Standing up (by Sitting In) to Save American Democracy
From Selma to Seneca Falls, from Stonewall to Ferguson, the history of American progress is marked by the moments when We the People come together to stand up for what is right. Movement moments. From five-million signer petitions, to State House resolutions, to ballot initiatives advancing fair elections, there is a growing movement in the US demanding solutions to our deeply corrupt political system.
But to shift the political climate much faster in favor of reform — during an election year awash in a tsunami of big money — we need to create a watershed moment to show Washington that Americans are determined to claim the democracy we were promised. With little more than our peaceful, dignified determination to stand up (by sitting down), we have the power to create that watershed moment. Together we can defend the basic, beautiful concept that in our democracy everybody deserves an equal voice, not just billionaires and big money interests.
Here’s the plan.
The campaign will kick off just as the advancing presidential primaries bring the national election to center stage, on April 2, when a pioneering group of marchers from every state in the union will gather with supporters at the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia on April 2nd. There, where the dream of American democracy took flight, we will issue a simple demand to Congress: listen to the People and take immediate action to end the corruption of big money in politics and ensure our elections are free, fair, and afford every American an equal voice, regardless of wealth. And we will call on every member of Congress and candidate for office in America to join citizen equality champions in taking an Equal Voice for All Pledge that commits them to fight for pro-democracy reform. Then, in the spirit of Granny D, the Selma to Montgomery marchers, Cesar Chavez and the farmworker pilgrimage, and others who walked for freedom, we will set out on a 10 day, 140-mile march from Philadelphia to the Nation’s Capitol.
On the road to Washington, Democracy Spring marchers will meet with fellow citizens, talk to the media, and create a firestorm of anticipation by laying out a simple choice to Congress: either pass bills to make the 2016 elections free and fair for for all people as equal citizens, or be prepared to send us and thousands of patriotic Americans who join us from all across the country to jail simply for demanding an equal voice.
WE SIT IN
When the march arrives in Washington on April 11th, we hope we will be able to rally to celebrate that Congress has come to its senses and passed at least one of the perfectly-viable reform bills now pending before it. But if they refuse to do anything, we will have no choice but to reclaim the People’s House in mass, dignified but determined, nonviolent sit-ins to force their hand.
Inspired by the American civil rights movement, the women’s suffrage movement, and other successful traditions of nonviolent direct action, students and teachers, grandparents and grandchildren, faith leaders and former elected officials, as well as a number of celebrities and public figures already confirmed, will risk arrest in mass sit-ins at the Capitol and in Congressional offices every day for at least a week. This is our moment of moral clarity: will Congress send thousands of patriotic Americans to jail instead of simply doing it's job to ensure that our elections are free and fair for all people? Millions of people throughout the country watching an unprecedented nonviolent confrontation at the Capitol will find out.
During the sit-in, we will maintain a public convergence center as a gathering point for supporters and the press and will coordinate call-in days, online petitions, Twitter storms, local solidarity actions and more to amplify the power of the mass sit-ins for people across the country and the world.
Given the current makeup of Congress, immediate reform is extremely unlikely. In fact, we expect that the defenders of corruption in Congress will choose to put thousands of Americans in handcuffs instead of passing perfectly-viable, on-the-table pro-democracy reforms supported by the vast majority of the country.
But no matter what happens in the immediate endgame, we win. Because mass nonviolent action at this moment, on this issue, will focus the nation’s attention — as never before — on the urgency of this crisis, the existence of solutions to it, and the strength of the popular demand to enact them.
A Democracy Spring will unleash unstoppable momentum for deep reform. It will reveal exactly which side the members of Congress and the candidates for office from President to state legislatures and city halls stand on in this fight to save democracy. With the Equal Voice for All Pledge as a tool we will leverage this momentum and exposure to make crystal clear for voters across America which candidates are committed to reform and which are defending the status quo of corruption.
Together, we will force this issue into the heart of the 2016 election narrative and make the election a referendum on whether our democracy should belong to the People as a whole or to the billionaire class alone. That’s a referendum we will leverage historic momentum to win, setting the stage to achieve fundamental reform that will give us — finally — the democracy for all we were promised.