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Arcata, California Resolution Regarding Corporate Personhood


Resolution Text


Arcata City Council Passes Resolution Against Corporate Personhood

ARCATA On Wednesday, May 20, 2004, the northern California city of Arcata passed a resolution declaring Corporate Personhood illegitimate and undemocratic. The resolution calls for town hall meetings to develop legislation that would prohibit corporations from using Corporate Personhood to challenge Arcata laws that restrict corporations. Seventy-five Arcatans and supporting Humboldt County residents packed City Hall to influence the Councils decision.


Dana Silvernale, of the local chapter of The Womens League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) addressed the Council; The salient issue at hand is the question of who shall govern this country, the people or the corporations. When Robert Reich, former Secretary of Labor under President Clinton, was here last month, he emphasized the importance of building a grassroots movement to take back our democracy. He said the way to do this is to begin by organizing locally with our city and county governments. We are asking you to join us in this effort.


I would like to know how many of the people present support this resolution. Kaitlin Sopoci-Belknap, director of Democracy Unlimited of Humboldt County (DUHC) asked the audience. All but three raised their hands.

Corporate Personhood is the legal doctrine that grants Constitutional rights to corporations. Proponents of the Arcata resolution argue that Corporate Personhood was illegitimately granted by the Supreme Court in 1886, with no opportunity for public debate. Arcatas resolution will take steps toward fostering that much needed democratic discussion.

Arcata has had success with town hall meetings in the past, using it to form the Committee on Democracy and Corporations (which brought the Corporate Personhood resolution to the City Council). Town hall meetings also informed the decision to pass an ordinance against the USA PATRIOT ACT.

This resolution expresses our philosophical opposition to corporate personhood. Within the town hall meeting format, we will seek to build community consensus around specific measures we may take to guarantee our inalienable rights as individuals and our fair voice in the democratic process. We hope that our success in passing a resolution will encourage other communities to begin having discussions about how they can limit excesses in corporate power, said Councilmember Dave Meserve.

The Womens International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) has a national campaign to encourage fifty cities to adopt resolutions against Corporate Personhood. Berkeley, CA will be considering passing a similar resolution in June, and Arcatas action is pivotal in inspiring other communities. More about the campaign and WILPF can be obtained at

Democracy Unlimited of Humboldt County (DUHC) works at the local level to assert democratic authority over corporations. More information about Democracy Unlimited, can be found at






WHEREAS, the citizens of the City of Arcata hope to nurture and expand democracy in our community and our nation. Democracy means governance by the people. Only persons who are human beings should be able to participate in the democratic process; and

WHEREAS, interference in the democratic process by corporations usurps the rights of citizens to govern; and

WHEREAS, corporations are artificial entities separate and apart from human beings. Corporations are not naturally endowed with consciousness or the rights of human beings. Corporations are creations of law and are only permitted to do what is authorized under law; and


WHEREAS, corporations claim to be persons, possessing the rights of personhood, including free speech and other constitutional freedoms guaranteed by the Bill of Rights and the 14th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States; and

WHEREAS, corporations presuming such rights of personhood have influenced and interfered with democratic processes by lobbying and pressuring our legislative bodies, making campaign contributions which dominate election campaigns, and using the media to substitute corporate values for community and family values; and


WHEREAS, Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black stated in a 1938 opinion, I do not believe the word person in the 14th Amendment includes corporations; and

WHEREAS, corporations are not mentioned in the Constitution. The people have never granted constitutional rights to corporations, nor have we decreed that corporations have authority that exceeds the authority of the people of the United States.

NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the City Council of the City of Arcata believes that no corporation should be deemed a person and therefore that no corporation should be entitled to the same rights and protections as those guaranteed only to persons under the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the City Council of the City of Arcata supports education to increase public awareness of the threats to our democracy posed by corporate personhood, and the Council encourages lively discussion to build understanding and consensus on appropriate community and municipal responses to those threats.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the City Council of the City of Arcata supports the Committee on Democracy and Corporations in hosting town meetings to draft an ordinance or ordinances addressing the legal fiction of corporate personhood and other threats corporations pose to our democracy in Arcata.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the City Council of the City of Arcata authorizes sending copies of this resolution to our elected representatives.