Dressed in a Bank of America costume, Britney Schultz, 22, of Cuyahoga Falls dangled a bag of chocolate-covered gold coins that read: “Money is not speech.”
Nearby, Carol Wagner, 53, of Akron, stood on the curb shouting into a megaphone that “corporations are not people; people are people” to passers-by at Main and Market streets in downtown Akron.
They were taking part in Friday’s “Occupy the Courts” protest, one day before the second anniversary of the Supreme Court ruling that said corporations are persons.
Nearly 20 people braved the cold in front of the John F. Seiberling Federal Building on Main Street in conjunction with other Occupy the Courts demonstrations planned in Cleveland, Columbus, Cincinnati and more than 100 other cities with federal courts in the United States. Protesters said the court ruling allows private groups to spend huge amounts on political campaigns with few restrictions.
The scene in Akron was at times loud but stayed peaceful. Arrests were reported in some cities, including 11 in Washington, D.C.
“There is an unlimited amount of money from corporations backing candidates, 300 million [dollars] was spent in 2010, which was four times the amount spent in 2006,” said Greg Coleridge of the Northeast Ohio American Friends Service Committee. “These laws are drowning out the people without money. There is no democracy when money talks. We are trying to show solidarity and do our part to show that money is not speech.”
Coleridge said they are collecting petitions and plan to approach various city and county councils for legislation in support of amending the Supreme Court ruling.
“Politicians need to work for us, not lobbyists or big money,” said Vicki Sue Algea, 66, of Akron. “But because they have to raise a lot of money to run for office, because that’s the way the game is set up, they are beholding to the people who are giving them large donations.
“Neither the Declaration of Independence nor the Constitution mentions corporations. The Constitution reads, ‘for the people, by the people.’ ”
Penny Owen, 65, of Akron, said: “People don’t read. They get caught up in sound bites and don’t know any more than what they hear in a short message. The way the law reads now, the major corporation sponsors don’t have to identify themselves and are not accountable for what they say, which means they can lie. The big-money backers take the voice away from the little guy. The little guys are not represented.”
Some of the protesters’ signs read: “Great odds, Love is greater than greed,” “End corporate personhood,” “End Corporate Rule” and “Move to AmendOhio.Org.”
Joe Mosyjowski, 60, of Randolph Township, expressed his opinion in a sign filled with photos.
“It means corporations equals people, money equals speech and a horse’s ass equals a hole in the ground,” explained Mosyjowski, who helped organize the protest. “The Supreme Court in its divine wisdom states corporations equal people, that something created is equal to the creator. Does that mean if I make a snowman, it’s a person because I created it? It’s ludicrous. Money can distort speech and drown out democracy.”
Eileen Matias of Akron said she wouldn’t be protesting if she had a job. In fact, she said, she has a button that reads, “If I had a job, I wouldn’t be here.”
“Corporations aren’t even treating people like people,” Matias said. “If it weren’t for people putting the nuts and bolts together of these businesses, they wouldn’t have the money.”
Amid all the corporate protesting, a vendor from a nearby store came with hot coffee to offer the demonstrators in the cold, but for a price: $1.50. She found some eager customers.
Marilyn Miller can be reached at 330-996-3098 or mmiller [at] thebeaconjournal.com.