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March includes folks from all walks

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March includes folks from all walks

Marchers from the Southland with banners and flags in hand, stand in front of their RV office in the parking lot of East Union High School Monday morning on their way to Stockton and eventually the...

GLENN KAHL/The Bulletin


POSTED June 17, 2014 12:50 a.m.

A band of grass roots marchers hoping for major political financial reform walked into Ripon and Manteca over the weekend in memory of the late Cesar Chavez’ effort years ago that sought a better life for his beleaguered farm workers in the Central Valley.

This group also wants to make a difference with their slogan, “Money out – voters in!”

This procession of some 20 marchers is hoping to level the playing field by lessening the effects of unlimited monetary corporate funding in California’s political arena.  They rallied in Library Park on Sunday drawing some of Manteca’s curious homeless.

“Democracy is not for sale,” stressed Kai Newkirk one of two organizers of the walk. “We are bringing single demands against the dominance of money in politics,” he said.   A rally is planned for Sunday, June 22,  in Sacramento at the State Capitol where the group will stand up for new legislative reform.

Newkirk said they will stay on the Capitol grounds until they see positive action for new legislation from the state representatives. Newkirk said it was some four months ago his group met with 99Rise about what they could do to end what he called the active political corruption and get money out of politics. 

 He had participated in a similar walk in New Hampshire in January inspired by Laurence Lessig.   They chose to walk north through the California on Highway 99 following the lead of the late activist Cesar Chavez and the uniting of his farm workers.

“We wanted to make a collective sacrifice such as walking into Madera where it was 110 degrees,” he said. “We wanted to show the urgency of the crisis and note how serious a problem it is to our democracy.  Every generation but ours has amended the constitution and it’s time we step up.”

It was last week that I first talked with the group’s forward representative, Erika Sukstorf, on the telephone telling me they would be coming through the Central Valley from Bakersfield to Manteca on their way to Sacramento to make their demands known for reform in corporate political funding that too often sets the stage for who wins and who loses in political contests.

Sukstorf’s day job during the year is that of a second grade teacher in the L.A. area.  

Monday morning I caught sight of them as they were leaving our community and headed for Stockton – their next stop, where they were planning to hold a rally Monday night in a park located in the heart of that city.  

It was in the parking lot at East Union High School on North Union Road where I found them enjoying a short rest stop. Professionals, college students and at least one attorney reflected an unexpected professionalism that paralleled that of their advance team that held a field office  in their recreational vehicle calling ahead for added support.

I had wanted to meet Erika personally since I had chatted with her on the phone for the better part of a half hour from Pasadena in Southern California.  She had set up an “office” at a table in front of the Aroma coffee shop near Save Mart Market on Yosemite Avenue and Union Road where she and another advance couple were coordinating their efforts for the movement up the valley.  

As an aside I was pleased to hear of the band’s reaction to Manteca’s many murals they saw when entering the downtown and the park area as well.  Erika said that so many people from Southern California drive up I-5 through the state and have no idea of the charm the city presents to its tourists with its many professional murals on the sides of buildings and the more than a hundred on the walls of Manteca High School.

Erika also reflected her pleasure in how they were welcomed into communities from Goshen to Turlock and Modesto where they witnessed a similarly “wild hospitality and generosity” by members of the public agreeing with their desire to cut corporate funding from the fabric of political support.  Even on Manteca’s bike trail a rider yelled at them saying, “I know who you are, I heard you on the radio – good luck.” 

She said that arriving in Manteca holding their rally, they returned to Ceres for the night where the 20 of them funneled into a home and given access to the bedrooms and also having a place to set up tents in the back yard with some in sleeping bags under the stars.  It was provided by a married couple in their mid-30s with two small children about 2 and 4 years old who had also offered their living room, shower and washer to take care of any dirty clothes. The children spent the night with a grandmother.

In Goshen they enjoyed home cooking for dinner and a breakfast of homemade burritos the following morning – all a form of grass roots humanism they won’t soon forget.  More information can be found on line at MarchforDemocracy.org and 99rise on Facebook. 

In parting she asked for support in Sacramento to make a difference in the political scene, “Join us on Sunday!”

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