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General News    H3'ed 1/4/12

A Call for the Tea Party and Occupy Movements to "Occupy the Courts"

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by Greg Coleridge and Britney Schultz

The Tea Party movement's disdain for big, unchecked government power and the Occupy movement's disdain for big, unchecked banking power can find common ground in the effort to end never-intended corporate "personhood" constitutional rights. Both should help organize one-day occupations at more than 75 federal courthouses across the country on January 20, 2012.

The campaign is being initiated by Move to Amend ( ), a broad coalition seeking to amend the US constitution to abolish the bizarre twin legal doctrines that corporations are people and money is speech. Both movements have in different ways educated and organized in support of the majority gaining or regaining control from a privileged few over the political and economic decisions affecting them and their communities.

The major concerns of many within the Tea Party are rising taxes, increasing spending, exploding debt and the lack of true political representation. The major issues sparking the Occupation movement was and remains the growing wealth gap, Wall Street bailouts and speculation, home foreclosures, lack of free speech and assembly rights, and lack of true political representation.

The root of the concerns of both movements have less to do with specific politicians, political parties, corporations, CEOs, regulations or laws. The cores of all these problems are several defining rules enshrined and shielded by constitutional decisions - specifically those anointing corporations as persons and equating money as speech.

The nine appointed-for-lifers of the Supreme Court have exerted for generations judicial supremacy by stripping away the rights of people to govern themselves. The January 2010 Citizens United v Federal Election Commission 5-4 decision was the latest in a long line of Supreme Court rulings going back more than a century granting corporations Bill of Rights and other constitutional protections intended solely for human beings. These decisions have collectively usurped the authority of people to fundamentally define, not merely regulate, corporate actions. Corporations, as legal creations of the state, were intended by our nation's founders to be subordinate to We the People . They possessed no inalienable rights, only privileges granted by charters at the state and federal levels.

Such definition or control in the past has including prohibiting corporations from directly or indirectly engaging in political activities, including lobbying or donating corporate funds to issue campaigns or in support of political candidates. They also have permitted the public to examine corporate books for fraud, inspect corporate facilities for unsafe working conditions, and pass local laws ensuring the health, safety and welfare of citizens and communities.

The Supremes also exerted their judicial activism in their 1976 Buckley v. Valeo decision, also ruled 5-4, equating money as political speech. If money is speech, as opposed to it being property like land and other physical possessions, then those with the most money possess the greatest political speech. That's not a recipe for democracy, but of plutocracy - which fairly accurately describes our current political system.

Occupy the Courts is an educational and organizing vehicle for shedding light and heat in the middle of the dark and cold winter that real authentic self governance on behalf of all the issues and concerns Tea Partiers and Occupiers care about is not possible unless the defining rules governing corporations and money are changed.

In the past, massive social movements led by women, people of color, and young people have driven themselves into the constitution through amendments - where they should have existed all along. Today, a massive social movement of people from all backgrounds is needed to drive corporations and money out of the constitution - where they were never intended.

It's time to Occupy the Courts.


Coleridge is Director of the Northeast Ohio American Friends Service Committee. Schultz is a Move to Amend activist in Ohio

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Greg Coleridge is Co-Director of Move to Amend. He previously worked for more than three decades with the American Friends Service Committee in Ohio where he educated, advocated and organized on a range of justice, peace, environmental and (more...)

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