Wednesday, December 14, 2011

LA First Major City on 'Move to Amend' Bandwagon

LA First Major City on 'Move to Amend' Bandwagon


    Los Angeles City Council Resolves to Abolish

   Corporate Personhood in Concert with Coalition

    of LA Residents


By Michael Evans

L.A. Progressive

December 7, 2011


Los Angeles


On Tuesday, Los Angeles became the first major city to

call for a constitutional amendment to abolish

corporate personhood as a City Council resolution

passed unanimously before hundreds of enthusiastic

local residents, igniting loud celebrations throughout


the standing room only crowd in Council chambers and a

packed overflow room.


"It's a great day for Los Angeles and it's a great day

for the United States of America," said Mary Beth

Fielder, Move To Amend-LA's founding co-chair who

spearheaded the local coalition effort to strengthen

and pass the resolution. "I hope this is the vote heard

around the world and that it will inspire other who

want to reclaim our democracy to begin organizing in

their communities. Together we can build the grassroots

support we need to actually amend our constitution."


Council members and community members showed almost

surprising solidarity as they discussed the merits of

the resolution calling for legislative action to

support the idea that corporations are not people and

money is not the same as free speech.


"We have never seen the City Council Chamber so packed

for any other issue," said coalition Anjuli Kronheim of

Common Cause LA. "There wasn't even enough time for all

community members and coalition partners to speak."

Common Cause LA is part of the local grassroots

coalition to amend the constitution, and also advocates

for many other democratic reforms.


Many speakers told heartbreaking personal stories about

how corporations have negatively affected their lives

and the lives of their families. Others, like Occupy

San Fernando Valley's Amber Brown, offered articulate



"Corporations are designed to achieve specific ends,

typically those of growth, profitability, and longevity

beyond the span of human life," said Brown. "They

cannot make decisions nor take actions-not, at least,

outside of the human beings who run them."


The attendees spontaneously applauded and cheered and

even gave standing ovations for many of the speakers

with whom they most agreed, starting with a boisterous

response to Fielder's opening comments. "On behalf of

We The People, we are willing to do the work that it's

going to take to amend our constitution to clearly

establish that only human beings are entitled to

constitutional rights."


One of the most popular speakers was the lone

"dissenter" wearing a tuxedo and a top hat with play

money stuffed in his pockets who spoke on behalf of a

satire troupe called The Billionaires.


"To suggest that Corporations aren't people is to

ignore the many needs that corporate citizens share

with their flesh-and-blood brethren," said Clifford

Tasner in character as Felonius Ax, "A corporation

craves friendship just like everyone else. Which is why

corporate citizens hunger to cultivate deep meaningful

relationships with elected officials."


Felonius took his seat next to fellow Billionaire

Isaiah Hogg, who was rustling the newspaper he had been

reading through most of the meeting, as the crowd

erupted in laughter and applause.


Billionaires Felonius Ax and Isaiah Hogg commiserate

after their "One Dollar, One Vote" message suffered a

crushing defeat.


"I could not believe the coalition of energy that

filled the council chambers today," said Council Member

Bill Rosendahl. "It made a huge difference. It was

democracy at its best!"


"The basic unit of a political system is the sovereign

independent human being," said Chris Durian of Move to

Amend LA and Occupy LA. "By defining other entities

such as corporations as sovereign individuals, the

doctrine of corporate personhood has necessarily

compromised the rights and powers of the sovereign

individual. Now the very foundation of government is

straining under the weight of billions of corporate



The resolution calls for "SUPPORT for Legislative

actions ensuring corporations are not entitled to the

entirety of protections or "rights" of human beings,"

which is at the heart of the movement to abolish

corporate personhood. It goes on to say that the

expenditure of money is "no longer a form of

constitutionally protected speech," which is aimed

directly at overturning at least two Supreme Court

decisions which support the doctrine that money is

speech, so spending in connection to an election is

merely a corporation's (read: person's) exercise of

free speech right.


Specifically, this resolution is a response to the 2010

Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission U.S.

Supreme Court ruling, which gives corporations the same

1st Amendment protections as people and allows them to

spend unlimited funds on campaign finance, which

resulted in record corporate spending in the 2010

national elections.


The resolution was sponsored this summer by City

Council President Eric Garcetti and seconded by Council

Members Bill Rosendahl and Paul Krekorian? with

passionate support by Council Members Richard Alarcon

and Paul Koretz?. Their work was paralleled by a

vigorous coalition grassroots effort led by the Los

Angeles affiliate of the national coalition



For years before founding, David Cobb?,

Kaitlin Sopoci-Belnap, and other leaders had been

working to abolish corporate personhood and advocate

other democracy issues.


Move to Amend's local affiliate was founded by Mary

Beth Fielder a year ago and immediately began building

a massive local coalition of support, beginning with

the South Robertson Neighborhoods Council in June and

ramping up support to an exhaustive list including

volunteers from all over LA County, LA Neighborhoods

Councils, unions, political clubs, and grassroots



In November, at least 100 members of the LA coalition

attended a City Council meeting, asking them to amend

the resolution, which originally called for overturning

Citizens United and taking money out of elections. The

committee adopted the coalition's amendments into the

resolution motion in preparation for the Council vote

on Tuesday.


After the resolution passed, Move to Amend-LA co-chair,

Daniel Lee said, "The decision was significant because

the council officially supported not only a call for a

constitutional amendment but the official language on

the Move to Amend national website."


Lee was referring to the Council's decision to attach

the coalition's proposed  constitutional amendment to

the resolution leading up to Tuesday's vote. The language establishes that


    corporations are not people, money is not speech,

    and the freedom of the press should not be abridged

    by establishing that corporations and the

    expenditure of money may be regulated.


That proposed amendment was officially attached to the

LA City Council resolution before being passed on



"I want to thank the council members Garcetti,

Krekorian, and Rosendahl for their introducing, for

their championing the resolution and for forming a

partnership with the people so that together we can


take back control of our government," said Fielder

after the decision. "And I want to acknowledge the

amazing coalition that we built, all the people that

came together the last month all kinds of incredible

groups and individuals working around the clock."


"Every struggle to amend the constitution began as just

a group of regular Americans who wanted to end slavery,

who thought women should vote, who believed that if

you're old enough to be drafted, you should be old

enough to vote," said Council President Eric Garcetti.

"These are how American amendments move forward from

the grassroots when Americans say enough is enough.


We're very proud to come together and send a message

but more than that, this becomes the official position

of the City of Los Angeles, we will officially lobby

for this."


Council Member Paul Krekorian said, "What we

saw in that chamber today was the beginning of a

sea change in the way people think about politics

in America and I hope that this will be the first day

of a long and sustained movement that changes the

way we represent ourselves and the way we demand

the kind of government that we deserve."



Michael R. Evans is a writer originally from upstate

New York. He is self employed as an English/Writing

tutor and academic editor. His ever-broadening

interests and expertise include spirituality of art,

politics, and intercultural relations. He is currently

a core volunteer with Move to Amend LA.


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