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March on D.C. Ends in Sit-In to Protect Voting Rights

Protesters marched 140 miles from the Liberty Bell to Washington, D.C., to demand that Congress restore voting rights and get big money out of elections. (Democracy Spring)
Protesters marched 140 miles from the Liberty Bell to Washington, D.C., to demand that Congress restore voting rights and get big money out of elections. (Democracy Spring)
April 12, 2016

ANNAPOLIS, Md. - Protesters are in the nation's capital after a march from the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia to the Freedom Bell in Washington. They're calling on Congress to protect elections from special-interest groups and to give every American an equal voice.

Peter Callahan, communications coordinator for the coalition Democracy Spring, said people are sick and tired of big money buying elections. He said that's why there's been so much support for presidential candidates such as Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders.

"They do have a very common thread, which is that people don't want politicians that are bought and paid for anymore," he said. "They want people who are responsive to their needs and what's going on in their lives, and we can't do that until we get big-money special interests out of having this much outside influence on our election."

Callahan said Democracy Spring is made up of more than 100 groups including the Maryland Committee to Amend, Veterans for Peace, the National Organization for Women, the Young Turks, the Real News Network and Democracy Now. He called the protest peaceful, but arrests have been made and he said they aren't afraid to be thrown in jail.

In 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the heart of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, freeing nine states, mostly in the South, to change their election laws without advance federal approval. Callahan said Congress needs to take action to protect democracy.

"We've seen it in Arizona and Wisconsin, and elsewhere in this election cycle," he said. "We're not even done with the primary yet and we're already seeing rampant voter suppression, now that we're in first election cycle without the protection of the Voting Rights Act."

If the status quo goes unchallenged, Callahan said, the 2016 election will likely yield a president and a Congress more firmly bound to the masters of big money than ever. He said they'll continue with the sit-in until Congress agrees to protect the American people.

Veronica Carter, Public News Service - MD