Approximately 300 people were arrested on Monday, including the founders of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, for participating in a Democracy Awakening protest outside the Capitol Building in Washington, D.C. Within the past week, police claim to have arrested 1,240 activists, while protest organizers assert the police have arrested over 1,300 people.
Closely aligned with the recent Democracy Spring protests, which included the arrests of Daredevil’s Rosario Dawson and The Young Turks’ Cenk Uygur, Democracy Awakening held protests this weekend in D.C. to “protect voting rights, get big money out of politics and demand a fair hearing and an up or down vote on President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee.”
Joining hundreds of other activists on Monday, Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield were arrested in front of the Capitol Building along with several top officials from the Sierra Club, Greenpeace, the AFL-CIO, and NAACP. Shortly before getting arrested, Cohen said, “The history of our country is that nothing happens until people start putting their bodies on the line and risk getting arrested.”
Cohen continued, “There’s a powerful legacy of direct action in this country. From mass protests like the March on Washington and 2014’s People’s Climate March in NYC, to incredibly powerful if quieter and more personal actions like the 1960 Woolworth sit-ins started by four African-American students in Greensboro, NC, or the protest against Shell Oil’s plan to drill in the arctic by kayakers in Seattle. Sometimes, when something really matters, you have to put your body on the line. You have to take a stand.”
According to their website, Democracy Awakening is calling for “action on climate change, racial justice, workers’ rights and fair pay, safe food and water, health care, peace, immigration reform and improvements in education. But an array of barriers are keeping regular Americans shut out of the political process, from restrictive voting laws suppressing the voting rights of people of color, seniors, students, and low-income Americans, to a campaign finance landscape that allows big money to increasingly shape elections and the policy-making process.
“For both money in politics and voting rights, the U.S. Supreme Court has eviscerated laws that once protected the voices and votes of everyday Americans. And for both issues, Congress has solutions in front of them, but has so far failed to act. And now the Senate is blocking fair consideration of the nominee to fill the Supreme Court vacancy, including timely hearings and a vote by the full Senate.”
No strangers to activism, the cofounders of Ben & Jerry’s have a history of fighting against social injustice. Last year, the ice cream gurus launched Save Our Swirled to raise awareness about climate change. They also changed the name of Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough to I Dough, I Dough after the Supreme Court recognized the right of same-sex couples to marry last summer.
In support of Sen. Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign, Cohen created 40 pints of a new flavor called Bernie’s Yearning earlier this year, which have already been raffled away. In describing the ice cream flavor, Cohen observed, “The entire top of Bernie’s Yearning is covered with a thick disc of solid chocolate, which represents the huge majority of economic gains that have gone to the top 1%. Below is plain mint ice cream. The way you eat it is you whack the disc with a soupspoon and mix the pieces around.”
During this past week of protests, the U.S. Capitol Police claim to have arrested 1,240 people, while protest organizers assert the number of arrests is over 1,300. According to a police statement, most of the arrested protesters were charged with unlawful crowding and obstruction before being released.