It was the sixteenth anniversary of the Million Man March, October 16, 2011, and thousands gathered in Washington for a ceremony dedicating the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial. Steve Justino, co-chair of Colorado's Move to Amend, remembers sitting by his computer in Colorado losing sleep -- he and his colleagues had been tirelessly pondering how they would mark the second anniversary of the Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission decision. The January 21 anniversary needed to be memorable and it needed to make a mark if they wanted to take action to reform the Constitution.
"I saw him on the news and I thought to myself, 'Bingo!'" Justino says, recalling the moment when he first saw a broadcast of Princeton professor Cornel West being arrested for a demonstration on the steps of the Supreme Court. "We needed to do something that fed off of this."
After watching Dr. West's performance outside of the Washington landmark, Justino came up with the idea to perform a nationwide sit-in outside of federal Courthouses across the United States.
He announced the idea to his Move to Amend partners and they asked him to head the movement, which is now known as Occupy the Courts -- Move to Amend's declared national day of protest on January 20 (courts are closed on the 21st).
Justino was hesitant to accept the leadership position, since he had never before organized a movement on a national scale. "You better watch what you wish for, because you just might get it," Justino laughed.
Yet this week marks the success of an idea that spread nationwide. "At the beginning of November, we had only four cities participating," but as of Monday, "we have hit the hundred mark. It's success beyond my wildest imagination"
The nationwide Occupy the Courts demonstration on the 20th will put the spotlight on Move to Amend's 28th Proposed Amendment. It reads:
Section 1 [Corporations are not people and can be regulated]
The rights protected by the Constitution of the United States are the rights of natural persons only.
Artificial entities, such as corporations, limited liability companies, and other entities, established by the laws of any State, the United States, or any foreign state shall have no rights under this Constitution and are subject to regulation by the People, through Federal, State, or local law.
The privileges of artificial entities shall be determined by the People, through Federal, State, or local law, and shall not be construed to be inherent or inalienable.
Section 2 [Money is not speech and can be regulated] Federal, State and local government shall regulate, limit, or prohibit contributions and expenditures, including a candidate's own contributions and expenditures, for the purpose of influencing in any way the election of any candidate for public office or any ballot measure.
Federal, State and local government shall require that any permissible contributions and expenditures be publicly disclosed.
The judiciary shall not construe the spending of money to influence elections to be speech under the First Amendment.
Section 3 Nothing contained in this amendment shall be construed to abridge the freedom of the press
According to the Move to Amend website, Denver protestors will gather on the West Steps of the State Capital at 10:30 a.m. on the day of protest. The movement will march down the 16th Street Mall and finish at the United States Court of Appeals building at 18th and Stout Street. At its final destination, the group plans to duct tape the amendment to the Courthouse door. An after-party at the Mercury Café will follow.
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Speakers expected at Occupy the Courts include Justino, former state senator Ken Gordon, Occupy Denver's Tanner Spendly and Elena Nunez from Common Cause.
Justino said he predicts a turnout of up to 1,000 demonstrators, depending on the weather. But a much larger projection is set for the coming years.
"Over the next year or two, I think it will grow to the point where politicians can't ignore it anymore," he says.
More from our Occupy Denver archive: "Occupy Denver and the Colorado Progressive Coalition take on Wells Fargo, Tom Donohue."