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A New Civil Rights Movement: Liberating Our Communities from Corporate Control

For related articles and more information, please visit OCA's Politics and Democracy page and our Pennsylvania News page.

To protect small and family farms from industrial factory farms, over a decade ago a handful of Pennsylvania townships picked a fight with some of the country's largest agribusiness corporations. Recognizing that the state and federal government, rather than protecting them from factory farms, were in fact forcing them into communities, the townships took the unprecedented step of banning corporate farming with in their borders .

Thus began the journey to spark a new civil rights movement - one aimed at elevating the right of communities over the "rights" of corporations to use communities for their own ends.

In a departure from the usual David and Goliath story, with one tiny community battling a giant corporation, today there are over 150 "Davids" in eight states that have followed the lead of those Pennsylvania townships. Community by community, they've banned corporate "fracking" for shale gas, factory farming, sludge dumping, large - scale water withdrawals, and industrial - scale energy projects.

But they're not intent on simply stopping the immediate threat of fracking or factory farming. Rather, they're adopting Community Bills of Rights that ban such projects as violations of the community's right to a sustainable energy and farming future. And to protect those Bills of Rights, they are legislatively overturning a slew of corporate legal doctrines - like corporate "personhood" - that have been concocted over the past century to keep communities from interfering with corporate prerogatives.

These communities believe that if ten thousand other localities do the same, that those tremors will begin to shake loose a new system of law - a system in which courts and legislatures begin to elevate comm unity rights above corporate rights, and thus, begin to liberate cities and towns to build economically and environmentally sustainable communities free from corporate interference.

Last week, a Pennsylvania county court gave this new movement a boost - declaring that corporations are not "persons" under the Pennsylvania Constitution, and therefore, that corporations cannot elevate their "private rights" above the rights of people. 


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