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Why I Risked Arrest for Democracy

April 24, 2016

Sierra Club Leaders Arrested for Standing Up for Voting Rights

Yesterday in the nation’s capital, Sierra Club President Aaron Mair, “Stop Dirty Fuels” campaign director Lena Moffitt, and Washington, D.C., chapter chair Matt Gravatt were among hundreds of citizen activists arrested for participating in an act of civil disobedience on the steps of the U.S. Capitol to protest attacks on voting rights. “We’ve learned that in order to protect our environment — our clean air, clean water, and wild places — we must have a fully functioning democracy,” says Mair. “This means all eligible Americans have access to voting. When our democracy is not working, it is our most vulnerable communities that bear the brunt of dysfunction.”…

For the second time in the Sierra Club’s 120-plus-year history, on April 18 representatives of the Sierra Club allowed themselves to be arrested in an act of civil disobedience.

The first time was just three years ago, when Sierra Club executive director Michael Brune, Sierra Club president Allison Chin, and Sierra Club director Jim Dougherty stood alongside influential leaders like civil rights activist Julian Bond and handcuffed themselves to the White House fence, protesting the then-proposed, now-rejected Keystone XL tar sands pipeline. This simple act of defiance, which landed our fearless leaders in jail that day, ended the Sierra Club’s 120-year embargo on civil disobedience. They did this because they had to. They were arrested to evoke the urgency of the need for President Obama to reject this dangerous project that would have been disastrous for communities throughout the country, not to mention irreversible damage to our climate.

This Monday, I allowed myself to be arrested for another cause vitally important to the Sierra Club: a democracy where every voice is heard. In this organization’s history, we’ve learned that in order to protect our environment—our clean air, clean water, and wild places—we must have a fully functioning democracy. This means all eligible Americans have access to voting. This means money from the super wealthy and corporate polluters does not drown out the voice of everybody else. This also means we need a fully functioning Supreme Court, with all seats filled. All three branches of our government must be fully functioning for our rights to be protected… (more)

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