Local students, volunteers rally to pass 28th amendment
Drivers honked their horns as they recognized a group of students and locals waving signs vying for legislative change on January 21st, outside the Coconino County Courthouse.
Flagstaff Citizens Against Citizens United (FCACU), a group pushing to reverse the 2010 Supreme Court case that ruled corporations are people and money is protected speech under the Constitution, coordinated a rally to raise awareness about the issue at hand.
Throughout the rally, volunteers shielded themselves from rain and snow flurries under a canopy to collect signatures and inform those passing by of a proposed 28th amendment. Others grabbed a hot beverage and a colorful sign and chanted phrases like “don’t be a tool, end corporate rule” along the sidewalk.
Joe Bader, a volunteer and member of the Progressive Democrats of Northern Arizona, said there is more about their cause than reducing corporate influence in politics.
“[Overturning Citizens United] has been an effort by groups all over the country, on all sides of the [political] spectrum, to try to figure out a way to defeat this decision so we can return our democracy back to the people and not have it dominated by corporate interests,” Bader said.
The organization for the movement at large, Move to Amend/Occupy the Courts, has sponsored events in multiple states across the country introducing resolutions against corporate personhood. On Jan. 20, more than 80 events were held at local courthouses around the U.S. to rally in support of the amendment.
The proposed amendment from the Move to Amend website is as follows:
“The rights protected by the Constitution of the United States are the rights of natural persons only.”
In addition to rights being reserved for people, the amendment would make corporations subject to regulation by citizens through local, state or federal law.
Bader said it will be tough to ratify the amendment but it will happen eventually.
“If Congress could pass it, then it goes to the states for ratification; uphill struggle, tough battle. But worth it in terms of the quality of lives going forward,” Bader said. “It always comes back to the people of the United States and how involved they want to get. It certainly will not happen absent of a mass movement of people.”
Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Massachusetts Rep. Jim McGovern introduced legislation to reverse corporate personhood. The House and Senate resolutions currently sit in their respective committees for review.
Eva Sigersted, a senior international relations major, said student support for the movement is essential.
“Getting the student population involved is key,” Sigersted said. “We are not completely against corporations — they do provide jobs — just influence.”
Furthermore, Sigersted said efforts to gain more support from students on campus are being planned.
Monte Poen, a retired NAU history professor, said unlimited money has no place in democracy after he signed in support of FCACU’s petition.
“[Citizens United] is really distorting the Constitution,” Poen said. “This country was never designed to be a plutocracy. The Supreme Court has [reversed decisions] before and it can do it again.”
Mac England, who stopped by the rally with his two sons to support the amendment, said a pattern has persisted over time where people lose their voice when corporations influence elections.
“[Money] starts becoming an obstacle to people being able to have their voices heard,” England said. “To have corporations come in and finance PACs [political action committees] that are not accountable…that’s not right.”
Today, different groups claim public recognition in regarding various movements such as the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), the Protect Intellectual Property Act (PIPA), Occupy Wall Street and many smaller grassroots campaigns. Bader said while it’s easy to combine them all, each group has its own priorities and interests.
“There is a coalition of groups that are under a broad umbrella to get this 28th amendment passed,” Bader said of the current movements across the country. “Here in Flagstaff over the next few months we are going to be getting thousands of signatures and getting people involved that way.”
Bader said there would be no end game to movement. He cautioned whatever progress the group makes will always be threatened by those with money and in search for more control in society.
“When the Flagstaff City Council does endorse [the resolution], we can’t just throw up our hands and stop there. We have to take the movement to other cities in the state and try to get people there to do the same thing.”
Volunteers will continue to collect signatures in the area before presenting them to the Flagstaff City Council to adopt the amendment. If current sitting members choose not to endorse it, Bader said they will present it to the next set of individuals.
“When the Flagstaff City Council does endorse [the resolution], we can’t just throw up our hands and stop there,” Bader said. “We have to take the movement to other cities in the state and try to get people there to do the same thing.”