A crowd of about 50 people braved the rain Friday afternoon, January 20, to voice their anger and concern over corporations having the same rights as individuals. They marched from Woodruff Park to the Richard B. Russell Federal Building for a “rally to end corporate personhood” as part of Occupy the Courts, a nationwide event.
“There is a huge amount of corporate money buying elections, and it’s a threat to our democracy,” said Linda Thomas, a retired schoolteacher from Marietta who joined the march to the federal courthouse. “A lot of people think that if they work hard they are going to be OK—and that’s just not the case,”
People in 131 cities protested in front of their local courthouses on the eve of the second anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court decision Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission.
Thomas supports Move to Amend, which wants to amend the Constitution to revoke corporate personhood. The group’s local chapter co-sponsored the action with Occupy Atlanta. “Under the best of circumstances, it’s hard for a working-class person to run for election. With Citizens United and the huge amounts of money being poured in by the corporations, it’s impossible,” she said.
“I think politicians running for office should be like NASCAR drivers and wear their corporate sponsorships on their backs,” said Ben Speight, a member of the Teamsters Union who spoke at the rally.
“And their spare tire on their back,” piped up a voice from the crowd to laughter and cheers.
One elderly woman made a cake with icing saying “End Corporate Personhood” that she offered to her fellow protestors, a mix of young and old.
Don Dressel, an environmental activist who organized the Atlanta chapter of Move to Amend, said he became concerned about the Citizens United decision after participating in the Tar Sands Action last fall. Demonstrators staged several protests outside the White House to oppose a proposed pipeline to carry tar sands from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico.
Citizens United is “dangerous for the environment,” Dressel said, because advocating before Congress becomes irrelevant when “big business can buy the election.”
Like Dressel, Thomas thinks Citizens United can be counteracted only by a Constitutional amendment. When asked about pressuring Congress to legislate against the Supreme Court decision, she replied, “Congress won’t pass it. They can’t get the simplest things to pass that before they would have agreed on—and they’re there [in Congress] because of the corporations.”
A young man from Egypt told the crowd that the protests in his country started out on the same scale and grew to 5 million people. “Do what you think is right,” he encouraged them. “Fight for what you think is right.”
“I believe democracy is suffering great violence and it will take an act of civil disobedience against all the corporate B.S.,” said Brent Hames, a student and barista who’s a participant in Occupy Atlanta. Asked why he’d turned up for Occupy the Courts, he replied, “I believe my little bit counts. That’s the bottom line.”