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Ben & Jerry’s co-founders arrested in D.C. during protest over money in politics

And they're proud of it.


Andrew Couts


Posted on Apr 19, 2016   Updated on May 26, 2021, 10:23 pm CDT

The co-founders of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream company were arrested in Washington, D.C., on Monday after taking part in a protest over money’s influence on U.S. politics. 

And they’re damn proud of it.

Jerry Greenfield and Ben Cohen were arrested near the U.S. Capitol Building, where some 300 people were protesting as part of the group Democracy Awakening. Rather than shy away from the incident, Ben & Jerry’s published a company press release after the co-founders were arrested.

“The history of our country is that nothing happens,” Cohen told a member of the Ben & Jerry’s staff prior to his arrest, “until people start putting their bodies on the line and risk getting arrested.”

“It all comes down to a simple idea that we believe in whole-heartedly: If you care about something, you have to be willing to risk it all—your reputation, your values, your business—for the greater good,” the press release reads.

Ben & Jerry’s, based in Burlington, Vermont, has a rich history of political activism. As examples, the company cites its Save our Swirl flavor, which was released in May 2015 to bring awareness to climate change, and its renaming of Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough to I Dough, I Dough following the Supreme Court’s decision to effectively legalize same-sex marriage in all 50 states.

In 2012, Ben & Jerry’s became the first company to support the Occupy Wall Street movement, and Greenfield and Cohen served ice cream to occupiers in lower Manhattan’s Zuccotti Park, the movement’s primary protest location.

More recently, Cohen released a limited-edition flavor, Bernie’s Yearning, in support of Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who has made income inequality and money in politics a centerpiece of his campaign.

Democracy Awakening is a coalition of more than 145 groups with a range of focuses, from civil liberties to racial justice to the environment, that aims to “combat attacks on voting rights and the integrity of the vote by big money,” according to the group’s website.

Police said more than 1,200 people have been arrested for taking part in Democracy Awakening protests since they began on April 11. 

Greenfield and Cohen were released later in the day, and they hosted a Sanders event at George Washington University on Monday night.

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*First Published: Apr 19, 2016, 1:56 pm CDT