Waving flags and signs, protesters lining Ojai Avenue in Ojai on Saturday met with a receptive audience as they protested "corporate personhood."
They gathered signatures for a constitutional amendment that would define a person as a living human being and overturn action by the U.S. Supreme Court finding that corporate entities have individual rights.
As supporters honked horns and shouted in encouragement, Bill Haff of Abolish Corporate Personhood Ojai Valley, which organized the protest, said it was one of a series of nationwide events. The events were organized by various groups in support of Move to Amend, a coalition of organizations opposing the 2010 Supreme Court decision in Citizens United v. the Federal Election Commission. That ruling says limits on spending by corporations or unions for political purposes are violations of free-speech rights.
More than 40 people, including members of Veteran for Peace and Occupy protesters, lined both sides of Ojai Avenue near Libbey Park. A few people had signs where highways 33 and 150 meet.
Ojai Mayor Betsy Clapp mingled with participants.
"I'm absolutely in support. It's about the individual rights for individual citizens to be heard and participate in the governing of our nation without the undue influence of corporations — with their power, assets and large amounts of money," she said.
Haff said he and other group members got word out about the protest by using social media such as Facebook, and attending an Ojai City Council meeting to invite the community.
"We're here to do two things. We're getting signatures for an amendment to the Constitution defining personhood as humans only," he said, adding that the second purpose was to educate people on the issue.
"It will require a social change," he said.
Haff said Abolish Corporate Personhood of the Ojai Valley is geared toward just one issue, unlike the Occupy protesters.
"The Occupy protests highlight the disparity in wealth in the country. We are separate organizations, although there is a bit of an overlap," he said.
Volunteer Liz Cole of Ojai said people had been enthusiastic about signing the petitions.
"Some of them just came here to sign the petition because they knew we were going to be here," Cole said, adding that the people she had run into seemed to be knowledgeable about the issue.
Nancy and Nick Oatway of Ojai made sure to sign the petition before doing some shopping.
"I signed because I don't feel a corporation is a person, and I want to see the Supreme Court decision rescinded," Nick Oatway said.
At Kava Gifts, in-house designer Philip Brocious said the protest, which spilled into the Ojai Arcade, hadn't affected business.
"People come in talking about it. It's a conversation piece, but they're not being disruptive, except for people honking," Brocious said, adding that he was sympathetic to the protesters' message.
After the protest, the group planned to head to the Village Jester, where musicians were planning to serenade the post-protest crowd.
"It's just more socializing for people who turned out. It's an after-party where we'll pass the hat to pay musicians," Haff said.