Democracy Spring

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Democracy Spring
Democracy Spring, elders edition (26374271156).jpg
Democracy Spring protesters at the United States Capitol building, April 2016
DateApril 2016
Washington, D.C.
GoalsElectoral reform
MethodsCivil Resistance

Democracy Spring is a progressive social movement organization that uses campaigns of escalating nonviolent civil disobedience to build active public support to "end the corruption of big money in politics and protect the right to vote for all Americans."[2]

The organization began as a coalition of "more than 100 progressive groups"[3] with a common interest in US federal legislation intended to reduce "the influence of money in politics" and "expand and protect voting rights".[4] A ten-day non-violent protest march was held in April 2016 from Philadelphia to Washington, DC. Its demands included the passage of a number of bills such as those to improve voter rights and empowerment and require fair elections. During the course of the protest, 900[5] to 1,200[6] individuals were arrested.


140-mile march to U.S. Capitol and sit-ins[edit]

A group of Democracy Spring participants began a ten-day march from Philadelphia to Washington, DC,[7] on April 2, 2016. The initial events received wide coverage on social media, and on outlets like NPR and CSPAN, but cable news networks devoted little time to the protests.[8]

The protest began with a rally and participants included progressive political commentator Cenk Uygur, actress Rosario Dawson, educator and activist Lawrence Lessig, author Frances Moore Lappé,[9]Chris Hedges,[10] filmmaker Annabel Park, Ben & Jerry's founders, Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield,[11] and "many attendees sporting Bernie Sanders clothing and signs."[3][7][12][13][14] Demonstrators slept in local churches and at a tent set up near Union Station with a permit.[15]

The first day of nonviolent protest during the April mobilization drew over 600 people to the United States Capitol building, where over 400 were peaceably arrested.[4] The group demanded a "Congress of conscience" pass laws related to voter representation that would encourage small political contributions, constrain large and undisclosed political contributions, end gerrymandering, and reinstate mechanisms from the Voting Rights Act.[3] The group also demanded a hearing for President Barack Obama's Merrick Garland Supreme Court nomination, which was postponed by the legislature. NPR found the event to be "cheery and peaceful" and a Capitol Police officer said that unless the protesters had outstanding warrants, they would "merely be processed, cited with a fine, and released."[3][7]

Police arrested 85 activists on that second day, and organizers said it was the largest mass arrest at the Capitol building in history.[16] The second protest held hundreds of participants, many of whom were elderly.[16] More protests were planned daily throughout the week[3] and over 3,500 people across 33 states pledged to participate.[4] On the third day around 100 protesters were arrested.[17] A dozen protesters were arrested inside the Capitol building's rotunda and 130 arrested outside on the fourth day.[18] The dozen indoor protesters had zip tied themselves to scaffolding in an attempt to occupy the Capitol building.[19] By Saturday, over 900 activists had been arrested in total over the week.[5] The Independent Voter Project reported that by Monday over 1200 had been arrested in total.[6]

Democracy Awakening, which is closely aligned with Democracy Spring, followed up Democracy Spring's April's protest with a protest of their own in a similar fashion at the U.S. Capitol. Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield, Ben and Jerry's cofounders, were among approximately 300 people arrested as part of the "Democracy Awakening" protests.[20][21]

Democratic National Convention[edit]

In the leadup to the 2016 Democratic National Convention the strategic leadership of Democracy Spring issued four demands to the Democratic National Committee. The demands were that the party commit, within the first 100 days of a new Congress & presidential administration, to reverse Citizens United v. FEC, act to ensure publicly funded elections, and restore the preclearance provisions Voting Rights Act, which were made effectively unenforceable by Shelby County v. Holder.[22] The fourth demand, reflecting that the first three looked forward to January 2017, was that the Democratic Party immediately abolish the superdelegate system as a show of good faith. Democracy Spring promised civil disobedience outside the convention if the demands were not met.

Democracy Spring activists were barred from entry to the DNC's Rules Committee meeting[23] where changes to the superdelegate system were being discussed. Activists claimed victory after the committee voted for a 2/3rds reduction in the role of superdelegates.[24]

The first day of sit-ins outside the Democratic National Convention resulted in more than 50 arrests.[25] On the third day of the convention Democracy Spring staged another sit-in, this time inside the convention perimeter, by "diverting and distracting" police.[26] This second action resulted in dozens more arrests.


According to its website,[27] Democracy Spring has identified the following measures whose adoption would "restore the people's voice in government":


Social media[edit]

Democracy Spring has been able to generate a substantial amount of social media buzz through their protests. During the April mobilization at Capitol Hill, #DemocracySpring was tweeted over 150,000 times.[28] According to the Digital Director of Democracy Spring, Justin Smith, Democracy Spring trended nationally across Facebook and Twitter for several days accumulating over 6 million views on its social media pages by the time the buzz died down.[29] One of the pictures that was shared and tweeted many times was the picture of Kaja Rebane, a University of Wisconsin environmental studies graduate student, who wore a Statue of Liberty costume to the protest. Rebane was one of the many who were handcuffed in the largest mass arrest in the history of the Capitol grounds.[30]


During the April mobilization at Capitol Hill that resulted in 400 arrests, cable television devoted minimal coverage to the protests. CNN spent zero time covering the protests, while MSNBC gave Democracy Spring ~12 seconds and Fox News ~17 seconds. Additionally, MSNBC and Fox News misrepresented the protests, saying they were for voting rights issues rather than to stop systemic political corruption. While cable news did not give Democracy Spring much air time, other organizations including NPR, Al Jazeera, Democracy Now, The Young Turks, and CSPAN covered the protests with a number of featured segments.[28][29]

Notable participants and endorsers[edit]

The following individuals attended at least part of the April 2016 mobilization:

The following individuals did not attend the April 2016 mobilization but offered an endorsement:

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "The New York Times Photographs From Monday at the Democratic National Convention". The New York Times. Philadelphia. July 25, 2016. Retrieved July 31, 2016.
  2. ^ "About Democracy Spring".
  3. ^ a b c d e Overby, Peter (April 12, 2016). "Hundreds Protesting Political System Arrested on Capitol's Steps". NPR. Archived from the original on April 12, 2016. Retrieved April 12, 2016.
  4. ^ a b c Krieg, Gregory (April 11, 2016). "Hundreds of 'Democracy Spring' protesters arrested at Capitol Hill sit-in". CNN. Archived from the original on April 12, 2016. Retrieved April 12, 2016.
  5. ^ a b "More than 900 'Democracy Spring' protesters arrested in D.C. - so far". USA TODAY. Retrieved April 17, 2016.
  6. ^ a b "Democracy Spring: Over 1,200 Anti-Corruption Protesters Arrested in D.C." Independent Voter News. Retrieved April 19, 2016.
  7. ^ a b c Mimms, Sarah (April 11, 2016). "Hundreds Arrested at US Capitol During 'Democracy Spring' Campaign Finance Protests". Vice. Archived from the original on April 20, 2016. Retrieved April 12, 2016.
  8. ^ "Cable News Devotes 30 Seconds to Mass Arrests Protesting Political Corruption". The Intercept. Retrieved May 17, 2016.
  9. ^
  10. ^
  11. ^ "Ice cream barons Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield arrested in Democracy Spring protest". The Washington Post. Retrieved April 19, 2016.
  12. ^ HELLER, CORINNE (April 16, 2016). "NEWS/ Rosario Dawson Arrested at Washington, D.C. Protest, Says Police Acted "Really Lovely"". E! Online. Retrieved April 16, 2016.
  13. ^ Rampell, Ed. "Cenk Uygur". The Progressive. 76 (8). Retrieved June 30, 2013.
  14. ^ "Cenk Uygur bringing Young Turks to TV". UPI. September 20, 2011.
  15. ^ David Smith. "Rosario Dawson arrested during pro-democracy sit-in at US Capitol". the Guardian.
  16. ^ a b Ciaramella, CJ (April 12, 2016). "Dozens of Senior Citizens Were Arrested at 'Democracy Spring' DC Protests". Vice News. Retrieved April 12, 2016.
  17. ^ "100 Arrested at "Democracy Spring" Protests Against Money in Politics". Democracy NOW!. Retrieved April 14, 2016.
  18. ^ "'Democracy Spring' Protesters Arrested in Capitol Rotunda". abc News. Retrieved April 15, 2016.
  19. ^ "A Group of Democracy Spring Activists Occupied the US Capitol". VICE News. Retrieved April 15, 2016.
  20. ^ Junkins, Kayla (MAY 2016). "CAMPAIGN FINANCE REFORM IN THE UNITED STATES IN THE WAKE OF CITIZENS UNITED V. FEC 2010". UNDERGRADUATE HONORS THESIS – University of Massachusetts. Retrieved NOV 17, 2016 – via Google Scholar.
  21. ^ Diane Ruggiero and Daniella Diaz. "Ben & Jerry's co-founders arrested at Capitol". CNN. Retrieved November 19, 2016.CS1 maint: uses authors parameter (link)
  22. ^ "Details on Shelby County v. Holder: In Plain English". SCOTUSBlog. June 25, 2013.
  23. ^ Lippert, K. Timothy. ""Democracy Spring" locked out of the rules committee [VIDEO] – Justice News Network".
  24. ^ "DNC Rules Meeting Agrees To A Compromise On Superdelegates".
  25. ^ "More Than 50 Democracy Spring Activists Arrested Outside the DNC".
  26. ^ @leslieleeiii (July 27, 2016). "#DemocracySpring staged a brilliant protest inside the Green Zone by diverting and distracting cops. @DemSpring" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
  27. ^ "OUR DEMANDS". Democracy Spring. Archived from the original on April 16, 2016. Retrieved April 17, 2016.
  28. ^ a b Fang, Lee FangZaid JilaniLee; Jilani2016-04-12T16:46:53+00:00, Zaid. "Cable News Devotes 30 Seconds to Mass Arrests Protesting Political Corruption". The Intercept. Retrieved 2016-11-18.
  29. ^ a b "Five Takeaways From Democracy Spring". Adam Eichen, Common Dreams. Retrieved 2016-11-18.
  30. ^ "Democracy Awakening". Vol. 80 Issue 6, p12, 2p, 6 Color Photographs. June 2016. Retrieved November 18 2016 – via EBSCOHost.
  31. ^
  32. ^
  33. ^
  34. ^
  35. ^
  36. ^
  37. ^
  38. ^ "Ice cream barons Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield arrested in Democracy Spring protest". The Washington Post. Retrieved April 19, 2016.
  39. ^
  40. ^
  41. ^
  42. ^
  43. ^

External links[edit]

Media related to Democracy Spring at Wikimedia Commons