a brief history
Democracy Spring traces its roots to a small grassroots organization called 99Rise, a network of volunteer leaders and local teams dedicated to getting big money of politics via a strategy of mass nonviolent action. Born from the ashes of the Occupy movement, 99Rise formed in 2012 as experiment in momentum-driven organizing, aiming to ignite the same kind of popular support as Occupy, then absorb that support into a strong movement organization that could continue to build and escalate all the way to victory.
From 2012 – 2015, 99Rise spread across the west coast and northeast, leading to numerous local actions, a nearly 500-mile march and 12-day occupation of the California State Capitol, and three targeted nonviolent disruptions of the United States Supreme Court, all in service of building a mass movement to end the corruption of big money in politics.
Democracy Spring was born as an intentional and ambitious attempt to apply this strategy of escalating nonviolent direct action at the national level. The vision was simple: organize mass civil disobedience on a historic scale to rapidly shift the political weather around our issue and galvanize thousands of Americans to join the growing democracy movement.
The original Democracy Spring campaign was launched by 99Rise in October of 2015. Over the next six months, a broad coalition of over 120 diverse organizations from across the progressive movement formed to realize this common vision. With our combined resources, we were able to recruit a core team of over twenty full-time organizers, as well as a network of dozens of regional organizing hubs spread across the country, dedicated to mobilizing as many people as possible for the spring campaign.
On April 2nd, 2016, hundreds rallied at Independence Hall in Philadelphia to issue our demand to Congress: that they take immediate action to end the corruption of big money in politics and ensure free and fair elections for all. If they refused to listen to the people, we would disrupt business-as-usual political corruption to take back the People’s House.
Over the next ten days, more than 100 people from over 30 states marched over 140 miles from Philadelphia to Washington DC to make good on our promise. Congress did nothing. So we took action.
Over the next eight days, more than 1,300 people sat-in on the steps of the US Capitol and were arrested, simply for demanding an equal voice. It was the single largest act of civil disobedience of the 21st century in the United States.
To continue the work that the coalition began, a new leadership body made up of 99Rise leaders, coalition partners, and organizers from the April campaign came together to organize and guide Democracy Spring through a process of transitioning from a loose-knit coalition to a strong and lasting movement organization.
While this process took place, we continued to take action and keep the pressure on. In July of 2016, nearly 100 people blockade entrances to the DNC in Philadelphia to hold Democrats accountable on democracy reform. We held a 3-day National Training attended by over 75 new volunteer leaders from all across the country, teaching them the story, strategy, structure, and culture of Democracy Spring. And on the eve of the election, we sat-in in front of Trump Tower to take a stand against his bigotry and greed.
The 2016 election results were devastating, passing our entire federal government and two-thirds of statehouses into the hands of a fiercely anti-democratic Republican Party. Trump’s victory in particular was the most undemocratic in generations, as he lost the popular vote by almost three million ballots and won the electoral college only due to massive voter suppression that stripped the right to vote from millions of Americans in an election that was determined by tens of thousands in key battleground states.
We fought back. On December 19th, we organized over 7,000 people to gather at all 50 state capitals—plus Washington DC—to protest the electoral college vote and urge electors to listen to the people. When they refused, we stood up and disrupted Congress as they formally submitted the electoral vote that would result in Trump’s presidency. On the day of his inauguration, six of our activists arrived on the capitol lawn and interrupted Trump’s oath of office, revealing a single word spelled across their persons: RESIST.
We sat-in at Jeff Sessions’ office during his Senate confirmation hearing and we sat-in inside a Senate office building to protest the nomination of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme court.
We used this wave of mass protest and nonviolent civil disobedience as a strategic intervention within the post-election conversation of whether or not Trump was a legitimate and acceptable president. Our answer is no: he is illegitimate and unacceptable. He must be resisted at every turn to defend American democracy.
But our mission and our strategy goes far beyond Trump. Following the inauguration, we finalized our new Grand Strategy, which provides a basis of unity for our local teams and a roadmap for how we win. Since then, we've helped mobilize hundreds of people from across the country to sit-in at GOP Senate offices to protect healthcare, we participated in the Charlottesville-to-DC March to Confront White Supremacy, and we've showed up to support the fight for permanent protection, dignity, and respect for our undocumented sisters and brothers.
With a wealth of experience in strategic nonviolent action, a dedicated network of volunteer organizers spread across the country, and a plan to win in the years ahead, we are poised to start 2018 by building a mass movement of civil resistance that can end the corruption of big money in politics and guarantee the right to vote for all.
Help us write the rest of this story.