South Euclid Democracy Day organizer and emcee Madelon Watts speaks to those assembled for the biannual event Tuesday at the South Euclid Community Center. (Jeff Piorkowski, special to cleveland.com)
SOUTH EUCLID, Ohio -- In 2016, 77 percent of South Euclid voters approved Issue 201, which called for an amendment to the U.S. Constitution declaring that only human beings, not corporations, are legal persons with constitutional rights, that money is not equivalent to speech and that regulating political contributions and spending is not equivalent to limiting political speech.
Issue 201 also stated that, in order to see through the potential 28th Amendment to the Constitution stating the above goals, a Democracy Day Public Hearing event would be held every two years, during which residents would make their claims as to why corporations are not people.
That day, this year, was Tuesday (May 2).
About 15 people, including some elected officials, gathered at the South Euclid Community Center to air their concerns and compel others to take action.
In all, 11 speakers took to the podium to discuss various topics, from the Norfolk Southern train derailment in February in East Palestine, Ohio, to the chemicals put in Americans’ food supply, to the looming problems pertaining to artificial intelligence.
The common theme throughout was the power of large corporations to influence American lives.
As in past years, South Euclid Democracy Day was organized and emceed by Madelon Watts, the lone South Euclid resident who is a member of the organization Cleveland East Move to Amend
The Move to Amend non-partisan Democracy Day event is also held in other local communities, such as Cleveland Heights (where it is held annually), Shaker Heights and Mentor.
South Euclid’s passage of Issue 201 committed the city to holding a Democracy Day every second year until a 28th Amendment is made to the Constitution.
Move to Amend was born following the U.S. Supreme Court’s January 2010 decision in the Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission case in which, according to the Move to Amend website, the nation’s highest court “ruled that corporations are persons, entitled by the U.S. Constitution to buy elections and run our government. Human beings are people; corporations are legal fictions.
“We, the People of the United States of America, reject the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Citizens United and other related cases, and move to amend our Constitution to firmly establish that money is not speech, and that human beings, not corporations, are persons entitled to constitutional rights.”
“With each passing year since the Supreme Court reinforced the evils of corporate Constitutional rights, money as free speech with its Citizens United decision in 2010, crimes against democracy committed by corporate entities and wealthy owners only grow more egregious.
Mayor Georgine Welo, the evening’s first speaker, asked: “Where are we going to go? What’s next? We know that they’re (corporations) running our lobbyists. We know they have so much money they can mail. They have a monopoly when it comes to ads on TV.
Welo said AI’s specific uses now present and yet to come include health care, retail, manufacturing and banking.
“All of this is done by corporations, by using a machine and taking a voice and using it to steer us to all different places in our life,” she said.
Ward 3 Councilwoman Sara Continenza said, among other things, that federal subsidies are given to genetically modified food (GMO) producers, while those who want to grow organically do not get such help.
Speaking about prescription drug use, she said: “Americans make up less than 5 percent of the world’s population. Do you know how many pharmaceuticals we consume? Eighty percent of the world’s pharmaceuticals are consumed by Americans.She said a reason for such a great amount of drug use in the U.S. is because Americans are being made sick by the chemicals in their food, “pushed on us because of things like lobbying.”
She closed by asking those in the room to do research as to how much three corporations -- Black Rock, Vanguard and State Street -- control the world.
“And then,” she said, “you’ll start getting the picture and be able to follow the money in all the different corporate sectors I just mentioned.”
Another speaker, via Zoom, was District 21 State Rep. Elliot Forhan, a South Euclid resident.
“The richest 10 percent of Americans own, collectively, approximately three-quarters of the national wealth,” he said. “Meanwhile, the bottom half of Americans own approximately 1 percent of the national wealth.
“As a result, the richest Americans can and do influence, if not control, the national narrative, the news stories and perspectives that our fellow community members view, hear and read.”
State Sen. Kent Smith, D-Euclid, said he traveled from Columbus to attend Tuesday’s Democracy Day and spoke about his opposition to pending Ohio Senate Joint Resolution 2, which would require 60 percent of the state legislature, rather than the current 50 percent, to approve any state constitutional amendment, and to proposed Senate Bill 92, which would call for a special election in August to make appropriations.
Speaker Carla Rautenberg, among other points about the East Palestine disaster, quoted from a news article in asking whether, if a person rather than a corporation were making the decisions, would the train’s contents be fully disclosed, as they were not, or would the train to be operated with a crew of just two people, as it was.
South Euclid Poet Laureate Doc Janning recited a poem, titled “Stare Decisis,” in which he stated, “This country is based on ‘We the People, not ‘We the Corporations.’
Watts said Move to Amend is seeking to add the 28th Amendment through a joint resolution passed by a two-thirds of Congressional vote or by a convention called by Congress in response to applications from two-thirds of the state legislatures.
“We are starting over with the new Congress (118th Congress, 2023-2025) to get co-sponsors,” Watts said. “Some of the previous co-sponsors will sign on again.”
Locally, Move to Amend is attempting to get U.S. Rep. Shontel Brown, D-11, to become a sponsor of HJ Res. 54.
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