Loren Chapman wants corporations and politicians alike to hear the will of the people — a will he hopes will be made loud and clear at a rally that is set to take place this weekend.
The Johnson City resident is the main organizer behind “Rally For the Humans,” a demonstration scheduled for Saturday from 2 to 5 p.m., in the 2000 through 2200 blocks of North Roan Street in Johnson City.
Much of the rally’s purpose is to educate East Tennesseans about the push to get a certain resolution on local ballots; the resolution would state that corporations are nonpersons and should be treated as such under U.S. law, and that the U.S. Constitution should be amended to reflect that, Chapman explained Monday.
The local event is part of a larger organization called Move to Amend, which, according to its web site, is at the beginning of a multi-year movement to amend the Constitution. The national coalition has hundreds of organizations and more than 132,000 individuals currently backing it. The movement seeks a law or constitutional amendment to abolish corporate personhood (the idea corporations should have the same rights as people) and by doing so, seeks to limit corporate influence in lawmaking.
The organization was formed in response to a January 2010 U.S. Supreme Court ruling. In Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, the U.S. Supreme Court decided it could not limit corporate funding of independent political broadcasts in candidate elections because of protections afforded the corporations in the First Amendment.
Locally, Chapman became interested in the issue when he saw some numbers from a Wisconsin special election held in April 2011. The state’s capital city, Madison, had used the election as an opportunity to place a resolution on the ballot opposing the Supreme Court ruling and stating the U.S. Constitution should reflect that a corporation should not be treated as a person. Both Madison and Dane County passed the resolution with overwhelming support of 84 and 78 percent, respectively.
“I started doing research, and nationwide about 79 percent of Americans, when educated about the issue, support an amendment to the U.S. Constitution that would in effect reverse the Citizens United decision from the Supreme Court,” Chapman said. “With numbers like that, it got me to thinking if 79 percent would support that sort of amendment, what would happen if we were to place a resolution in support (of an amendment) in East Tennessee?”
However, he soon discovered that Tennessee law says signatures on a petition aren’t enough to place a resolution on a ballot; instead, it would need the support of local state senators and representatives, who would have to sponsor a special bill (called a Private Act) in the General Assembly to get something placed on a ballot.
So Chapman said he came up with the idea of the rally to help demonstrate to lawmakers that people take this issue seriously.
“What we’re up against is a system that rewards politicians who align themselves with corporate power and big money at the expense of the average citizen,” he said.
He has intentionally not notified local politicians this rally is taking place, but he intends to bring them the documentation of the rally’s success afterwards as proof of the “will of the people,” he said. “We don’t want to walk into the room with our hats in our hands.”
The rally is not anti-corporation or anti-politician, Chapman said, but is more aimed at the “undue power” corporations exercise in the political system and economy — what he calls a nonpartisan issue.
“We have nothing against corporations per se,” he said. “A lot of folks who are going to be out there Saturday make their living as salaried employees of corporations. We don’t want (the corporations) damaged, but we want the power to run our system to be taken back by the citizens.”
When allowed to exercise that power, it usually results in bad news for average citizens, Chapman said.
“When it all boils over, we see things like the banking system collapse and the erosion of regulatory control on mountaintop removal,” he said. “That’s all tied into the fact corporations are in complete control of politics and the economy. The average citizen is locked in a struggle against corporations, and they’re not even aware the struggle is going on.”
Chapman said there will be spare signs for those attending the rally, and he asked anyone attending to park in the less-used parking lots in the area. About 450 people are signed up to attend on its Facebook page, a number expected to grow, and Chapman said other groups like labor unions and community organizations plan to show their support.
For more information on the rally, or for volunteering and carpooling options, visit www.rallyforthehumans.com or find it on Facebook.