WASHINGTON, D.C. – Do you remember the Occupy Movement and the 99% from 2011 and 2012? Well now they have become “Democracy Spring” and this week the group held “sit-ins” at the U.S. Capitol.
Together with activists from the Black Lives Matter movement, students wanting free college, and the Unions, Democracy Spring is asking Congress to take action to erase racial inequality, make college free, increase the minimum wage, and get big money out of politics.
Social media has touted “thousands of protesters” attending the event. I only saw maybe 300 on Wednesday and Thursday. However, that may be because over 400 were arrested according to Capitol Police on Monday and a little more than 100 were arrested on Tuesday and Wednesday. Still, even if not all that were arrested earlier in the week had been released “thousands in attendance” would still be a stretch. Maybe those on Twitter were counting the tourists, school groups and Capitol employees on the grounds.
One tourist had her son with her who wanted to check out the marchers as they crossed the street onto the Capitol grounds. Being skeptical she asked me if I knew what was going on. When I told her, she promptly removed her son from the vicinity in order to prevent either of them getting accidentally mixed in. Another group of tourists wanted to know why there appeared to be two different groups and if they were counter protests. It was promptly explained by a young woman holding a sign that one group sitting on the steps of the Capitol were willing to risk being arrested and the other group was part of the same protest but they just weren’t willing to risk going to jail. And the chaperones with the school groups on their annual school trip to the Nation’s Capital made sure to give the protesters a wide berth so that no students accidentally got caught up in it.
And although there were arrests, the people were NOT arrested because of their protest. They were arrested when they were asked to move when their time had expired and refused to leave. Let me explain. You cannot hold a rally or protest on government (federal, state, or local) grounds without a permit. Those permits have allotted times. In other words, you aren’t supposed to be there before your appointed time and you are expected to leave when your time has expired. The Capitol police arrested those who did not leave when they were asked and NOT because they showed up to protest. Just because the Twitterverse says something doesn’t make it necessarily true.
A few of the protesters I talked to on Wednesday and Thursday were not fully aware of the issues they were there to protest/support. For example, one young man was not aware that America has had Affirmative Action laws on the books since the 1970’s. Nor was he aware that these laws were put in place to HELP minorities. Yet he was absolutely convinced that America has done its best to keep minorities from getting into college or getting good paying jobs. Another protester tried to convince me that we do not live in a Constitutional Republic. But he couldn’t tell me the definition of the word ‘democracy’ OR give me the definition of a ‘Constitutional Republic’. Those protesters wanting a federal minimum wage of $15 repeatedly told me that all Americans deserved a “living wage”. However, they could not tell me why a teenager on his/her first job needs a “living wage”.
The protests are not over. More “sit-ins” are scheduled for Friday and Saturday. Friday is “Youth and Student Day”, while Saturday is for “Climate Justice Day”. And “Democracy Awakening” will pick up on Saturday with training for Sunday and Monday’s marches and demonstrations. Those wishing to participate but do not wish to be part of the scheduled “sit-in” on Monday will be able to participate in lobbying various members of Congress at their offices. I have not been able to determine at this time if organizers of Democracy Spring are the same organizers for Democracy Awakening.