This news story appeared as a headline on Democracy Now, and kicks off our new series that critiques existing single-issue activism through a lens analyzing corporate constitutional so-called “rights”.
Here’s the brief story as written: Tens of thousands of people took to the streets for Pride marches on Saturday and Sunday in cities across the United States. In multiple cities, LGBT activists, led by queer women of color, staged disruptions of the Pride marches themselves, in order to protest the increasing corporatization of Pride. The D.C. Capital Pride Parade was the site of major disruptions on Saturday, as activists with the group No Justice No Pride blocked the street with a sign reading “War Profiteers have no place in our community.” The group is demanding Pride scale back the police presence at the march and cut ties with its corporate sponsors that profit off war and fossil fuel extraction, including the companies Wells Fargo, Lockheed Martin, BAE Systems and Northrop Grumman.
And here’s our critique of this activism: Because conventional single-issue activist groups tend to not know our history as a nation through the lens of the growth of corporate constitutional “rights”, very few activists are aware that for most of our first century as a nation, it was illegal for a corporation to make a donation to a civic or charitable organization. It was a direct violation of the corporation’s charter (what we refer to today to as Articles of Incorporation). In fact, corporate directors could be charged with a felony if they violated the corporate charter in any significant way. The question that needs to be posed to the No Justice No Pride group is this: Why are you only opposing the Pride Parade being sponsored by war-profiteering and fossil fuel extracting corporations? Why are some corporate sponsors acceptable to you and others not?
We at Community Rights US would like you to imagine how you could support greater structural change and culture shift if you expanded your demand to include a ban on all corporate sponsorship of the annual DC Capitol Pride Parade. Imagine if you led the way towards helping other social justice groups across the country to start demanding what was once the law and culture here – that it’s not legitimate in a democratic republic for business corporations to sponsor civic organizations of any kind. Historically in the US, it was both legally and culturally understood that corporations are our subordinates, with duties and responsibilities to We the People, and that we have the rightful authority to DEFINE what they are allowed and/or required to do to serve the common good. And we can’t afford for our citizens’ organizations to become financially dependent on our subordinate institutions if we are to maintain democratic culture. To learn more about this history, read Taking Care of Business: Citizenship & the Charter of Incorporation.