Tuesday, April 12, 2016

400+ arrested as Democracy Spring calls for fairer elections, no more money in U.S. politics

Democracy Spring protesters march to the U.S. Capitol to protest big money in politics, April 11, 2016 in Washington, DC. © Mark Wilson
At least 400 people have been arrested in Washington, DC after the Democracy Spring march and sit-in at the US Capitol building. Protesters focused their demands on creating fairer elections and politics that are unmarred by corporations' big bucks.
The Democracy Spring movement is calling on Congress to take immediate action on four key solutions, all of which aim to reduce the influence of money in politics, expand and protect voting rights, and ensure all Americans have an equal voice in the US government. The group is also demanding that the Senate fulfill its constitutional duties with regard to the Supreme Court.
Monday’s sit-in called for mass arrests on the steps of the US Capitol.

“People are fed up with the system, they are fed up with the corruption, and we want free and fair elections,” Cenk Uygur, host of the TV show Young Turks and one of the participants in the protest, told RT. “This is our core American right.”

Uygur and other prominent activists, like retired Police Captain Ray Lewis, were taken into custody.
Despite the large attendance at the demonstration, mainstream media was notably absent.

Government by the People and Fair Elections Now Acts

These two proposed bills are designed to get money out of politics. The Government By the People Act is designed to increase the power of the small contributions, while the Fair Elections Now Act would provide for public funding for candidates.
“What we see now is not a democracy, it’s become an oligarchy,” Holly Mosher, producer for the ‘Pay 2 Play’ documentary, told RT. “It’s time to clean up Congress.”
“Let’s get together, let’s clean this up, let’s make some solutions. Corporations are not people, money is not speech,” she added.

Voting Rights Advancement Act of 2015

This bill, which was introduced last June, would update the gutted Voting Rights Act of 1965, as well as protect voters from a slew of state laws designed to restrict access to the polls.

Voter Empowerment Act of 2015

Introduced in March 2015, this bill would amend the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 to increase public access to voter registration and make it easier for people to vote. It also introduces penalties for anyone, including election officials, from preventing a person from voting.
“The enthusiastic public response to Democracy Spring demonstrates Americans’ deep frustration with a political system they no longer feel hears their voices. Democracy Spring will turn widespread frustration into a powerful force to fulfill our country’s promise of government of, by, and for the people,” Democracy Spring lead organizer Kai Newkirk said in a statement.

Democracy for All Amendment

This proposed constitutional amendment “ends the big money dominance of our elections and allows for Congress and the States to set overall limits on campaign spending, including prohibitions on corporate and union spending in the political process,” basically overturning the Supreme Court’s decision in the infamous Citizens United case.
“We’re here to make some noise, to get the media, because this is the most underreported movement in America,” Mosher said. “Sixteen state legislatures have already called to overturn Citizens United, and we need to protect the right to vote.”

Confirm a Supreme Court nominee

Democracy Spring holds no position on President Barack Obama’s nominee, Judge Merrick Garland, but is calling on the US Senate to “to fulfill its constitutional duty to hold hearings so that the American people may learn more about his positions on campaign finance and voting rights and, ultimately, take an up or down vote on the nominee,” the group said in its statement.
“This is a huge moment for our country. Almost every American agrees our democracy is seriously out of whack – that our elections and government are dominated by wealthy special interests. And yet Congress is doing nothing. So today we say no more. This inaction is not acceptable,” Newkirk said in a statement that outlined the movements four major ‒ and related ‒ demands.