Several Occupy groups around the Midwest have turned to the courts to contest encampment evictions and demand the abolishment of corporate personhood, specifically the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision, which allows unlimited corporate money to flood the political system and corrupt the democratic process.
“Corporations dominate the political process through political action committees, high-paid lobbyists and multi-million dollar contributions by the wealthy 1 percent," Kaitlin Sopoci-Belknap, national field organizer for Move to Amend, said in news release. "On the most critical issues that impact our everyday lives, corporate interests are defeating critical policies to protect We the People and the planet.”
Move to Amend is a broad-based coalition working to gain public support for the destruction of corporate personhood. Its volunteers, along with other Occupy groups across the nation, will carry the message to the federal judiciary with Jan. 20 actions at federal courthouses, including the Supreme Court, called Occupy the Courts.
The Supreme Court issued Citizens United in a 5-4 decision on Jan. 21, 2010. It overturned two longstanding precedents that allowed governments to limit political spending by corporations and unions in candidate elections. It also repealed parts of 2002 McCain-Feingold campaign contributions law that limited corporate and labor union advertising within 30 days before a presidential primary and within 60 days of general elections.
Occupy Louisville protesters are among those challenging in court the government's authority to evict them from their encampment at Founder’s Square. Their permit expired at the start of 2012, and since then they have sought an injunction to prevent city officials from evicting protesters and their tents from the site they have been encamped at since November.
"On the most critical issues that impact our everyday lives, corporate interests are defeating critical policies to protect We the People and the planet." - Kaitlin Sopoci-Belknap, Move to Amend
In addition to the injunction request, Occupy Louisville has filed a lawsuit against the city seeking that it be required to permit protesters and their tents to remain in the park 24 hours a day and to dismiss the daytime-only protest restrictions.
The Jefferson County Attorney's Office moved the hearing from Jefferson Circuit Court to the U.S. District Court in Louisville on Jan. 5, according to a Jan. 5 Courier-Journal article.
“We made a motion in federal court to have the case brought from Circuit Court, and that was accepted, and that’s with the full communication of the counsel for Occupy Louisville,” spokesman Bill Patterson said in a Jan. 5 WFPL News story.
Since the U.S. Constitution protects freedom of speech, the request for the encampment to remain at the small park on Fifth Street and Muhammad Ali Blvd. would be most appropriately heard in federal court, he said in the Courier-Journal.
Louisville Metro government officials have consistently asserted that they will reissue a permit only for daytime protest, and that tents and overnight encampments are prohibited. However, the injunction will delay any city action against demonstrators until protester arguments have been heard before a federal court, according to WFPL News.
No federal court hearing date has been set.
Occupy Pittsburgh protesters are in court fighting a lawsuit from Bank of New York Mellon Corp., whose officials claim that protesters must leave the Mellon Green Park in downtown Pittsburgh because it is private property. Occupy Pittsburgh’s legal team argues that the park is a public forum open to extended citizen demonstrations since it was built using public subsidies and as a public plaza, according to a Jan. 10 Essential Public Radio story.
"Occupy Louisville protesters are among those challenging government authority in court."
“We’re claiming that, even though this is technically private property, it looks, acts and appears to be like any other sidewalk in downtown Pittsburgh, which is used for public thoroughfare,” Center for Constitutional Rights President Jules Lobel said for Essential Public Radio.
A court hearing was held on Jan. 10, after which about 100 protesters rallied at the City-County Building in downtown Pittsburgh. Organizers then marched to the BNY Mellon offices for another demonstration, during which no problems or arrests were reported, according to a Jan. 11 Pittsburgh Live story.
“I'm grateful we have the space to do this,” Pittsburgh Occupy member Celeste Taylor said for Pittsburgh Live. “I want us to grow. I don't want us to leave. We have become lobbyists and advocates so we can counter the extraordinary amount of power corporations have."
Diana Petrova can be reached at .