Several dozen activists departed from Los Angeles with their eyes set on democracy in the capitol of California. Their March for Democracy made a stop in Turlock on May 13.
The 480 mile trek from Los Angeles to Sacramento began on May 17 and aims to raise awareness concerning the issue of big money in politics.
“This nation was founded on the principle of one person, one vote,” said Kai Newkirk, co-founder and organizer of 99Rise. “Generations of Americans have shed blood, sweat, and tears to make that principle a reality, from the abolitionists to women’s suffragists, to supporters of The Civil Rights Movement. But now their hard work and sacrifice is being systematically undermined by the out-of-control political spending of a small wealthy elite.”
The march is scheduled to reach the state capitol building on June 22, and Newkirk promised that activists would sit in until the state legislature publicly acknowledged the “crisis of corruption” and how to end it.
“It’s time for our generation to step up and do whatever it takes to reclaim democracy for the people of this country,” said Newkirk. “That’s why we’re marching to Sacramento.”
99Rise made a stop in Turlock this last Friday, setting up a brief camp in Central Park as they ate lunch and passed the time until they could leave to stay in a kind local’s home for the evening. The sortie had seen a few rough spots on their journey. A driver passing at 65 mph threw a Gatorade bottle at a marcher as he walked. Purportedly, his banjo flew from his hands and he sustained a welt on his stomach.
“That’s been completely overshadowed by all the support that we’ve gotten and positive energy that we’ve been getting from people as we’ve been passing through the towns,” said 18-year-old Danielle Raskin, a coordinator of 99Rise since she was a senior in high school. Raskin got into activism while in high school — primarily food justice and youth empowerment.
“While it was really great, I just didn’t feel like we were making the movement that we needed to be making — I didn’t see the type of change that we really needed,” said Raskin. “When I got involved with 99Rise, I really saw that the scope of the issue was much, much larger.
Two Supreme Court decisions in particular sparked a need for change — Citizens United vs. FEC and McCutcheon vs. FEC. These decisions further enable wealthy donors to contribute considerably larger sums to candidates who run for political office. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, 2012 was the most expensive election in the country’s history, nearly $6 billion, with only 0.04 percent of Americans contributing more than $200.
“If we want to make any meaningful change on the issues that we care about, whether it’s climate change, immigration reform, universal health care, there’s always going to be money flowing into it to prevent change from happening,” said Raskin.
Newkirk was willing to fight this, and recently made headlines due to his interruption of Supreme Court proceedings. Newkirk was subsequently arrested, leading to what has been considered the first time this type of civil disobedience was caught on video.
Among those involved in the march are Dolores Huerta, co-founder of the National Farm Workers Association, and Lawrence Lessig, a Harvard University Professor of Law.
“The fight against political corruption is one that must be taken up by a movement of citizens,” remarked Lessig. “It will take an army of ordinary people, from both the left and the right, doing the hard work that is needed to fundamentally reform our government and restore our democracy. No matter how difficult, how impossible it may appear, we must have hope. We have to fight.”
For more information about 99Rise, including how to support them on their march, visit www.marchfordemocracy.org.