CLANCY: The Journey Ends but Quest Has Just Begun

October 26, 2010
Barbara Clancy

Joined by family and fellow activists, and cheered by demonstrators and curious onlookers alike, Laird and Robin Monahan finished their cross-country walk Wednesday, October 20, with a clarion cal to “follow in their footsteps” and build locally for a national movement to amend the Constitution to end corporate personhood.

The day began on the Virginia side of the Potomac, at Arlington National Cemetery, where supporters assembled the Backbone Campaign's massive reproduction of the Constitution preamble. Hand-painted on muslin, and featuring hundreds of signatures, it made the trip across the river and up the steps of the Lincoln Memorial on the shoulders of a half-dozen supporters.

At the top terrace, supporters raised the Preamble above the spectators, while others rolled its 100’ length down the Lincoln Memorial steps. Move to Amend supporters began signing it, and urged spectators to sign as well. While a few tourists were clearly suspicious, more were happy to sign, especially once they learned about the Monahans and the issue that drove them to spend so many months on the road.

If you’ve been following their blog or have read about them before on Move to Amend  or in other media, you probably know that prior to their walk, neither Laird nor Robin were full-time or even part-time political activists—Laird has said the most political thing he did prior to the walk was to put a candidate’s sign up in his front yard. But, says Laird, the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision got him moving like nothing before—literally.

“I was devastated by the decision and I was looking for a place to put my anger,” he said. “And I had decided that I really needed to get in touch with the American people to wake them up to what was happening to their Constitution, that it had been turned into a fraud….my country is calling me back into service and I have to go.”

And while pundits have never given the people much credit for being interested in campaign finance, the Monahans found that all along their route citizens are aware and concerned about overweening corporate influence on elections, and what huge amounts of cash—including anonymous donations—will mean when elected officials have to choose between the profits of a few or the good of all. David Cobb noted that Move to Amend could always tell where the brothers were because as soon as they left, people started calling the coalition wanting to know more about what they could do to help.

Concern about corporate personhood spans the political spectrum as well. Laird recalled a Tea Party “meet the candidates” picnic they attended in Grand Junction, Colorado, where the brothers asked the candidates present whether they’d support a Constitutional amendment barring corporate usurpation of personhood rights. The candidates all gave their support, although Laird suspects they were “pandering because they were all doubtful that they’d ever have to make such a vote.” The Tea Party supporters, though, were “absolutely supportive” of an amendment. “They knew the issue, they knew corporations were taking over government.”

Along with Laird and Robin, the rally heard from David Swanson of Progressive Democrats of America, Bill Moyer from the Backbone Campaign, Greg Coleridge of the American Friends Service Committee, and David Cobb. Tom Emlyn Williams, a friend of the Monahans from their days in a choir at home, was there to lead the demonstrators in singing the National Anthem.

Nancy Price, of Alliance for Democracy, read a congratulatory statement from climate activist and author Bill McKibben, who some ten years ago took part in the Democracy Brigade actions, in which activists stood in protest in the Capitol Rotunda to focus attention on the need for campaign finance reform and clean elections. He saluted the brothers for following in the footsteps of Doris “Granny D” Haddock, adding “this witness has never been more necessary… across America people are repulsed by this spectacle, but we need leaders to remind us what united citizens (as opposed to Citizens United) really looks like!”

Rain at the close of the rally forced a quick roll-up of the Preamble, but it will very likely be out again in DC to mark the 1st anniversary of the Citizens United decision this January. But the rain didn’t dampen the enthusiasm of a dozen or so Move to Amend supporters who walked up the Mall to assemble a second Backbone Campaign visual—a set of cloth banners some eight feet high and three feet wide that spelled out “For Sale” on one side and “Corporations do not equal We the People” on the other.

Set up at the end of the Mall with the Capitol in the background, and again on the lawn between the Capitol and the Supreme Court, the signs put into words what we’ve known for far too long. As Laird reiterated at that evening’s celebration, “the footprints that Granny D left in the dust must be renewed again and again…. We must wake the entire nation and battle against the tyrants who would steal our taxes and representation in our own government. I ask you all to look inward at the patriotic citizen inside and devote your own footsteps to this cause.”

Barbara Clancy is national office coordinator for Alliance for Democracy (www.thealliancefordemocracy.org), a Move to Amend steering committee member organization.