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Protesters marked the one-year anniversary of eco-activist Tim DeChristopher's imprisonment Thursday with a moment of silence outside Salt Lake City Hall, then marched in defiance of what they view as corporate control of government.

DeChristopher, who co-founded a group fighting climate change, was convicted of violating federal energy leasing law after falsely bidding on Utah acreage to keep oil companies from accessing it.

He was sentenced to two years in prison and remains in a Colorado minimum-security camp as what his supporters consider a "prisoner of conscience."

"We're standing here today because we know that real democracy is illegal," protester Ashley Sanders told a group of about 50, who gathered to protest both the sentence and the American Legislative Exchange Council conference across State Street at the Grand America Hotel. "Tim DeChristopher is in prison because he wants a future."

Various groups have been protesting ALEC's annual meeting in Salt Lake City this week, contending that the group's corporate backers use it to gain undue and secretive influence on state legislators.

On Thursday, it was announced that General Motors and Walgreen's dropped their sponsorship of ALEC, becoming the 29th and 30th companies to abandon the organization amid intense pressure from progressive groups.

Thursday's protesters saw a link with the DeChristopher case and used his pre-sentencing statement about opposing a "morally bankrupt government" to make the point.

They marched to the meeting, where several attempted to register but were turned away by hotel security.

Sen. Curt Bramble, R-Provo, an ALEC board member, rejected the notion that either the DeChristopher sentence or the legislative gathering represented anything untoward. —

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