On Sunday, after a 140 mile, 9-day trek from the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia to Washington D.C., a group of hundreds of activists arrived at D.C.’s Union Station. Their sights were set on Capitol Hill and campaign finance reform.
Prepared for a week of sit-ins designed to result in either a response from Congress or mass-arrests, activists armed only with signs, megaphones and a 100 dollar bill to post and forfeit are pushing legislation that includes repealing Citizens United through direct action. With over 3,000 people pledging to risk arrest, Democracy Spring aims to be the largest American act of civil disobedience in the 21st century.
By next weekend, they are projected to be joined by hundreds of thousands of people and over 200 organizations. Among the masses calling for an end to private spending in politics will be 24 UNH students.
A busload of student activists will leave Durham at 4:30 a.m. on Saturday morning. Some ten hours later, they will arrive at what they hope to be a turning point in millennial political mobilization.
“I think that this election cycle has really shown me how bought out our system is,” said Kelsey Lozier, a UNH sophomore and co-coordinator of the Student Environmental Action Coalition (SEAC), who are coordinating the trip. “The main-stream media bends stories and statistics constantly and they seem to be having a real effect on people’s opinions. If we don’t act now to fight for a system that can truly represent the people, it may be too late to change anything and Wall Street corruption will continue.”
“If you’re a climate activist, you’re going to D.C. Most of them are already there,” said Dylan Carney, a UNH sophomore and Core Team Member of Divestment at SEAC, “Our role ideally will just be in solidarity for the whole movement, but we will sit in on workshops to learn about other subjects and how we can push that movement around here.”
The actions planned for the weekend range as widely as the political causes that activists in attendance are advocating for. Concerts, teach-ins, protests, and direct nonviolent action will meet demands for addressing climate change, police brutality, private prisons, and private money in politics, in a movement converging around one rallying cry: one person, one vote.
Sleeping in crowded hostels and church basements, some of Durham’s most politically active students plan to work closely with notable community leaders, activists, politicians, and other students to both push their causes into legislation and learn how to continue their campaigns in New Hampshire.
“The importance of coming together is that it shows that there are people from all over the country that feel the same way we do. We need to show the people in power that a culture of bureaucracy is no longer relevant for a sustainable society,” said UNH freshman Zach Adinolfi.
UNH students in D.C. will be grouped with students and activists from New England during workshops and teach-ins. Designed in large part as a catalyst for continued involvement and political advocacy, much of the event is centered around training and educating those in attendance on how to continue their work on a local scale.
“Students play a key role in the whole movement for a more just system and society. Not only are we the generation inheriting the earth that will be forever affected by climate change, we stand as a symbol of new intelligence and education. Our colleges and universities are meant to better us for our futures, but there won’t be a better future for any of us if we don’t fight for a change,” Lozier said.