On Monday August 9th at 2:30pm, several of our Iowa Move To Amend (IA MTA) folks departed Des Moines for a rally in Kansas City, Missouri, three hours away, and participated in the 6:00 pm rally to welcome the Monahan Brothers at the Plaza Fountain in downtown Kansas City. The Plaza is in the heart of corporate Kansas City, surrounded by a very decorative campus of big corporate stores and restaurants and the gigantic 'anchor' corporate entity in Kansas City, Hallmark Corporation.
Over 100 people stood up for “Abolishing Corporate Personhood.” Signs and banners were abundant, and a women’s drum circle welcomed rally participants. Water was provided at this scorching hot evening. Folk singers sang about 'Corporate Kings' and Corporate Personhood as a threat to democracy. Speakers from the Green Party, the AFSC, and the local independent television station spoke. I spoke too, as a representative of the National Move To Amend Steering Committee, and so did Laird Monahan who is walking across America this summer with his brother Robin.
The Monahan brothers are trying to raise awareness of rising grassroots opposition to the Supreme Court decision (Citizens United vs. the Federal Election Commission) that lifted the last remnants of restraint on corporate contributions to elections. Laird and Robin are Vietnam vets up in arms about corporate interference in America’s democratic system. They are walking across the country—from San Francisco to Washington, DC—in a remarkable display of citizenship to educate and mobilize their fellow Americans about the dangers of corporate personhood.
Laird cited the huge threat to democracy such unregulated gifts from huge corporations with unlimited wealth and power pose to our democracy and electoral system and implored the public to get involved--join Move To Amend and get busy working on this issue, so central to the success or failure of so many other issues. Robin Monahan circulated throughout the crowd distributing literature and taking donations. Mary Lindsey, organizer extraordinaire, was the MC and did a great job keeping speakers on point. Riley Gardam stood waving at cars, decked out in a red one-piece bathing suit, high heels, a tiara, a sash that read "I MISS DEMOCRACY" and a sign that said, "Are you tired of Corporate Rule?" The rally, including Riley's beauty queen street theater made it onto the evening and nightly news in Kansas City.
After the rally many of us gathered for a traditional Kansas City BBQ dinner with the Monahan Brothers. We talked about the future, exchanged names of contacts who might help arrange a similar rally in St. Louis and the need for some specific preparations for a Chicago stop for the boys. Riley got to meet the men she's been working with all summer: she locates media along their route across Route 50 and contacts television, radio and newspapers and coordinates with the Monahans.
Plans were floated for many of us to go to DC in October for a rally to mark the end of the Monahan trek and the beginning of our efforts to abolish corporate personhood by demanding a constitutional amendment.
Our Des Moines contingent stayed overnight at a nearby hotel, and we left Kansas City early next morning in order to make it back to Des Moines in time for a noon Rally on the west steps of the Capitol building. The rally in Des Moines was a collaborative effort between Women’s International League for Peace & Freedom, Iowa Move To Amend, MoveOn, and Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement.
We had about 70 people show up on one of the hottest days in memory... in direct overhead sun... and two television stations covered our Rally, although neither of these corporate owned giants broadcast the report.
Folks are angry, concerned and ready to pitch in and get engaged over this issue. It's the moment to strike while the iron is as hot as the weather! ICCI, Women's International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF), MoveOn and Iowa Move To Amend will be meeting soon to plan future collaborations. Among other groups who showed up to demonstrate their support for this rally were: Iowa Physicians for Social Responsibility, Catholic Peace Ministry, American Friends Service Committee and Progressive Coalition of Central Iowa.
Tonight we had our usual monthly Iowa MTA meeting and are moving forward with plans to take our story to local church groups. The Iowa Environmental Council will be holding their big annual conference on Oct. 15th and will be bringing in Bill McKibben to speak. This will be very well attended. We talked about having a table for IA MTA at the conference, using the opportunity to connect with lots of folks who care about the environment and to promote David Cobb's visit to Iowa in November.
We are organizing contacts in WILPF and the Green Party to welcome the Monahans to St. Louis and to meet with Justin Krebs on his Des Moines book tour on August 20th for Drinking Liberally.
It's been an exhausting couple of days but we are all feeling really good about the efforts and impact we are having locally in the Midwest!
Marybeth Gardam is a member of the Des Moines WILPF and serves on the leadership team of the National WILPF Corporations vs. Democracy Committee. She represents WILPF on the Move to Amend Steering Committee.