Democracy Spring kicks off in Philly

PHILADELPHIA – Activists from a coalition of labor and grassroots political groups have begun a march, called Democracy Spring, that they say will culminate with a massive civil disobedience action in the nation’s capital. Those preparing for the 140-mile march to Washington, DC got a rousing send-off today on Independence Mall in sight of the Liberty Bell. The hundreds of supporters gathered on a rainy morning to hear speakers, poets and musicians; to celebrate the growing movement of grassroots activists for democracy; and to hail those starting their week-long trek to the nation’s capital. They carried banners and signs identifying their numerous organizations.

The primary demand is to get big money out of politics; according to the campaign’s website, organizers want “a Congress that will take immediate action to end the corruption of big money in our politics and ensure free and fair elections”. Kai Newkirk, a co-founder of 99rise, who made news in December when he disrupted a Donald Trump speech, noted the wet weather when he told the crowd, “When we stand together, we can change the political weather in this country….” He continued, “We believe in a simple moral principle: we are all created equal, and an equal voice is our birthright…. We are here to reclaim our future and the future of our children…. Everyone has a place in this movement. We can not wait any more; the children of Flint can not wait any more! The problem is not that there aren’t solutions, but that Congress refuses event to consider them”

The Poeticians, two youthful poet/rappers from Point Breeze, a Philadelphia neighborhood, brought a message of unity and hope, saying “We gotta hold on; we gotta save the young ones…” and targeted the one percent: “They segregate and humiliate….”

Also addressing the rally was Larry Lessig, Harvard law professor and founder of Creative Commons, a non-profit that advocates expanding the availability of creative works for people to share and build on legally.

The last speaker was Rain, a Lipan Apache from south Texas who told the crowd, “You are all my people…welcome to my land. Keep the vision in your heart” He said that when he heard Bernie Sanders speak, he thought, “He sounds like my chiefs. He is humble.” Rain told People’s World earlier that he plans to walk the entire distance to Washington with his wife Xalchi, who is Aztec and hails from Mexico. He said, “This is a sacred event; this not just a march.” He felt that starting in Philadelphia was especially appropriate since Philadelphian Ben Franklin had learned about democracy from the Iroquois people.

Photo: Ben Sears/PW


Ben Sears
Ben Sears

Ben Sears is a retired teacher and AFT member in Philadelphia. He is the author, as John Bennett Sears, of the book "The Electrical Unions and the Cold War" (International Publishers 2019).