After the so-called death of the Occupy movement, political activism is making a comeback in Sacramento.
In June and July, law enforcement arrested 47 protesters over 12 days at the state capitol. Those hauled away were members of the newly formed 99Rise movement. They peacefully remained in the building under the rotunda after curfew, in solidarity with their goal of getting big money out of politics.
That hasn’t happened yet, of course, but the protesters made headlines by lobbying a few bills — and actually getting two passed.
Some of these activists marched nearly 500 miles from Los Angeles to Sacramento, and hundreds more were local. They proved that Sacramento holdovers from the Occupy contingent would no longer quietly go about their business. That they were done “licking their wounds,” as local 99Rise organizer Curt Ries put it.
And now they’re rising up again.
This week, Sacramento will host a two-day training session for those interested in 99Rise. The city also will welcome the Occupy movement’s national gathering beginning next Thursday. There’s a major protest of Monsanto planned for Davis in mid-August, as well.
And 99Rise, a movement formed in Los Angeles in 2012 that now boasts chapters nationwide, is planning to announce another high-profile action this fall. “The endgame is to have masses of people do civil disobedience,” said Ries, who recently launched a local 99Rise chapter.
The group first garnered national attention earlier this year, when leader Kai Newkirk was arrested after interrupting a Supreme Court hearing on the Citizens United 2 case. He spoke out during the justices’ discussion in protest of laws and rulings that make it easier for corporations and the wealthy to fund political campaigns.
Newkirk told SN&R that he thinks attitudes about money in politics are changing and says lawmakers are sympathetic to his group’s get-big-money-out-of-politics focus.
“The impact for legislators is getting worse and worse,” he told SN&R via phone from Los Angeles. “They’re having to spend more and more time raising money from wealthy people. And they’re vulnerable, because billionaires can just come into a race” and prop up an opponent.
When 99Rise visited Sacramento earlier this month, state Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg met with the group and backed their legislation—and even invited their video crew onto the Senate floor.
There were also arrests, 47 in all, for charges varying from protesting without a permit, trespassing on state property after closing, unlawful assembly, and obstruction or delaying a police officer.
Unlike Occupy, the 99Rise protests were nonviolent. There were no threats against officers or thrown bottles and no graffiti in the Capitol bathrooms, according to law enforcement. A spokesperson for the California Highway Patrol, which made the arrests, said officers “really appreciated the level of respect that the protesters shared for law enforcement, and we definitely shared that respect back.”
The city of Sacramento and the county district attorney’s office has not announced whether they will prosecute the 47 arrests. A DA spokesperson said the office is in the process of reviewing the cases.
A training this week, scheduled for July 26 to 27, in Sacramento organized by 99Rise will teach people about the group’s brand of peaceful protest, plus organizing tactics and public-relations strategies. The movement will hold similar teach-ins nationwide.
“This year has seen explosive growth in interest from around the country,” Newkirk said. “We’ve just been really trying to catch up with that surge in demand.” The group boasts nearly 5,000 likes on Facebook.
An offshoot of the Occupy movement, 99Rise is different because it is leadership-based, whereas Occupy was famous for lacking central decision-makers. There’s a lot of crossover in membership, though, at least here in Sacramento.
“What they were trying to do, with getting money out of politics, is what Occupy started over,” said James “Faygo” Clark, a local activist with both groups. “They’re more leader-based than Occupy, but I kind of prefer Occupy, where anyone can step up and be a leader for a moment.”
Occupy also will make some noise this week, when it hosts the Occupy National Gathering from July 31, through August 3.
“The mainstream corporate media has tried to write our epitaph prematurely, but the Occupy movement is far from over,” said Delphine Brody, who’s helping organize the event. The group will focus on issues such as water rights, environmental justice, media reform and also money in politics during the free four-day event at Capitol Park and Southside Park.