Hundreds of protesters flocked to the U.S. Capitol on April 11 to demand campaign finance reform and the restoration of voting rights. More than 400 were escorted away in plastic handcuffs by police.
The protesters were part of Democracy Spring, a collective of activist groups against big money in the U.S. political system. They staged a peaceful protest in Washington, D.C. They vowed this was just the beginning of a weeklong effort.
The movement began on April 2, when members of the progressive coalition began a roughly 150-mile march from Philadelphia to Washington, D.C., according to Vice News.
The majority of the protesters had not participated in the march, but had instead traveled from all corners of the country.
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Between 600 and 1,000 protestors sat on the steps of the U.S. Capitol and demanded that Congress pass legislation to address unlimited dark money in the political system, district gerrymandering and voter suppression, NPR reports.
Democracy Spring Campaign Director Kai Newkirk, head of the progressive activist group 99Rise, kicked off the protest by addressing the crowd: “We send a message -- to everyone in our country who needs a government that represents us all -- that this House is your House too, and now is the time to stand up and take it back.”
The sit-in was loosely organized, good-natured and peaceful. Many protesters had signs citing Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, although the collective insisted it is not endorsing any particular candidate.
Capitol police spent the entire afternoon managing the crowd. After cordoning the majority of the crowd, officers waited for buses to escort protesters one by one into custody. They had underestimated the number of arrests they would make and needed more buses.
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“More than 400 individuals have been arrested for unlawful demonstration activity, and are being processed using mass arrest procedures,” the U.S. Capitol Police said in a statement, according to CNN.
A Capitol Police officer on the scene said that all the protesters without outstanding warrants would be processed, fined and then released.
Democracy Spring has planned to stage several more protests throughout the week until April 16. It expects a minimum of 3,500 people to join the protest.