Monday, December 12, 2011

Occupy Reading goes in on corporate personhood

Patch | A group of concerned Reading citizens met Dec. 7 at the Unitarian Universalist Church on Woburn Street to discuss what the town can do to support the “Occupy Movement.”

Aimed primarily at addressing economic injustice, and taking appropriate action to that end—at the local, state or national levels—the group decided last night to move forward with plans to introduce a resolution (read a proposed sample here) at Town Meeting that would call on Congress to amend the Constitution to clearly state that only living persons—not corporations—have constitutional rights, and that money is not the same as free speech. (read a sample amendment here) The Reading “Occupy” Forum’s decision follows closely the news that the Los Angeles, Calif. City Council had unanimously voted to support the resolution, making LA the first U.S. City to call for an end to corporate constitutional rights.

The group also resolved to send a contingent from Reading to the “Occupy the Courts” protest, which is scheduled for Jan. 20 at the John Joseph Moakley Federal Courthouse in Boston.

Far from being a ragtag band of stoners—as occupiers are often portrayed—the group consisted of local professionals and several students, as well as members of the Reading Democratic Town Committee and MoveOn.org.

As the local media continues to wait with bated breath for the Boston Police to evict protesters from Dewey Square, 18-year-old Ben Hitchcock—an RMHS grad—expressed his view that meetings and discussion groups, such as the one on Dec. 7, represent the true face of the “Occupy” Movement.

“The movement isn’t camping, the movement is having these discussion,” said Hitchcock, a student at College of the Atlantic in Maine. “Great ideas, if not constantly talked about and planned, will fall apart.”

Also speaking at the meeting were RDTC members John Lippitt and Karen Richard—both also affiliated with MoveOn.org—among others.

Hitchcock, who first became involved with “Occupy” at Manhattan’s Zuccotti Park on Sept. 17, when he and a few friends traveled to New York City, talked about the two main issues the group would like to see addressed: corporate personhood and removing the money from the political process.

“We’ve all worked a full day, we’re all tired, but this is something that’s important,” said Richard. “The 99 percent really want their rights back, and don’t want to be trampled on.”

While often portrayed as having little to no coherent message or demands, last night’s group was fairly focused. They expressed outrage at JP Morgan Chase’s $4.6 million donation to the NYPD—ostensibly to buy laptop computers—and many were shocked to learn that, since 2001, the U.S. has lost an average of 50,000 manufacturing jobs per month to nations like China, which often have draconian labor laws and offer a more palatable environment in which to do business.