PARTICIPATE IN THE APRIL 21st SPEAK-OUT ON DEMOCRACY AND THE ENVIRONMENT
o Go right to the source of the problem -- our bought-and-paid-for Congress!
o Demand the one reform that makes other reforms possible: Full public
financing of elections.
If you can't make it to D.C. for the IMF/World Bank ("A16") protest
if you're looking for a different style of protest to participate in -- join
the "Speak-Out on Democracy and the Environment" on April 21 (the day before
Earth Day). It will be a powerful, dignified act of nonviolent civil
disobedience in the historic Rotunda of the U.S. Capitol, sponsored by the
Alliance for Democracy, Rainforest Action Network, and others.
Why can't our government manage to cut polluting fossil-fuel emissions,
auto manufacturers produce fuel-efficient cars, provide incentives to develop
sources of "clean" energy, and take other steps to address the growing threat
of global warming?
Same reason why our government can't manage to rein in (or eliminate)
and the World Bank and prevent them from causing more poverty in the world
and more environmental destruction: Our government isn't really ours. It's
owned by the giant corporations that finance our elections, purchase our
politicians, and buy whatever laws they need in order to maximize their
profits. It's the same reason our government can't seem to cut the Pentagon
budget, provide a minimum "living wage," enact universal health care, ensure
that the workers and the environment are protected, etc., etc., etc.
Congress has sold out our democracy. By soliciting and accepting huge
money from the same corporate and other big-money interests they're supposed
to be regulating, they are participating in (and benefiting from) a system of
out-and-out extortion, bribery, and criminal conflict-of-interest, while
arrogantly refusing to get rid of this system or, in some cases, even
acknowledge that there's a problem.
These are CRIMES AGAINST DEMOCRACY and, by extension, crimes against
people and crimes against the environment. We, the people, must put a stop
to them. Lobbying and petitioning are still needed, but they are not enough.
It is time for stronger actions, and greater personal risks -- including the
risks associated with nonviolent civil disobedience.
So, PLEASE JOIN US on April 21st when we will walk together into our
capitol (the scene of these crimes), indict Congress for betraying our
and demand full public financing of elections -- now!
(Participants in the April 21st action need to attend our nonviolence
training and action preparation session on April 20, from 3 to 9 p.m. in
D.C., place TBA. All are welcome - including affinity groups. The Alliance
will also be hiring experienced attorneys to oversee all legal aspects of the
The Alliance for Democracy is a new populist organization committed
systemic changes that enhance economic and political democracy (see the AfD
web site at: www.afd-online.org). It has 57 Alliance chapters in 21 states.
To learn more about the April 21 "Speak-Out on Democracy & the Environment"
or about the Alliance itself, please contact us at (781) 894-1179,
For more detailed information, please see the following "full picture"
FULL PICTURE OF APRIL 21 ACTION
Here's a summary of what we're planning for Friday, April 21. Apologies
advance for the length of this, but we want you to have a full picture of
what this event is about.
The day preceding Earth Day -- Friday, April 21, 2000 -- we at the Alliance
for Democracy, working together with the Rainforest Action Network (RAN) as
co-sponsor (and hoping to add other environmental groups as additional
co-sponsors) will hold a dignified, nonviolent action -- tentatively entitled
a "Speak-Out on Democracy & the Environment" -- in the Rotunda of the U.S.
Capitol which will highlight the connection between Big Money's degradation
of the environment and Big Money's degradation of our political system.
While we regard such action as an exercise of our First Amendment rights to
assemble, speak freely, and petition our government for a redress of
grievances (in this instance our grievance being the criminal undermining of
our democracy under the guise of campaign finance), we also realize that
there is a D.C. statute that prohibits "demonstrating in the Capitol." Our
action therefore amounts to nonviolent civil disobedience (though, as Ronnie
Dugger has suggested, "civil affirmation" is perhaps a more appropriate term)
and those participating in it must be prepared to be arrested by the Capitol
This action on 4/21 will be similar to the three previous "Democracy
Speak-Outs" that the Alliance has organized in the Rotunda -- on 10/26/99,
1/31/00, and 2/29/00 (see brief description of this last Brigade action,
pasted in below) -- except that this time, instead of focusing on a range of
important public-policy issues negatively affected by campaign finance
corruption, we will focus exclusively on environmental issues. In fact, we
may focus even more specifically on global warming (which Dennis Hayes tells
me will be the primary focus of this year's Earth Day) -- drawing to the
millions of dollars in political contributions given by the giant
corporations must responsible for global warming (e.g., ones that promote and
profit from the extraction, selling, and burning of fossil fuels while
opposing treaties and undermining laws that would reduce the warming effect).
Each of the three previous groups going into the Rotunda we have called
"Democracy Brigades," with each one naming their particular Brigade. We who
were part of the first Rotunda action called ourselves the Henry David
Thoreau Democracy Brigade. The second one called themselves the Long Waite
Democracy Brigade (in honor, or dishonor, of U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice
Morrison R. Waite, whose statement from the bench in 1886 that corporations
are "persons" under the 14th Amendment has caused such criminal mischief by
giant corporations ever since). And the third group, entering the Rotunda on
the heels of her stirring speech on the Capitol steps on 2/29, called
themselves the Doris Haddock ("Granny D") Democracy Brigade. Those involved
in the April 21 action might want to be called the Environmental Democracy
Brigade (if not a more creative appellation -- perhaps the John Muir
Democracy Brigade, since 4/21 is Muir's birthday).
And whereas the first three Democracy Brigades have highlighted the
"crimes against democracy" (to refer to Congress' offensive, anti-democratic
practice of taking large sums of money from huge industries and economic
interests and then doing their bidding at the expense of civil society), this
fourth one might want to couple "crimes against democracy" with "crimes
against the environment," using placards, banners, leaflets, statements read
aloud, and press releases to make the specific connections (including names
of corporations and dollar figures for political contributions) with specific
environmental issues, most particularly global warming.
All participants in these Democracy Brigade actions attend a nonviolence
training and preparation session prior to the action. This generally takes
place from say, 4 pm to 9 pm the day before. We see this as important not
only because we feel strongly about nonviolence and want to be sure everyone
agrees to specific guidelines for nonviolent action, but also because the
training session accomplishes two additional things -- it allows people to
get to know one another and start to bond as a group, and it gives us a
chance to practice the specific scenario the group plans to employ in the
The first three Democracy Brigade actions -- "Democracy Speak-Outs"
entailed unfurling one or more large (e.g., 30-foot) banners, leafleting
whoever's in the Rotunda (tourists et. al.), and taking turns reading aloud
statements addressed to Congress (having sent each Member an invitation to
attend and listen), indicting them for their crimes against democracy. For
this, nine of us were arrested on 10/26, six were arrested on 1/31, and 16 on
2/29. All were charged with a misdemeanor, the maximum punishment for which
is a $500 fine and/or six months in jail -- though for this particular kind
of offense, sentences typically have amounted to, at most, small fines or
Six of the first nine pled guilty and were sentenced to "time served"
the 5 hours it took for them to be booked), the charges were dropped against
one person, and the remaining two Democracy Brigadiers, who pled "not
guilty," are in the midst of a jury trial as this is being written. The
second Brigade was held in the Capitol Police Station and the D.C. "lock-up"
for eight hours, but then no charges were brought against them (for reasons
we're still unclear about). And the 16 members of the third Brigade will be
arraigned on 3/24. In every instance, we've had experienced, sympathetic
attorneys assisting us.
Our aim from the beginning has been to organize a series of these Democracy
Brigade actions throughout the year 2000, as a way of adding some additional
bite, salience, and urgency to the growing movement to replace privately
financed elections with publicly financed ones. Our hope, of course, is that
these actions will attract ever greater numbers of participants, just as the
sit-ins at the So. Africa embassy in the mid-'80's did, or as the continuing
civil disobedience actions of the School of Americas (Assassins) in Georgia
has been doing.
One way of doing this is simply to keep repeating the action and letting
people know about it each time (with as much help from the media as we can
get, and our last action, in particular, garnered a fair amount of coverage)
-- and we're doing this. Another way is to involve well-known individuals --
"celebrities" et. al. -- and we're working on this, too (but could use help
if you have suggestions or contacts).
And a third way, is to highlight the connection between the issue of
finance corruption/crimes against democracy and other very important issues -
like environmental protection generally and global warming specifically --
linking up with folks like you who are on the frontlines of those issues and
who understand what an obstruction to progress the current system of
privately financed elections is. This latter strategy is what brings us to
the planned environmentally-focused action we're planning for the day before
Earth Day -- the first of what we envision as a series of issue-focused
actions (with the next, for example, likely to be on poverty issues).
So, what specifically are we asking of sympathetic groups and individuals?
Minimally, we hope you will help us spread the word about this 4/21
"Speak-Out on Democracy & the Environment," through whatever networks of
activists you have access to.
Beyond just letting people know, it would be wonderful if you as individuals
wanted to participate and would encourage your colleagues, associates,
members, readers to participate, too -- optimally, forming your/their own
organizationally-identified (or community- or issue-identified) "affinity
groups" of three-or-four or more people who would go through the training and
the action together, as part of the larger Democracy Brigade.
We'd also love to have any organizations you're affiliated with join
Alliance and RAN in co-sponsoring the action.
So, that's it. Please let us know how you think you or your group might
to relate to what we've outlined. And, also, please let us know of specific
groups whom you think we should contact about this -- individuals and groups
most likely to support this 4/21 event. And feel free to forward this memo
to them yourselves.
We think this will be an exciting event that makes a significant contribution
to the growing demand both for stronger action in defense of the environment
and for the kind of sweeping campaign finance reform that will make such
action more possible.
We hope you will join us.
Alliance for Democracy
General e-mail: email@example.com
Contact: Nick Penniman, firstname.lastname@example.org