|By Meara Geraty
Digital Content Coordinator, RepresentUs
September 30, 2019
Renaldo Pearson just walked 700 miles. And not because he needed the exercise.
Through pouring rain and oppressive summer heat, he journeyed from Atlanta, Georgia to Washington, D.C. on foot for over 50 days. Why?
Because the United States is facing a corruption crisis.
As Americans, our most fundamental rights—the right to fair representation, and to choose those who represent us—are under threat.
A two-party duopoly controls our elections. Our outdated elections systems have proven vulnerable to foreign meddling. The highest court in our country refuses to protect Americans from destructive partisan gerrymandering. The right to vote is under threat and increasingly inaccessible.
What’s more, lobbyists write our laws, politicians pander to special interests instead of fighting for everyday Americans, and legalized corruption prevents progress on nearly every issue voters care about.
Our government isn’t working for the American people. It’s working for special interests and lobbyists—and American citizens are suffering because of it.
Renaldo Pearson, a long-time anti-corruption fighter, couldn’t sit back and do nothing. He saw that this is the first generation of Americans to see our country become more corrupt—and realized he needed to sound the alarm.
Calling 911 on American Democracy
In the footsteps of the Civil Rights Movement that paved the way for the Voting Rights Act of August 6th, 1965—landmark legislation that secured greater voting rights for all Americans—Renaldo decided to walk.
On August 6th, 2019, in Atlanta, Georgia, Renaldo embarked on a walk that would end up being over 700 miles. He started at the final resting place of Dr. King, where the infamous 2018 election purges and voter suppression made the state ground zero in the fight for secure and accessible voting.
His destination? The United States Capitol building in Washington, D.C.
His goal? To raise awareness about America’s corruption crisis, inspire his fellow citizens to heed the call, and most of all, call on our elected officials to wake up, listen up, and respond to our demands.
The three demands on the walk
But the walk wasn't just symbolic. Renaldo was calling on politicians to take action to reform our broken political system. The Democracy911 walk demands that our nation's leaders:
1. Protect our Right to Vote
End voter purges, make Election Day a holiday, pass automatic voter registration and vote-at-home laws, and restore voting rights for citizens with past felony convictions.
2. Make Elections Secure and Competitive
Stop foreign meddling in our elections, end gerrymandering, and pass Ranked Choice Voting to enable independent and third party candidates to run and win.
3. End Political Corruption
End secret donations, close the revolving door between government and lobbying, and create democracy vouchers that make politicians dependent on constituents instead of big money donors.
From Atlanta, Georgia to the United States Capitol
Joined by supporters from across the political spectrum, Renaldo launched his walk on the 54th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act.
At the launch, Renaldo gave an impassioned speech on the threat of corruption to our democracy, and welcomed stories from local citizens who were victims of reckless voter purges and the legalized corruption that plagues our country.
Stacey Hopkins, a victim of voter purging, spoke at the Democracy911 Launch event: "We CAN take our country back. We have to fix this. We have to work harder. We have to work smarter. We need you. No one can do everything. But everyone can do something. Get involved!"
As he took the first steps of this journey, Renaldo sent a message to the American people.
For weeks, Renaldo walked
Through pouring rain and Southern summer heat, Renaldo walked. Through ankle pain, blisters, and sore legs, he persevered.
In just under two months, he crossed through four states, logged over one and a half million steps, and traversed over 700 miles.
Along the way, he was joined by fellow anti-corruption fighters.
He spread the message of Democracy911, and the urgency with which our country needs reform.
Countless people along the way stopped Renaldo to ask why he was walking, offer him a ride, and when they heard his story, offered their support for his efforts.
And around the country, people showed their support.
700 Miles to the Capitol Steps
On Friday, September 20th, Renaldo and an excited group of supporters walked 11 miles to arrive in Washington, D.C.
After hearing of his astounding journey, organizers of the Global Climate Strike in D.C. invited Renaldo to speak at their event. With his destination in sight, Renaldo took a break to share with the young people spearheading the event how the lynchpin issue of corruption blocks progress on nearly every issue Americans care about—including climate change.
And the next day, Renaldo and a group of supporters completed the final mile to the Capitol.
Along the way, Renaldo shared stories from the road, led the group in songs, and was even joined by a marching band from the local Duke Ellington High School.
They brought their journey to the steps of the Capitol...
And sat in peaceful protest, demanding that our elected leaders take action and unrig our broken political system.
Nine brave anti-corruption fighters, including Renaldo Pearson, were arrested on the steps.
Around the world, support for these advocates poured in.
The Next Steps
Over three quarters of American voters want to see anti-corruption reforms enacted at the federal level.
Renaldo walked for every single one of those Americans. He walked because our elected officials have a duty to represent us. He walked because, when our politicians fail us, we must turn to action. And when we work together, when we cast aside partisanship and return to the heart of what our country stands for, we can win.
The Anti-Corruption movement has already made impressive progress in passing state and local laws around the country to stop political bribery, fix our broken elections, and end secret money. Now, we’re demanding that national leaders heed our call to fix our broken democracy.
Now, it’s your turn to join the fight.
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