HS students engage in civil action for fair elections

May 29, 2013 Denise Romano
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In an act of civil disobedience, on Monday, May 27, high school students and guerilla media activists placed banners at high-visibility locations all over Brooklyn and Long Island to increase support for fair elections.

Organized by Albany-based activist Matt Edge, there were banner drops at dozens of locations, including Sunset Park, Sheepshead Bay and Bay Ridge. According to Edge, this may be the biggest organized banner drop in U.S. history.

On Memorial Day, Edge and two LaGuardia High School students, senior Danielle Gamady and junior Vera Kahn, met at the 72nd Street overpass of the Gowanus Expressway and attached a large cardboard banner, encouraging the State Senate to pass fair election, or public finance reform, which is already happening at the city level.

In New York City’s public financing arrangement, once someone running for office raises a certain amount of money, every qualifying donation to that person from then on will be matched by the city using taxpayer funds, six to one. For example, a donation of $25 will turn into $150 once the minimum threshold is reached. The State Senate is poised to vote on the issue this year.

Edge said that he has been an activist since 2004 when the Iraq War began. He said that he realized that all of the issues that he feels are plaguing society have the same root cause           .

“It’s all about money in politics. Fair elections cultivate from the people. We can get money in campaigns not from corporations, but from the public,” he explained. “We are asking for a new breed of candidate: those who can empathize with the poor and working class.”

Edge contended that the candidates running today are either “rich themselves” or “in debt to corporations for favors.

“A society where rich people are in power is a plutocracy,” he went on. “Don’t we want a democracy?”

Edge said that he hopes that this demonstration will bring awareness of the issue to the masses.

“The press for the most part doesn’t care,” he said, adding that this paper is the only one in the state that covered the event. “The days of backroom deals are over. Who is against that? If New York State can get this passed, it will create momentum on the federal level.”

Edge added that he expects the movement to be spread even wider with social media. Each banner drop crew has its own camera person who documented the action.

“We are expecting more people to see the signs on social media,” said Kahn, who was this crew’s camera person. “However viral this can be [the better]. It’s about sheer numbers.”

Gamady, is also part of the grassroots movement 99 Rise, concurred. “As students hear [about fair elections] and find out that many people don’t know about it…we know that [politicians] are not responding to the 80 percent of people who want public financing,” she said. “I am happy to be voting in a mayoral election with public financing. But I would like to feel confident about my state and we all know New York is a role model state.”

She said that she hopes that the day’s demonstrations are “ridiculously effective.

“The system is beautiful but so corrupt right now,” Gamady concluded.


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