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Group pushing campaign reform
Marchers make their way into Library Park after covering a 17-mile stretch from Modesto to Manteca. The group is making a 480-mile trek from Los Angeles to Sacramento. - photo by JASON CAMPBELL

It’s a 480-mile walk from Los Angeles to Sacramento. 

And for a group of a dozen activists that want to see soft money taken out of politics and campaign finance laws reformed, it represents an opportunity to raise awareness about the growing disparity in America between the haves and the have-nots and why the political system is widening that gap. 

On Sunday evening the group of marchers strolled into Library Park – the conclusion of a 17-mile trek that started in Modesto and meandered along Highway 99 before cutting across the city and onto the cool grass. 

They chanted as they came in and they held signs much the same way that activists did in the 1960s – preaching a non-violent form of social change that they believe will make a difference with the right amount of exposure. 

“There’s a legacy in doing this – the Civil Rights March from Selma to Montgomery and the United Farm Workers mark from Delano to Sacramento and Ghandi’s Salt March,” said Danielle Raksin, a spokesperson and organizer for 99Rise – a group currently seeking to push campaign finance reform both at the state and federal levels. “We want to use this to bring attention to the fact that the system as it is now is broken. 

“The very wealthy buy the loyalty of the lawmakers through contributions, so naturally when the time comes they’re going to hold true to their needs. Meanwhile the 99 percent aren’t being represented the way that they’re supposed to be.”

On Monday morning the group held a small rally in Library Park before picking up signs and heading north towards Sacramento. They plan on being at the State Capital by the end of the week. 

The group has gotten some heavy hitters to back their goals and their mission. 

Harvard law professor and legendary political activist Lawrence Lessig spent his birthday marching with the group. Delores Huerta – who helped form the United Farm Workers with Cesar Chavez – spent time with them along the trail as well. Other farm workers have marched with them in solidarity, and people have done everything from opening up their homes to their kitchens to lend a hand wherever possible. 

Seeing that kind of a response, says Los Angeleno Kai Newkirk, shows that the issue doesn’t have any sort of party affiliation. They are getting the same traction in the conservative Central Valley that it would in more liberal places like Los Angeles or San Francisco. 

“A lot of us are more liberal, but we’re getting a lot of support here and that shows that people are upset about this and they want to see change,” Newkirk said. “Marching for one’s beliefs in a nonviolent manner has changed the world. We’re just hoping to promote change and inspire people who might otherwise not have the opportunity or ability to so. 

“It’s about people willing to make a deep sacrifice and do something bold. It’s about ending political corruption and promoting equality. And we’re hoping that people can get that from what we’re doing.”