PDX People’s Climate March

Community Rights PDX officially endorses the PDX People’s Climate March.

When: Sunday, September 21
Location: Gathering begins at 3pm at the Tom McCall Waterfront Park (park bowl just south of Hawthorne bridge @ SW Naito Parkway & SW Madison)

For more information, email PCMinPDX AT gmail.com.

This is an invitation to change everything. To change everything we need everybody.

A better world is within our reach: a world with an economy that works for people and the planet; a world safe from the ravages of climate change; a world with good jobs, clean air and water, and healthy communities.

Join us for the largest climate justice mobilization in history as people take it to the streets across the country and world on September 21, including here in Oregon. With our future on the line and the whole world watching, we’ll take a stand to bend the arc of history.

The time is now. Scientists say that action to save our planet in the next year and a half is critical to our survival. This September, World leaders are gathering in New York City for a UN summit on climate change. Across the country, from New York to Portland, OR, the People’s Climate March will show that we stand together, demanding a better world for ourselves and for generations to come.

This calls for unprecedented collaboration—that’s where you come in.

Join us in solidarity for the People’s Climate March in Portland.

To make a donation to help cover the costs of the PDX People’s Climate March:

Facebook event

We the People are Rising Up – Thomas Linzey in Eugene on June 4th

DATE: Wednesday, June 4th, 2014
TIME: 7:30 PM
LOCATION: The Shedd | 868 High St. Eugene, OR
QUESTIONS? info AT orcommunityrights.org

Everyday people in 200 communities across the United States are beginning to rewrite American constitutional law to elevate the right of local, community self-government above corporate “rights” and powers.

Come listen to their stories, including ones from Oregon, on how they are stepping forward to assert their right to say “no” to GMOs, pesticides, and harmful energy projects like fracking.

Community by community, people are forging their way towards state and federal constitutional change to liberate communities from corporate control and protect the rights of people and nature.

Thomas Linzey is an attorney and the Executive Director of the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF). His work has been featured in the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Mother Jones, The Nation, and he was named, in 2007, as one of Forbes’ magazines’ “Top Ten Revolutionaries.”

Sponsored by the Oregon Community Rights Network and Community Rights Lane County


Tune in to Community Rights TV

Aside from our appearance on Portland’s Public Media station, you can now tune in to our youtube channel. Plenty of interviews, speeches, and events that will help you understand the work of Community Rights. Tune in!

You can also find more in-depth information through our Watch, Listen, & Read section.

And don’t forget to attend a 2-hour introductory workshop to join us in planning a Community Rights strategy for Portland.

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Oregon Community Rights Network Launches, signs Declaration

On September 12th, community members from eight Oregon counties gathered in Corvallis, Oregon, to launch the Oregon Community Rights Network (ORCRN).

Attendees of the Oregon Community Rights Summit released the Corvallis Declaration of Community Rights, calling upon communities across the state to join together in a movement to elevate the rights of people, their communities, and nature above the claimed rights of corporations. This comes with an understanding, as stated in the Declaration, that:

“We the people recognize that our health, safety, welfare, and survival of our local businesses, farms, ecosystems, and neighborhoods depend on restructuring the current system of governance, because it favors corporations over community-based, democratic decision-making …”

The formation of the Oregon Community Rights Network comes out of ongoing and emerging community rights campaigns in eight counties in Western Oregon.

The Network is helping expand community rights organizing to communities across Oregon. Kai Huschke of the Community Environment Legal Defense Fund – an organization working with communities across the country to advance community rights and bring communities together to form state “community rights networks” – explained, “As a growing number of communities face threats including GMOs, coal trains, and corporate water withdrawal, they are reaching the shared conclusion that corporations, along with our state and federal government, have more power to decide what happens in our communities than the people who live there. They are now coming together through the Oregon Community Rights Network to organize for local self-governance to elevate community rights over corporate rights.”

The Oregon Community Rights Network joins Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, New Mexico, and Washington as states with community rights networks supported by the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund. CELDF, headquartered in Mercersburg, PA, has been working with people and communities across the United States and internationally since 1995 to assert fundamental rights to democratic local self-governance, recognize nature’s rights, and end destructive corporate actions aided and abetted by state and federal governments.

Media Contact:

Paul Cienfuegos
paul AT 100fires.com

Democracy School – Enroll for Nov. 15/16/17th

Daniel Pennock Democracy School

Named for a boy in Pennsylvania who died after exposure to sewage sludge, Democracy Schools are intensive seminars that examine how communities across the U.S. are beginning to assert local control to protect the rights of their residents, their communities, and nature.

November 15 (6:30-9:30pm), Nov.16 (9am-5pm) and Nov.17 (9am-4pm)

Price for attendance will depend on number of attendees (~$200 per person). Democracy Schools are a key piece of our community organizing. We’re excited to welcome presenters Kai Huschke, Envision Spokane campaign leader and CELDF staff organizer; and Gail Darrell, CELDF New England lead organizer.

Online registration coming soon. Class limit is 25 people max, so to ensure you have a spot, please send a deposit of $100 by check,
payable to CELDF
Address envelope (not check) to: Patra Conley, 4324 NE 17th Ave, Portland, OR 97211.


Join Us Sept. 21st and 22nd

Be the Change: How to Get What You Want in Your Community

Thomas Linzey, a founder of the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund and co-author of “Be the Change” is coming to Portland for events on Saturday and Sunday, September 21 and 22:



Saturday, September 21st

Ballot Initiative Campaign Kickoff Event
Ban Growing of GMOs in Multnomah County

Fundraiser Dinner (5 PM, ahead of Thomas’ Talk, RSVP only)

(Having trouble getting tickets?)

Sunday, September 22nd

Topic: Why Not Local Democracy?

On Saturday night, join Community Rights PDX in a kickoff party to launch a ballot initiative campaign banning the growing of GMOs in Multnomah County! There will be a pre-event catered dinner with limited seating at 5:30 PM (doors open at 5) followed by a presentation and discussion with Thomas Linzey at 7 PM that is open to the public (doors open at 6:40 pm).

Community rights dinner image

Fundraiser dinner

Enjoy an intimate, locally-sourced, seasonal dinner (allergen-friendly) with Thomas Linzey from 5-6:30 pm.  The seats for this dinner are filling up fast, so be sure to register and buy your dinner ticket now through the Permaculture PDX MeetUp. It includes dinner, a drink, and a chance to chat one-on-one with Thomas Linzey. The food will be served by a top-notch local caterer. The cider is provided by Reverend Nat’s Cidery in NE Portland. It is also locally-sourced and gluten-free.

Thomas Linzey image

Thomas Linzey

At 7 pm, Thomas Linzey will give a presentation about how he has helped over 150 communities to reclaim their rights from corporations. There will be a chance to ask questions afterwards, and local beer and cider will be served while you have a chance to talk and mingle with people interested in this groundbreaking movement.  Entry is a sliding scale from $5-50 with no one turned away for lack of funds. The proceeds for this event will help Community Rights PDX to prepare for a ballot initiative campaign to ban the growing of GMOs in Multnomah County.

The very next night, don’t miss a rare opportunity to listen to and ask questions of the nation’s leading expert on dismantling corporate constitutional “rights” and creating in its place truly democratic governance structures. Thomas Linzey will talk at 6 pm, doors open at 5:30 on Sunday, September 22nd, 2013 at First Unitarian Church.

There will be local organizations tabling, and a chance to meet local people who are interested in campaign finance reform and reclaiming political power for our local community and limiting corporate harm.  Entry is a sliding scale from $5-20 with no one turned away for lack of funds.

Our Co-sponsors:    


Thomas Linzey events flyer

Help us spread the word. Print and share the flyer.

Having trouble RSVPing for the fundraiser dinner? Follow these instructions:

To purchase tickets for the dinner or lecture:
1. visit http://www.meetup.com/Portland-Permaculture-Meetup/
2. Click the green button that says “Join us”
You will become a member of the Portland Permaculture Meet-up Group, which is designed to be an interface for community building and educational opportunities such as the Thomas Linzey event.  The meet-up group sends 2 initial welcome emails and then another event confirmation email.  After that, you should only receive one email about every 2 weeks giving information about upcoming events.  If you do not wish to remain a member of the Meet-up group, you can unsubscribe by clicking that option at the end of the next Meet-up email that you receive.  
3. If you are already a member of Meet-up, log in.  Once you are a member and logged in, go to the home page of the Meet-up group.
4. Click on the event for which you want to purchase tickets.  On the right side of the screen, there will be a green button that says “Yes” to the question ‘Will you attend?’  Click the green “yes” button.
5. Once you click “yes”, payment/rsvp instructions will appear on your screen and will walk you through the registration process.
If you have trouble with registration or if you are receiving more emails from Meet-up than indicated above, please email Kelly at talonyarrow AT gmail.com.  We hope to see you next Saturday!

Banning GMOs: The New Civil Rights Movement

Banning GMOs

The New Civil Rights Movement
Article | | By Kai Huschke

As the fight over genetically modified canola and other GM crops escalates in the Willamette Valley, a group of farmers and neighbors in Benton County have spent the past year talking about how to stop GMOs.

They’ve asked the question that people across the country ask when faced with corporate threats — such as GMOs, fracking or water privatization — how do we say no?

Traditional environmental activism would have them writing letters to elected officials, submitting public comments on proposed GMO plans and testifying at hearings.

This kind of activism is based on the assumption that we have the legal authority to decide what happens in our communities. And from this, that if we build enough support in opposition to unsustainable practices such as GMOs, then the folks who run things will take heed and respond.

The problem is that this simply isn’t true.

As folks in Benton County are finding out, this kind of activism won’t stop GMOs. And so they’re taking a different path, which is forcing them to dig deeper than they ever imagined into how and for whom our system of law works, placing them side-by-side with hundreds of other communities in what may become this country’s new civil rights movement.


Bringing Down the Hammers

Corporations have painstakingly constructed a system of law — through the use of public institutions including the courts, state legislatures, and Congress — to ensure we can’t stop threats such as GMOs, and chilling community efforts by punishing us when we step outside the box they’ve constructed for us.

To maintain the box, corporations have devised four large hammers, which they use on us when we dare to say things like “we don’t want GMOs here” and seek to drive that idea into local law.

The first hammer is called Dillon’s Rule, named for a railroad lawyer who wanted a legal doctrine that would put a halt to municipal “interference” with railroad expansion. Under Dillon’s Rule, communities can’t enact any laws unless our state legislatures say we can. Our municipalities are thus subordinated to the position of “children” to our state “parent,” only able to do what we are told. If we do otherwise, corporations clobber us with Dillon’s Rule, suing us for acting outside our authority.

The second hammer involves our legislatures (and occasionally Congress), banning communities from adopting certain kinds of laws. At the behest of industry, our legislatures routinely draft laws that preempt communities from having decision-making authority over things like factory farming and fracking. Here in Oregon, Big Ag is seeking to have the Legislature pass a bill preempting communities from making any decisions about GMOs.

When these first two hammers fail to sufficiently smash us, corporations have two more at their disposal. The first is “corporate personhood.” Beginning in the 1800s, by pressure from railroad and other corporations, federal judges began to recognize corporations as “persons” for purposes of constitutional rights. Today, corporations routinely wield these “rights” to override community lawmaking.

The fourth hammer comes when corporations wield our own civil rights laws — written to protect freed slaves – against us. Under these laws, corporations demand monetary damages from communities that challenge their authority to engage in fracking or other harmful activities.

Thus, if we seek to pass local laws to stop GMOs, we must dodge all four hammers to be deemed “legal”; yet affected corporations triumph even when only one hammer hits home.


Running Around the Hamster Wheel

The big environmental organizations have mostly decided to work within these limitations. In the case of GMOs, that has meant trying to do everything but ban them, since state and local bans of governmentally approved seeds and foods fall directly under all four hammers. Instead they’re try to get federal agencies to deny applications for new GMOs or better regulate GM crops, or push for labeling of GMOs in food.

They have settled for “what can we get,” rather than asking, “what structural change do we need?” to guarantee that GMOs never see the light of day.

Such a strategy gives away the store without a fight — creating the illusion that GM crops can be controlled, and that the growth of GM foodstuffs is inevitable.


Reframing the Fight Against GMOs

For the problem isn’t GMOs, but the system of law that enables corporations to impose GMOs upon our communities without our consent.  If we’re to stop GMOs, we need to change the system itself.

In short, while we need a sustainable food movement, we can’t have one until we launch a democracy movement.

We’re not the first to strive for structural change. When the Abolitionists looked out at the constitutional landscape, slaves were invisible to the law — much in the way our communities are today.

Recognizing that it was the system of law itself that was the problem — and not that they needed to just better regulate slavery — they pioneered a movement that forced the system to work for them. Thus, they defined existing laws — which refused to recognize slaves as “persons” — as unjust. And then they proceeded to break those laws, openly, frontally, and without apology.

In so doing, they revealed how the system worked, in order to reach more and more people who would see that injustice and join their movement.

The fight against GMOs must follow a similar path, transforming itself into a movement by revealing how the current system denies community authority to build sustainable farm and food systems.


Community Civil Disobedience in the Name of Sustainability

In 2001, faced with an influx of factory farms and the state Legislature’s preemption of local lawmaking around farming, Wells Township, Penn., adopted a law banning agribusiness corporations from farming.

This ban on “corporate farming,” borrowed from similar laws adopted in Midwestern states, reflected a new understanding by communities: The problem wasn’t odor or water quality, but rather the corporatization of agriculture. Communities redefined the problem from being about factory farming, to being about a system of law, which authorizes corporations to define what food production looks like.

Wells was joined by other communities who passed laws which took on the key legal doctrines — those four hammers — which stand in the way of municipalities saying “no” to threats like factory farming and the ability to build environmental and economic sustainability.

Over 140 communities in eight states have followed similar paths.

This kind of organizing — seizing our municipal governments to commit acts of collective, non-violent, civil disobedience through local lawmaking — isn’t focused on the hope that the courts will rescue us by overturning 200 years of corporate “rights.” Instead, it is being pursued with the understanding that structural change will only occur when we refuse to comply with a system bent the other way.


So, What Do We Do Tomorrow? 

Over the past year, folks in Benton County asked themselves that same question — given the state of farming and a system focused on delivering a toxic mix of corporate concentration and GMOs.

Understanding that without challenging the system of law itself they cannot stop GMOs, they drafted a “Food Bill of Rights” law that establishes a “right to sustainable food systems” for the community, and prohibits those activities — like the planting of GMOs — that would violate that right.

The law takes aim at the existing system by re-defining corporate “rights,” invalidating preemptive state and federal actions, and elevating the right of the community to sustainability above competing rights claimed by agribusiness corporations.

In many ways, the proposed Benton County law, as well as other laws that have been adopted across the country, dare corporations to reveal how the current system of law works.

If they seek to overturn these local laws, corporations must bring down those four hammers of Dillon’s Rule, state and federal preemption, corporate personhood and other corporate “rights” — which they’ve constructed to ensure communities can’t interfere with the expansion of their authority and power. Exposing the hammers in plain sight means communities can see them for what they are — legal doctrines intended to subordinate our communities to a “corporate state.”

These laws thus “reframe” the dispute — from being focused on the question of whether GMOs are harmful to being about the authority and “rights” of agribusiness corporations to override the authority and rights of communities to self-govern.

This issue of “who decides” must build toward removing those corporate hammers at the state level, as is beginning in Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, New Mexico and Washington State. And then build toward federal constitutional change that elevates community self-governance above rights claimed on behalf of corporations and commerce.

If we want to stop GMOs, we need to instigate a community revolt that produces a system where it actually matters what we want. This means we have to stop deluding ourselves that it’s enough to write letters and wave signs, and instead begin to drive structural change to liberate our communities from the corporate grasp.

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