by John Zangas
Washington, DC — The number of arrests on the fifth day of civil disobedience protests known as Democracy Spring exceeded 800 on Friday. Youth and student was the fifth day of sit-ins outside the U.S. Capitol in a continuing series of the eight days of protests. Activists are confronting Congress over the influence of corporate lobbying and special interests in politics.
Actress Rosario Dawson joined the protesters at the sit-in, along with Harvard professor Dr. Lawrence Lessig and author Chris Hedges. All three were arrested.
“By being here and making history you are making yourself known,” Dawson told the protesters, before walking with them to the East side of the Capitol. She said that their actions were forcing Congressional leaders to step forward on getting money out of politics.
Dr. Lawrence Lessig also spoke to the youth explaining he chose this day to get arrested with them because he believed in what they were doing. “I’m gonna march around this Capitol and get arrested with you,” said Lessig.
Chris Hedges, author of Wages of Rebellion, said, “Any society that does not grasp that life has an intrinsic value beyond a monetary value kills itself.” He said that he was proud to be with youth organizing for change, but the movement for change must be sustained.
Lessig, Dawson, and Hedges were charged along with over 100 students and youth with “obstruction” of the driveway on the east side of the Capitol. They were later released and given fourteen days to pay a $50 fine.
Many traveled long distances, some from as far as Oregon and California, to join the Democracy Spring week of civil disobedience actions.
Activists are calling on Congress to set aside the influence of “dark money” from Super-PACs and the uber rich, which they say tilts legislation toward corporate agendas.
Other key issues included legislation pending for voting rights and fair elections, and a demand that the Senate act immediately to fill the Supreme Court vacancy. The Senate deferred holding a hearing to confirm the President’s nomination to the Supreme Court, despite the fact that Justice Antonin Scalia died ten months before Obama leaves office.
Democracy Spring messages managed to reach the halls of Congress. The protests were joined by several members of the House on Thursday, including Congressman Henry Johnson of Georgia, Keith Ellison of Minnesota, and Congresswoman Barbara Lee of California. They expressed support for Democracy Spring and urged the movement to keep fighting for rights for voters, workers, and families.
Representative Johnson told protesters on Thursday that Congressional members needed movements like Democracy Spring to help it pass legislation, and it was grassroots efforts that mobilized the people.
“We’re calling to the public the importance of civil disobedience and mass non-cooperation as the only way we’ve seen change happen in this country,” said Dylan Lazerow, National Field Organizer for Democracy Spring.
But the big issue relates to the impact of “dark money” on rights of the voters, noted Laserow. He said any effort to stem money influence flowing through Congress is going to take a sustained movement. “We know there is a super majority of people who believe there needs to be an end to big money corruption, but Congress is not responding to that,” said Lazerow.
James Cole, a member of Wolf PAC, a group working to pass an Amendment to get money out of politics, said he believes Democracy Spring is making an impact in the media. Cole has been arrested three times. “What we’re doing here is politically advantageous because in the future our message will keep growing,” he said.
“This is a call for people to come out,” said Lazerow.