Hundreds have flocked to the US Capitol to protest against the corrupting role of money in politics, prompting mass arrests. Rising inequality has increasingly become a political issue ahead of presidential election.
More than 400 protesters were arrested on Monday for failing to disperse from the East Front of the Capitol building. Most were charged with "crowding, obstructing and incommoding," US Capitol Police said in a statement.
The peaceful demonstration is part of a series of protests in Washington this week by a coalition of groups called "Democracy Spring" reflecting the anger over money-for-influence in US politics.
The demonstrators chanted slogans like "one person, one vote" and "money out of politics" as well as demonstrating against stringent state voter ID laws they complain disenfranchise voters.
Democracy Spring traces its roots to the Occupy movement, and its rise coincides with the populist presidential campaigns of Democrat Bernie Sanders and Republican Donald Trump, both of whom speak against the influence of campaign cash on politicians.
"We believe this is the people's house, and Congress should be responsive to the people. We need to protect voting rights," said Peter Callahan, the group's communications coordinator.
While most of the groups involved are associated more with left-wing Democrats than right-wing Republicans, Callahan said the group was nonpartisan.
"We see populism on the rise on both sides of the spectrum. Americans are sick and tired of their politicians being bought and paid for," Callahan said.
Some flew banners that read "Earn back our trust," "Sweep big money out of politics" and "Protect voting rights."
Some had marched the 140 miles (225 kilometers) from the city of Philadelphia to Washington DC over the past week.
Democracy Spring said on its website that its supporters call on Congress to "end the corruption of big money in our politics and ensure free and fair elections in which every American has an equal voice."
A poll published in January by Esquire magazine found 52 percent of those polled say the American dream is dead, and 54 percent believe they are worse off than they thought they would be when they were younger.
Rising inequality an increasingly political issue
Rising inequality has become a growing political campaign issue ahead of the US presidential election. In fact, a study released Monday showed that the richest 1 percent of Americans live on average nearly 15 years longer than poorer citizens.
The study by Stanford University economist Raj Chetty and published by the Journal of the American Medical Association is based on billions of data points from US tax and retirement authorities. It shows that the rich live longer regardless of where they live.
"There was a larger increase in life expectancy for higher income groups during the 2000s," the study said. "For example, men in the bottom 1 percent of the income distribution at the age of 40 years in the United States have life expectancies similar to the mean life expectancy for 40-year-old men in Sudan and Pakistan."
jar/rc (AP, Reuters, dpa)