Rallies mark second anniversary of Supreme Court decision against Federal Election Commission

January 20, 2012|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD |
  • A protester make his point of view known Friday across from federal courthouse in Martinsburg, W.Va.
By Kevin G. Gilbert/Staff Photographer

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — About 40 people rallied outside the federal courthouse in Martinsburg Friday to protest a 2010 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that opponents claim is allowing corporations to dangerously infiltrate the political process.

The rally was similar to another one held Friday at the federal courthouse in Charleston and other "occupy" courthouse protests planned in more than 100 cities across the nation to protest the high court's decision in Citizens United v. FEC.

The rallies marked the second anniversary of the Supreme Court decision against the Federal Election Commission that removed most limits on corporate and labor spending in federal elections, allowing private groups to spend huge amounts on campaigns.

Chanting "corporations and the state, we demand you separate," the protesters lined West King Street in Martinsburg at the intersection of Maple Avenue as temperatures hovered in the 20s.

"It is the demise of our Republic ... as long the people don't have a good way to get their opinions heard, if only money is heard, then we're in trouble as a country," said Carol Lynn Jones, 64, of Martinsburg.

A retired social worker, Jones cited statistics she said showed that the middle class has seen its salaries "flat-lining" in the last 30 years, while the Wall Street "gang" are making record profits.

Joe Gray, 67, of Martinsburg said he wants to get the government back to the people and away from the influence of money.

Gray, who has been rallying with Occupy Martinsburg since the loosely organized group formed last fall, said he is concerned about the direction the nation is going.

"I just see the gross injustices that are happening," said Gray, noting that he was bothered by the destruction of the environment, the shipping of millions of American jobs overseas, and the lack of concern and greed among big corporations.

"I don't know why people aren't outraged by the fact that you go to the big stores, you can't find anything made in America anymore."

"You used to be proud of the fact that we made our stuff right here in this country," said Gray, a retired government worker.

Joyce Knight of Clarke County, Va., held a sign criticizing  Haliburton, a company that became embroiled in controversies involving the Iraq War and its ties to former Vice President Dick Cheney.

Knight said the company's actions not only have contributed to the downward spiral of the United States, but to Iraq as well.

Semiretired Rie Wilson of Shepherdstown said she was rallying because it was time to take a stand.

"We're just plain citizens who feel like, that's it, enough's enough," Wilson said. "The money that's going into political campaigns is completely perverting what our political campaigns should be about. Corporations are not people."

 In Charleston, more than 50 people gathered outside the courthouse, some holding signs while the crowd listened to live music. One sign read: "People have the power to redeem the work of fools. Overturn 'Citizens United.'"

"Corporations are treated like people, and we're not," said Linda Chapman, a 68-year-old retired teacher who traveled to Charleston with her husband from their home in London, Ohio, to attend the rally.

More than 50 of the 64 Democrats in West Virginia's 100-seat House of Delegates co-sponsored a resolution Friday opposing the Citizens United ruling. They were joined by two Republicans.

Democrats in the state Senate, where that party also holds the majority, submitted a similar measure Friday as well.

In Maryland, Maryland Democratic Reps. Christopher Van Hollen and John Sarbanes have joined Democratic state lawmakers in pushing for a U.S. constitutional amendment to overturn the Citizens United case.

Van Hollen and Sarbanes were in Annapolis on Thursday to launch a campaign to gather signatures opposing the ruling.

Van Hollen said the court's decision could lead to a corporate takeover of the Democratic process.

Sarbanes admits it won't be easy.

A constitutional amendment requires a two-thirds vote in both houses of Congress. Then, three-fourths of the state legislatures would have to approve it.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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