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Sun, sand, and protest

John Montgomery

There are many ways to support your candidates- or propositions-of-choice before voting on November 6. You can obviously give your time, by volunteering to call potential voters, or handing out leaflets. And campaigns will always welcome the contribution of your hard-earned cash.

This last way to show your support has gotten a lot of attention since the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling in 2010. Citizens United allows corporations and unions to give unlimited amounts of money to political campaigns, saying it is their right under the First Amendment to do so.

This decision incensed many activists, who say it threatens the democratic process. Many took to the streets in protest. Citizens of San Francisco took to the beach.

Protest on the shore

It's early October.  About a thousand people are gathered at Ocean Beach in San Francisco. They’re occupying about a half-mile of the beach, sprawled out in the sand, staring at the sky where a helicopter is flying back and forth.

From the air, you can see that the bodies spell “DUMP CITIZENS UNITED!” Up above, a photographer hangs off the side of the chopper like a soldier on patrol.

Brad Newsham, a San Francisco cab-driver, organized today's event. He’s pleased with the turnout.

"I sit for six weeks and I fret and I say no one’s going to show up and look – there’s a line a mile long of people and this wouldn’t have happened if I didn’t stick my neck out,” says Newsham.

Newsham combs the beach, making sure every one stays in position. He hopes to create an image – and spread a message – that will circulate nationwide. Newsham thinks the Supreme Court decision is "the worst decision ever.” He continues, “Money is speech. Corporations are people. Lets have an auction instead of an election."

On the beach, over by the letter "P", Greg Montgomery has this to say: “It’s supposed to be government for the people by the people, not for the corporations by the corporations.”

“When corporations meddle in politics greed wins and people’s needs end up being sacrificed,” adds Rae Abileah.

“If we want to overturn a bad Supreme Court Decision, we can do that!” Brad Newsham exclaims.

When the chopper finally whizzes away, people gather their belongings and scatter in different directions – all of them hoping that the human S.O.S. they spelled on the beach will actually get someone’s attention.

Crosscurrents Elections
Leila Day is a Senior Producer at Pineapple Street Media and is the Executive Producer and co-host of The Stoop Podcast, stories about the black diaspora. Her work has been featured on NPR, 99% Invisible, the BBC as well as other outlets. Before The Stoop, she was an editor at Al Jazeera's podcast network and worked on creating and editing award winning narrative driven journalism. She began her career in journalism at KALW where she worked as a health care and criminal justice reporter. During that time she contributed as an editor, taught audio storytelling to inmates at San Quentin, and helped develop curriculum for training upcoming reporters.