MARQUETTE?- A small but impassioned group gathered at Lakeshore and Genesee streets in Marquette Friday afternoon and marched to the Champion St. U.S. 41 overpass as part of a nationwide "Day of Action Against Corporate Personhood."
"We're here to protest (the) Citizens United (ruling)," said Zelda Ziemer, co-chairman of U.P. for Ending Corporate Personhood. "In 2010 the Supreme Court certified that corporations are people and that money is free speech."
In the 2010 Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission case, the Supreme Court established, by a 5-4 decision, that the First Amendment protects the rights of corporations, associations and unions to spend money to endorse or oppose political candidates. The ruling remains controversial because it set a precedent that corporate entities are entitled to the same Constitutional rights as individual Americans, and that money is one form of speech protected under the First Amendment.
Supporters of the Citizens United ruling see the Supreme Court's decision as a victory for freedom of speech, and believe that this ability of corporations, associations and unions to spend money in support of or opposing political candidates ultimately widens political participation and accessibility.
"(For-) profit corporations are allowed to influence politics with money," said Ziegler. "They consider that free speech and an exercise of their rights, same as a human being.
"The danger that we have seen (from corporate personhood) ... is in the last election cycle 132 Americans-literally 132 Americans-financed the campaign(s)," said Ziegler. "And out of that, 300 and some other million people lost their voices ... We as citizens lose our power.
"Corporations are not people. Corporations are enacted by laws ... There are state, local and federal laws that allow corporations to form in various capacities. So if they are not a person-and it's not a legal argument whether they're a person or not, because people, human beings...don't need a law to become a person. We are born a person."
Friday's protest was part of "Move to Amend," a nationwide coalition seeking to abolish corporate personhood by amending the Constitution. Activists involved with the coalition in 50 cities across the country displayed freeway banners in order to draw attention to the issues and potential dangers of corporate personhood.
"We want to make people aware of Citizens United, the grave impact that it has had on our country. We want people to understand what it is exactly. It is not 'citizens united,' it is corporations united."
Zach Jay can be reached at 906-228-2500. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org