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When communities try to keep corporations from engaging in activities they don’t want, they often find they don’t have the legal power to say “no.” Why? Because our current legal structure too often protects the “rights” of corporations over the rights of actual human beings.
If we are to elevate our rights and the rights of our communities above those of a corporate few, we, too, need to transform the way laws work.
As we wrote in Turning Occupation into Lasting Change, mainstream progressive groups have failed by constraining their activities within legal and regulatory systems purposefully structured to subordinate communities to corporate power. Truly effective movements don’t operate that way. Abolitionists never sought to regulate the slave trade; they sought to transform the legal structure that supported it by treating slaves as property rather than people under the law. Suffragists did the same with the legal status of women.This style of organizing moves away from traditional activism-mired in letter writing campaigns and lowest common denominator federal and state legislation-toward a new activism in which communities claim the right to make their own decisions, directly.
To help them do so, we’re offering the model Community Bill of Rights template below, a legislative template for communities that want to protect their own rights. It’s based on real laws already passed from the municipal to the national level-from Pittsburgh stripping drilling corporations of Constitutional “rights” to Ecuador including legal rights for nature in its Constitution. Think of the template as a menu to pick and choose what’s important in your community. It’s meant to provide a framework and a starting point, not necessarily to be used in its entirety.