The Progressive Democrats of Santa Barbara hosted a Move to Amend rally at the Paseo Nuevo shopping mall this Saturday to protest the concept of “corporate personhood,” which currently allows corporations to retain several of the same constitutional rights that individual citizens are guaranteed.
The rally was part of a national Move to Amend movement to end constitutional rights for corporations. About 20 activists collected signatures petitioning the City Council to pass a resolution supporting an amendment to the U.S. Constitution that would end corporate personhood.
Many rally participants expressed concern over the controversial decision made in 2010 by the Supreme Court in the Citizens United v. Federal Election Committee case. The landmark ruling declared that the First Amendment prevented the government from being able to limit independent political expenditures by corporations and unions.
Antonia Robertson, co-chair of the Santa Barbara Move to Amend group, said that several cities have already passed resolutions supporting the amendment and that the group is hopeful that the Santa Barbara City Council will do the same. A two-thirds majority vote in the House of Representatives and the Senate is required to propose a constitutional amendment.
City councilmember and rally attendee Cathy Murillo expressed personal support for the resolution but didn’t want to speculate on the positions of other councilmembers.
Lois Hamilton, chair of the Progressive Democrats of Santa Barbara, said that she had plans to meet with Mayor Helene Schneider and Councilmember Bendy White to discuss the resolution. “The resolution essentially states that we do not agree with the decision of the Supreme Court in the Citizens United case, and that we are against corporate personhood,” Hamilton said. “Money does not equal free speech, and we do not want [corporations’] unlimited, undisclosed money to determine our democratic elections.”
Sharon Byrne, head of the Milpas Community Association, said that a serious concern is that while constitutional amendment would need congressional support, the lawmaking body is also financially supported by corporations through the idea of corporate personhood.
Activist Michael Merenda said that many of the participants present at the rally were retired or older working professionals who are interested in improving the country for future generations. “A lot of the people here are retired or are around 70 years young,” Merenda said. “They are here because, even though they may not normally consider themselves activists, they want to make this country a better place for their children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.”