Thursday, May 6, 2010

"Democracy Day": 10th anniversary for Point Arena's anti-corporate personhood resolution

by Jan Edwards
April 25, 2010 marked the 10th Anniversary of the passing of the historic Point Arena Resolution on Corporate Personhood. In recognition, the Point Arena City Council proclaimed April 25th to be "Democracy Day" and voted to co-sponsor a celebration on Friday, April 23rd at the Arena Theater. There was a community potluck in the theater followed by a free showing of This Land is Your Land, a documentary about the effect of corporate power on the lives of average citizens with a special focus on corporate personhood. The movie was partially filmed in Point Arena and has several clips of the town and local folks commenting on corporate power. The audience cheered every time a familiar face or a clip showing the town flashed on the screen. Turnout was terrific and the evening was a lot of fun.

On Saturday, there was a forum at the Coast Community Library with a deeper discussion on the implications of the recent Supreme Court decision in Citizens United v FEC and of a proposed Amendment that will legally correct the Constitutional problem. Led by William Meyers with community activist and former Arcata City Councilman Dave Meserve working for the Campaign to Legalize Democracy, Dan Hamburg, director of Voice of the Environment and others including Jim Tarbell, Jan Edwards and many of the committee members who wrote the original resolution 10 years earlier.

In 2000, Point Arena became the first municipality to pass a resolution
rejecting the concept that corporations should be allowed to claim rights originally intended for human persons in the U.S. Constitution. The resolution was written and promoted by the Redwood Coast Chapter of the Alliance for Democracy. This action inspired Berkeley, Arcata, and then other cities and towns to pass resolutions of their own. Eventually, towns began to pass binding ordinances. In 2006, Humboldt County passed Measure T which revoked corporate rights in the county. Measure T was later overturned, but many small municipalities are currently using these ordinances to protect water, prevent toxic sludge dumping, prohibit factory hog farms and promote local democracy. Just this week Berkeley restated their opposition to corporate constitutional rights by passing a new resolution in reaction to the recent Supreme Court ruling that strengthened corporate rights.

In 1886, the Supreme Court recognized corporations as "persons" under the 14th Amendment, which had been passed to give equal protection and due process to people newly freed from slavery. Since that time, corporations have been handed almost all the rights of "natural (human) persons" including the First Amendment freedoms. In January of this year, the Supreme Court handed down a decision in Citizens United v Federal Elections Commission banning as unconstitutional Congress's restrictions on corporate campaign spending in elections. The trail of law supporting this ruling stems directly from the concept that corporations are persons with rights in the constitution.

Websites for more information: (Click on Corporate Personhood for Point Arena Resolution and history of corporate personhood) (To read about the amendment and its sponsors.) (For information on the documentary This Land is Your Land.) To order a DVD of the movie, send $24.99 to: Lori Cheatle, Hard Working Movies, 10 Jay Street, Ste 902, Brooklyn, NY 11201, office: 1-646-383-5971.

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