More than two dozen people gathered in Central Square Saturday morning, their breath visible in the bitter cold as they began to chant.
“Why do we walk? To get money out of politics!” “When do we walk it? Now!”
They were ready to walk — all the way to Concord — as part of the N.H. Rebellion, a symbolic call to rid politics of big money.
Walkers who left Keene Saturday will meet up with similar groups of walkers who left from Dixville Notch, Portsmouth and Nashua for a rally in Concord Wednesday.
They are recreating the efforts of Doris “Granny D” Haddock, who crossed the country on foot in 1999-2000 to bring attention to out-of-control election spending. The pride of Dublin, Haddock was 88 when she began her journey; she was 90 when she finished, at the nation’s Capitol.
Later, Haddock would make a run for U.S. Senate herself, without accepting private campaign donations, but she lost that race. In 2010, at the age of 100, the famous grandmother and activist passed away.
Walkers Saturday gathered in front of the Central Square gazebo with signs and brightly colored vests.
“We don’t have the connections to work the levers of power to meet our needs on Capitol Hill,” Daniel Weeks, the executive director of Open Democracy and an N.H. Rebellion organizer, said to the crowd. “We aren’t the inheritors of a great political dynasty.”
“There is something we do have . . . a will to see our republic through this darker hour.”
This marks the second year activists have made the walk from Dixville Notch, where Haddock began her coast-to-coast journey.
The Keene faction got moving quickly, walking briskly along Main Street, the first steps of a 60-plus mile march. Cars occasionally honked in support.
Andrea Hodson of Harrisville said she was inspired by a call from N.H. Rebellion founder Lawrence Lessig, a Harvard Law School professor, for activists to take to the streets in support of curtailing the influence of big money in politics.
“We’re trying to make visible our demands,” Hodson said.
The group planned to stop for lunch in Marlborough and spend the night in the Dublin Community Center. On Wednesday they will meet up with walkers from the other three groups for a rally at the Statehouse and an event at the city’s Capital Center for the Arts.
Wednesday is the fifth anniversary of the controversial Supreme Court decision Citizens United, in which the court ruled that independent political expenditures by nonprofit corporations are protected by the First Amendment.
The start of the Keene walk was highlighted by a visit from teacher and author Zephyr Teachout, a Vermont native.
Teachout, who once ran for governor of New York, then spoke to a small audience at Toadstool Bookshop in Keene.
Reading from her book “Corruption in America,” Teachout said Citizens United had narrowed the definition of corruption to include only explicit bribery.
The country’s founders were concerned with corruption in a much wider sense, she said. Now, seemingly bottomless private funding and revolving doors between Congress and lobbying firms are symptoms of corruption becoming acceptable, she added.
“Now you have a court that says big money and super PAC spending is not corrupt,” she said. “We have a deeply, deeply broken system.”