month from Philadelphia to Washington, D.C., a nearly 10-day hike. Their walk began at Liberty Bell and reportedly ended at Union Station, near Capitol Hill.

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According to the group, the number of marchers swelled to more than 250 marchers on some days as daily and part-time walkers joined. More than 18,000 registered online to participate in one way or another.

Dozens of staff and volunteers organized nonviolent civil disobedience trainings for the protesters, the group said.

The website instructs participants about preparations needed for possible legal outcomes.

There also haven’t been any reports of violence involving police.

“We’ve been very respectful,” Callahan said. “Police have been respectful.”

A moment of bipartisanship?

Callahan said Democracy Spring assembled its campaign over the course of a year and a half, with leaders arising from the ranks of those behind the Occupy Wall Street movement in Los Angeles.

Signs of its Occupy roots percolated to the surface over the course of events, with some videos online showing protesters signaling each other with the human microphone technique and chanting, “We are the 99 percent!”

Some are reporting participation by a number of both leftwing and rightwing organizations. Protesters also flew in from across the country to participate.

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A number of celebrities have come out for the movement and even risked arrest themselves.

Lawrence Lessig, the Harvard law professor who briefly ran for president in the Democratic primaries, was present. Rosario Dawson, an actress with past roles on Marvel’s Daredevil and Jessica Jones, underwent arrest last week alongside protesters.

Cenk Uygur, host of The Young Turks, joined other arrestees on the front steps of the U.S. Capitol building. Academy Award-nominated actor Mark Ruffalo planned to participate but held back over “scheduling conflicts,” according to Callahan.

Although Bernie Sanders’ influence has been felt around the movement, the spokesperson said Democracy Spring itself is independent of any presidential campaign.

“This isn’t a partisan issue,” Callahan said. “It’s not a Bernie or Hillary issue or Cruz or Trump issue.

“Americans are fed up with this and they’re saying enough is enough,” he added.

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