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Rights! The Newsletter of the Center for Democracy and the Constitution
August 2004

Welcome to Rights!, the newsletter of the Center for Democracy and the Constitution ("CDC"), published monthly, with a very occasional update between issues.

We're working to end the constitutional rights of corporations and to create a vital, living democracy in the U.S.A. (including strong businesses run for the public good), starting at home in Massachusetts. So please join us! We hope you'll find Rights! informative, engaging, useful, infuriating, energizing, inspiring.
  In this issue:
From the Editor's Desk: Democracy Looks Like This?
A Question of Rights

Perhaps the most revealing part of last month's Democratic National Convention was the razor-wired protest pen. It was designed to keep demonstrators from exercising their constitutional rights within earshot of the delegates. Ironically, it provided a reassuring instance of democracy in action.

This First Amendment travesty inspired outrage, community uproar, litigation (resulting in an odd decision by an ostensibly sympathetic judge who ruled against his own better judgment, ruefully upheld on appeal by another court at a loss for its own better judgment). But reminiscent of "Suppose they gave a war and nobody came?", most of the groups who were demonstrating simply refused to use this so-called "free-speech zone" (which some dubbed the "speech-free zone"). The protest pen was, in the end, merely a curious passage from Canal Street to the Causeway, more a macabre tourist attraction than anything else.

Democracy Looks Like This? At one peace rally police sweated out the afternoon clad entirely in stylish summer black, with nothing to do but look sternly at the rather laid-back and lighthearted crowd. In the end, both protesters and police stayed cool in the heat, despite the latter's heavy pads and riot shields, and most of the week passed without incident. Even a small crew that attacked the "free speech pen" with bolt cutters didn't get arrested -- they yielded their "weapon" on demand and both officers and rabble went peacefully on their way.

Yet for those who examine further, this free speech zone is a stark reminder of what happens to the people's rights when they are perceived to be a threat to the status quo, as defined by the few.

Why weren't the police protecting us? Whose side are they on, anyway?

When the plantation owner called the sheriff, whom did the sheriff protect, the slavemaster or the slave?

When the plant owner called the police or militia, whom did they protect, the corporation or the striking workers?

Police and Crowd When the police or national guard are called during protests of global trade negotiations, whom do they protect, corporate and government interests or the protesters?

We, the people, have always had to struggle for our rights -- first against the English crown, then as slaves and indentured servants, abolitionists, suffragists, unionists, populists. And all too often our victories have been diluted or snatched from us by "the rule of law," rooted in the U.S. Constitution and generally on the side of property, not people:
  • Ten years after corporations were included in the 14th Amendment's definition of a person, the Supreme Court effectively eliminated African-Americans' legal personhood in Plessy v. Ferguson
  • Though the 19th Amendment gave women the vote after 75 years of struggle, the Equal Rights Amendment has yet to pass since it was first introduced in Congress more than three quarters of a century ago
  • Working people's right to organize was all but wiped out by the Taft-Hartley Act of 1947.
Today's struggle for our promised self-governance must contend with the generations-old accumulation of Court-conferred constitutional rights on the corporate form -- including the First Amendment's protected speech. Thus was the 1970s Massachusetts law prohibiting corporations from interfering in citizen referenda -- unanimously upheld by the state's Supreme Judicial Court -- voided by the U.S. Supreme Court on the grounds that political money is equivalent to speech, allowing powerful and wealthy interests even more effective control of our government.

It is up to all of us to refuse to allow our rights to be carved into zones, and to embrace our heritage from the courageous and determined people's movements of our past. If you'd like to learn more about how, Democracy School is an excellent place to start. Hope to see you there in October!
Democracy School
Next Democracy School in Boston: October 1-3, 2004

Thomas Linzey, the founder of the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF) and the attorney at the forefront of legal battles on corporate constitutional rights, will teach our October Democracy School at Boston College. He will be joined by presenters Mary Zepernick and Adam Sacks, and Peter Kellman of the Program on Corporations, Law and Democracy (POCLAD).

Democracy School covers the history and development of corporations in the U.S., the movements for people's rights, exciting current developments in fighting illegitimate corporate "rights" in Pennsylvania, and strategizing on how to apply all of these lessons for the benefit of Massachusetts communities dealing with toxics, sprawl, pollution, noise, and corruption of government. Democracy School is highly recommended to anyone interested in changing our democracy's collision course with corporate rule!

To find out more about Democracy School, click here. We are limited to 15 attendees -- so sign up today!


Constitutional House Party and Fun(d)raiser

Join us one and all!

Tuesday, September 14, 2004
6:30 - 8:30 p.m.

What's this rights business all about? Why is it so important? Why is "corporate responsibility" an oxymoron? Why doesn't regulating corporations work? And just what is the Center for Democracy and the Constitution doing about it, anyway?

Discuss these questions and more, meet interesting people, enjoy some delicious refreshments, listen to the soulful tunes of Ken Selcer, and advance the critically important work of POCLAD and CDC -- all in one evening!

To RSVP and get directions, please contact the CDC office by e-mail, info411 {a-t} constitution411 [d-o-t] org or phone at (781) 674-2339.   Minimum $25 donation requested.

For further information, please go to our website.

Introducing Smilia Marvosh, Advisory Board Member
Smilia and Quarry Smilia "Sam" Marvosh, an active member of CDC's Advisory Board, is a painter, sculptor, display artist - an organic gardener and lover of the Earth. She is fond of saying that her only credentials are her lack of credentials, that she was activated by a 50-ton truck, which is the Universe’s way of having a laugh, and that any citizen can feel that moment when a line is crossed and she is compelled to fight for justice. “The Universe doesn’t choose the qualified, it qualifies the chosen,” she says, "and that is how earth warriors are born and stories get told."

Smilia at Work Smilia is a co-founder of the Coalition for the Health of Aggregate Industries Neighbors (C.H.A.I.N.). Aggregate Industries is the multinational owner of a 160-acre quarry in Swampscott that disrupts the lives of the community with noise, diesel toxins, and silica-containing dust. C.H.A.I.N. has been fighting the damage from Aggregate Industries for three years.
Short Takes
A new link:

Democracy Unlimited of Humboldt County (DUHC) educates citizens about the illegitimate seizure of our authority to govern ourselves. DUHC designs and implements grassroots strategies that exercise democratic power over corporations and governments. It seeks to create a truly democratic society by provoking a non-violent popular uprising against corporate rule in Humboldt County, California that can serve as a model for other communities across the United States.

. . . and a new book . . .

You Have the Power Get an autographed copy of Frances Moore Lappé's latest book, You Have the Power. We have a few left, and it's our gift to you with a $35 contribution to CDC -- Donate now!

Join Us!
POCLAD member Jane Anne Morris, in her article "Why We Research Corporate Law," says:
. . . [M]uch current activism involves efforts to adjust corporate behavior without having to reduce corporate power. Adding a chemical to a list, taking a bird off a list, writing more letters to the Forest Service, putting a labor representative on a task force, or asking a corporation to employ more minorities in its quest to plunder the planet and enslave its inhabitants while enriching the fortunes of a few -- will not alter the dominant governance role of corporations.

Even if we had time to address each harm one at a time, we would be no closer to having a democracy because we would still not be in control. . . . Self-governing people do not dump toxic chemicals into their water supply. They do not destroy the resources that their future depends on. They do not blame this or that minority for conditions arising from and sustaining the greed of a few. Corporations do all of these things and more.

Jane Anne's article is published in POCLAD's landmark anthology, Defying Corporations, Defining Democracy, p.41. (The book is a free gift choice with a donation of $35 or more to CDC. Click here to donate now! It's also available directly from POCLAD.) She speaks directly to what CDC is all about: creating a democracy which puts living, breathing people in control, where we and our children hold precedence over the aggregation of wealth, where we demand the truth about the transgressions against our planet that belongs to future generations. And then we act on it.

So please join us. Sign up to volunteer in areas such as research or organizing. Hold a house party or fundraiser in your neighborhood (we'll provide a speaker). Attend Democracy School to learn more about the history of corporations and the Constitution, and what's being done today -- as you read this -- to turn it around. Work with us to educate the public and develop a legal team that will help communities reclaim basic rights when confronted with corporate harms. And engage in the dialogue about who governs as we move towards a ballot question to abolish corporate rule.

Last but not least, please consider contributing to CDC to eliminate the corporate power that creates war and inequity and poverty in its own interest at the expense of the rest of us. We're not going to get corporate funding, nor should we -- but we do need money to continue our work. This is the beginning of an independent people's movement, and it will be built by you, by me, by all of us.

To volunteer, send an e-mail to adam411 {a-t} constitution411 [d-o-t] org.

Adam D. Sacks
Executive Director
(781) 674-2339

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