Move to Amend protests at Tampa Federal Courthouse on anniversary of Citizens United ruling listen01/23/12 Janelle Irwin
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Saturday marked the two year anniversary of the Supreme Courtâ€™s Citizens United ruling that gave corporations the ability to pour nearly unlimited contributions into political campaigns. As part of a nationwide movement to Occupy the Courts in protest of that ruling, about 100 protesters from several groups descended on Tampaâ€™s Sam Gibbons Federal Courthouse on Friday afternoon.
Move to Amend is a nationwide organization that began with the sole purpose of overturning the Citizens United verses FEC ruling. That outcome protects first amendment rights for corporations and opens a loophole for massive amounts of corporate dollars to be contributed to political campaigns. John McGrath protested the decision on behalf of the Northwest Hillsborough Democratic Club. He said it not only gives some candidates an unfair advantage, it is also unnecessary.
â€œThey can spend as much money as they want. Look at this occurring primary and the amount of money being spent. Why do you spend a billion dollars on 100,000 dollar job?â€
Citizens United is a conservative group that produces documentary films to advance their ideals. In the ruling two years ago in their favor, the courts affirmed corporations First Amendment rights, and thus the ability use money as speech. U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders is an independent from Vermont. He proposed a bill that would take that ability away by ruling that corporations do not have the same rights as individuals. But Move to Amendâ€™s Mark Adams said the bill is not enough because it would still allow groups to control the media.
â€œThey specifically exclude the press. So, if youâ€™re the Koch brothers and this gets passed, what do you do? Buy a few newspapers; maybe Clear Channel radio? You know, Mitt Romneyâ€™s firm is one of the major owners of Clear Channel. So he controls right wing radio right now. Thatâ€™s why all of the flip flopping is not really being exposed. Unless youâ€™re watching the Daily Show or the Colbert Report.â€
One member of Occupy Buffalo attended the protest during a visit with family members. She took a vacation from her vacation to speak out against corporate personhood.
â€œHSBC is not a personâ€™s name. Corporations donâ€™t marry, they merge. Halliburton didnâ€™t die in Afghanistan, they didnâ€™t die in Iraq, neither did Exxon Mobil. BP doesnâ€™t have babies, they have bonuses. Corporations donâ€™t die, they get bailed out. When Texas executes a corporation then maybe Iâ€™ll begin to think of corporations as people.â€ U.S. Senator Bill Nelsonâ€™s regional office is located inside the Tampa Federal Courthouse. Nelson was not there during the protest, but his regional director met with protesters on his behalf. Shahra Anderson gave out comment cards to be filled out and returned to the Senator for his consideration.
â€œYour efforts are crossed farther than just Tampa and the next courthouse and wherever else you all are today and where you continue to be. So, we do thank you for your service of democracy and thatâ€™s what weâ€™re here for so we appreciate it.â€
Protesters also brought up the National Defense Authorization Act to Nelsonâ€™s representative. The NDAA could allow United Stateâ€™s citizens to be indefinitely detained by the military. Move to Amendâ€™s Christine Wall said she would not vote for any candidate who supported it. However Wall was most disappointed in Nelson officeâ€™s lack of knowledge.
â€œNot really when they come out here and they donâ€™t even know if he voted for the NDAA or not and they donâ€™t know what the NDAA is. Thatâ€™s just a human body without any information or intellect or motivation behind it thatâ€™s real. Itâ€™s just like, â€˜oh, here we are, weâ€™re representatives, letâ€™s take your comments even though we have no idea what youâ€™re talking aboutâ€™. I mean that to me is not authentic representation. If youâ€™re going to do something you need to be authentic about it or else itâ€™s meaningless.â€
Another item some protesters were concerned about was counting ballots. Move to Amendâ€™s Mark Adams rallied the group by explaining how only two companies provide electronic voting devices used at polling places nationwide. He said going back to more traditional hand-written ballots counted in public would stamp out potential tampering.
â€œThe right to vote includes not only the right to cast a ballot, but also the right to make sure itâ€™s counted. Right now, theyâ€™re counted in secret on a computer so we can never make sure that itâ€™s counted accurately. And actually, all those people in the supervisor of elections office, if you go to your precinct on election day, â€˜hey, can you count those paper ballots to make sure that total from that computer is correct?â€™ They will tell you no, they cannot count it.â€
Tampa protesters gathered peacefully in front of Sam Gibbons Federal Courthouse without interference from security or law enforcement. However, a group in New York City was denied a permit to protest at their Federal Courthouse.