PORTSMOUTH -- A 20th anniversary walk from Kittery to Market Square by members and supporters of NH Rebellion aimed to bring awareness to the need to remove big money from politics.
The group was joined in the walk by Democratic presidential hopeful Kirsten Gillibrand, who later in the day joined Equal Citizens for a town hall meeting at 3S Artspace.
Before the walk, select members of the group were in Portsmouth, depicting characters like James Madison, Justice John Stevens, Betsy Ross, Dark Money, SuperPAC and a Superior Court law clerk, who was stamping money with the message that the money was not to be used for bribing politicians.
“We want to raise awareness of the walk and hopefully get more people to join us,” said Lester Cuff, who was portraying Justice Stevens. “We want to bring awareness to the fact that big money has taken over politics and we want to see it stopped, and a return to open democracy.”
The message has it roots with Granny D., said Olivia Zink, executive director of Open Democracy.
“Granny D., who founded Open Democracy, between the ages of 88 and 90, walked from California to Washington because she thought there was too much money in politics,” said Zink. “Since then, we have walked over 40,000 miles. We are working to have all the presidential candidates to take a pro-Democracy stance as part of their campaign positions.”
Zink said Open Democracy is supporting bills in the New Hampshire legislature, and in other states, to make elections cleaner. She said the bills in New Hampshire deal with disclosures, redistricting, election funding loopholes and the way public utilities pass on lobbying costs to their rate payers.
The walk began in Kittery, Maine, at the John Paul Jones Memorial and continued over the Memorial Bridge to Market Square. Free ice cream, courtesy of Ben & Jerry’s, was on hand at the Kittery park.
The Leftist Marching Band led the walk, and there were two speakers at a rally before they began.
Author Adam Eichen, who wrote Daring Democracy, and Portsmouth Youth Poet Laureate Ella McGrail spoke about the need to take Washington back from the big money PACs.
“Fixing Democracy is possible, and is a growing movement in the United States,” said Eichen. “It’s happening through the memory of Granny D. Her spirit is driving this, and it’s being picked up across the nation."
One sign carried by many in the walk proved Eichen’s point. It said “Granny D. walks on.” Doris Haddock, aka Granny D., died in 2010 but her message has staying power and has resulted in a movement that spans the country, said Eichen.
“She walked 3,200 miles, and took a step for something radical,” said Eichen. “She was a remarkable woman. We now have a gatekeeper class who decides who runs and who gets elected. People realize that until we fix our democracy, we cannot address our issues.”
At the town hall meeting, Gillibrand agreed that big money rules Washington. She said the system is corrupt and vowed to see it changed.
“With the big money in Washington, with the special interests, we are never going to fix any of our issues,” said Gillibrand. “Remove that and we can fix everything. You tell me the issue and I will tell you who is standing in the way.”
As an example, Gillibrand talked about gun violence.
“The NRA is blocking every effort, because to them it is not about people,” said Gillibrand. “It’s about the sale of guns and they do not want to lose any money. The corruption is real and it’s at the root of all the challenges. That’s why I will not take any money from PACs or corporations.”
Gillibrand said the problem is with both parties, Republican and Democrat.
“This is how Washington works," said Gillibrand. “I want to see the government research every bill, to see who will benefit from it. I know I can heal this nation.”
Jonathan Caldwell of Stratham, dressed as Dark Money, said he feels the issue of big money in politics is the “most insidious thing hurting democracy and the country’s people."
“I want to see us have a free democracy once again,” said Caldwell.
“Our president has shown us what a movement powered by fear brings,” said McGrail. “We want a message of hope, to energize, awaken and unite us.”
Gillibrand said she also supports ranked choice voting and abolishing the electoral college.
“President Trump has divided us and made us fear one another," said Gillibrand. “We are a great nation when we care about each other. I know we can be better, and I know I can help us to do that.”