Locals arrested in DC as hundreds protest campaign finance rules on Capitol steps

  • Activists demonstrate at the U.S. Capitol building Monday, performing an act of civil disobedience in support of campaign finance reform. Contributed photo

For The Recorder
Published: 4/14/2016 9:49:29 PM

AMHERST — College-age students don’t have a monopoly on getting arrested for activist causes.

While University of Massachusetts students planned their demonstration at the Whitmore Administration Building this week to urge the university to divest from fossil fuel companies, 63-year-old Christine Warren of Amherst and 64-year-old Graeme Sephton of Shutesbury marched to Washington and got arrested on the steps of the U.S. Capitol in a protest against unlimited campaign contributions in electoral politics.

Sephton marched for 10 days, beginning at the site of the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia, and said he wore out his sneakers walking 140 miles. He pledged to join in the march in February.

“There was a core of about 120 people and some days we had as many as 200,” Sephton said of the walk organized by activist group Democracy Spring. “It felt like a political pilgrimage.”

Warren, who joined the march in Baltimore, was likewise moved by the event.

“I’ve just felt that the people have not been represented and the system just seems to be dysfunctional,” Warren said by phone as both carpooled back from the demonstration Thursday. “It just seems apparent that it is money in politics that is the root of our problem and our largest issues.”

Warren added that if unlimited contributions by large campaign donors were removed from politics, interests of humanity at large, including global climate change, could be addressed.

As for being arrested, Warren said it was a good feeling, despite the $50 fine imposed on all those taken into custody.

“It felt very liberating to participate in something that I really feel so strongly about and to take a stand,” Warren said. “I was very proud to be at the Capitol feeling that my voice could be heard in some way.”

On Monday, more than 400 activists were arrested, with police taking four hours to remove them from the Capitol steps. Sephton and Warren were arrested Tuesday, along with about 80 others, during an “elder” day.

“That was an interesting group,” Warren said. “It was really quite amazing to see elderly folks, some for the first time in their life getting arrested. ... It is about our children and grandchildren, and looking forward, we need changes to happen on some time-sensitive issues.”

Sephton said he enjoyed the whole experience, including the arduous walk.

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