People from coast to coast, from big cities and small towns and from red states and blue states united the weekend of January 19 in a call for voting rights and to protest the overwhelming power of money in politics.
Rallies were held in 75 cities and towns across the country. Each had its own local flavor with creative demonstrations. All shared the common purpose of a growing movement seeking an end to voter suppression and the corrosive influence of big money on our democracy.
Public Citizen joined 56 other organizations in this nationwide “Money Out/Voters In” call to action that was supported by civil rights organizations like the NAACP, environmental groups such as the Sierra Club, faith groups like the Franciscan Action Network, labor groups like the AFL-CIO and even the founders of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream company, among many others.
The rallies protested the third anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission decision, which opened the floodgates for corporations to spend unlimited amounts of money to influence elections. The last presidential election saw political spending rise to record levels, reaching $6 billion on federal elections alone.
The rallies also honored the memory of Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and decried recent attacks on voting rights. The last presidential election saw many eligible citizens discouraged from voting by new voter ID laws, misinformation and other scare tactics. Such efforts disproportionately impact young, old, minority and low-income voters; the NAACP has labeled them as “James Crow, Esq.,” and one Pennsylvania legislator openly bragged about the partisan motives behind that state’s ID requirement.
In the spirit of Dr. King’s work and memory, citizens called for a full democracy, where no one is kept from voting and all citizens have a voice.
In Olympia, Wa., activists joined in an organized day of lobbying at the Washington State Capitol to demand lawmakers stand with the majority of Americans and against Citizens United.
Meanwhile, at the Texas State Capitol in Austin, concerned voters rallied in support of two resolutions that are currently before the Texas legislature calling for just such amendment. Attendees had reason to celebrate as the Austin City Council passed a similar resolution.
Wichita, Kas., was the scene of a mock trial reviewing the Citizens United case, with activists playing attorneys and witnesses.
In Chicago, citizens rallied to stop, in their words, the “theft of our democracy.”
The mayor of Richmond, Calif., joined 300 demonstrators up close and personal at the Chevron refinery gates. Organizers called the oil and gas giant “a poster child for the corrupting influence of corporate money” because of the millions of dollars it has contributed to influence elections in Richmond and nationally.
Georgians exercised their free speech rights at the state capitol in Atlanta this weekend, too. Rally-goers honored MLK day by calling for the end of voter suppression, while simultaneously demanding big money out of politics.
Activists in Philadelphia had a big rally at LOVE Park, with speeches by elected officials, union leaders, and other notable speakers. Local organizations such as Philly Rootstrikers and PennPIRG joined national ones, along with former Philadelphia City Councilmembers and Pennsylvania State Representatives to make the case against Citizens United and for democracy.
New Yorkers saw an unusual wedding, between a natural person and a corporation, in an event highlighting the absurdity of equating a corporation with a person. There were speeches, teach-ins, a rally and a march, all culminating with the big wedding.
Check out our album of more photos from all over the country!
These were just some of the exciting events connected to this nationwide movement calling for “Money Out, Voters In” and putting voters back into the driving seat of government.
Public Citizen is helping lead a movement which is growing in force, with more than 350 cities and 11 states going on record in support of overturning Citizens United so far. After the most expensive campaign cycle in history, we’ve seen overwhelming support of voters across the country on Election Day for a constitutional amendment and the willingness of millions to stand in long lines in the face of efforts to limit voting. We know that this movement can and will succeed in restoring democracy of, by and for the people.
Luis Mazariegos is an intern with Public Citizen’s Democracy Is For People campaign. You can follow the campaign on Twitter @RuleByUs.
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