Occupy Congress, the “new and improved” Occupy Wall Street movement, started Tuesday, aptly chosen to correspond with the first session of the 2012 House of Representatives. People from all over the U.S. are joining together in front of the Capitol, and demanding an end to government-sponsored corporate greed. An array of subjects are scheduled to be discussed during the protests, but none as central as the topic of corporate personhood.
Until now, one of the major weaknesses of OWS has been the disorganization within the group itself, bringing together too many individuals without a specific purpose or intent. Occupy Congress now gives the protesters a clearly defined target and purpose behind their actions, and allows the general public the chance to identify with movements’ goals. As the group becomes more organized, the issues they represent deserve to be taken more seriously, as subjects such as corporate money in Capital Hill directly influence not only the legislation passed, but in turn, our daily lives.
With more than 30 activist groups, and a Facebook following of over 11,000 people, Occupy Congress has the potential to be one of the largest and most organized protests since the beginning of the OWS movement in fall of last year. Not only did the group secure a month-long permit to peacefully demonstrate, but part of Tuesday's program includes one-on-one, prearranged appointments with local lawmakers and Representatives. This direct form of Democracy is a first for the group, and gives individuals a chance to have a legitimate and productive discussion with the people responsible for the issues they are protesting.
Throughout the teach-ins and demonstrations, the theme of Occupy Congress is clear, “Our main message is that our elected officials are no longer representing the people and that’s largely due to corporate money running the show on the Hill,” said Mario Lozada, a 25-year-old immigration lawyer from Philadelphia. When first organizing the protest, members wrote:
We are coming because of the corruption.
We are coming because of the bribery.
We are coming to remind congress that they work for the people.
Corporate personhood, and the ability to classify money (and campaign contributions) as “free speech,” is a key subject for both OWS and Occupy Congress, so much so that they recently drafted a constitutional amendment ending the "judicial fiction of corporate Constitutional rights." While OWS obviously doesn’t have the power to amend the Constitution, the draft serves as a reference point for the protests, and as a symbol of the progress the movement has made towards a unifying goal.
While the movement advocates strong and necessary reform, will it be enough to reach the ears of Congress? The Occupy movement raises awareness for people who already know how to listen, and for serious changes to be made, Congress will need more than a few thousand people to remember that 99% is bigger than 1%, even if their wallets are not. Hopefully the organization and momentum within the Occupy movement continues, and given this protests central location, raises enough awareness to unanimously demand the government’s hands out of corporate pockets.
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