In summary, the decision held that corporate funding of political campaigns in elections cannot be limited under the First Amendment, thereby giving corporations the same rights as persons. In my opinion, this decision harms the election process, and was duly criticized by President Obama during the State of the Union address last year. The details of and lack of jurisprudence in this decision are really not the point of this article, however.
As a participant in the civil rights movement, I have attended innumerable rallies. In this one, there were the traditional trappings: handmade signs expressing grievances, informational leaflets, petitions, a coffin representing the death of democracy, and singing (a la "Raging Grannies" style). But this rally was different.
As the demonstrators were assembling in the Old Courthouse plaza, a group of about 30 third-graders who had been visiting a museum in the Old Courthouse, came out on to the plaza to have lunch. One of the rally organizers went to an adult in the group, presumably a teacher or chaperone, and offered leaflets on the event. The adult was quite emphatic in declaring that he didn't want the class to have "any of that stuff," and said that the students "...wanted to have a quiet lunch."
In my opinion, the teacher or chaperone missed an important civics lesson. Two weeks prior, a tragic event happened in Tucson, Arizona, where Rep. Gabrielle Giffords was shot, and others killed and wounded. One of those slain was Christina Green, a third-grader. Christina was heralded for her interest in public service, having been elected to a position in her school. In fact, this honor prompted her to attend the "Congress on Your Corner" event organized by Rep. Giffords.
In this case, a much broader issue than solely the Citizens United case per se was taking place. The critical issue was not just "why" the demonstrators were there, but "how" they were able to be there.
What was so evident right before these students' very eyes were important human rights and principles of a democracy in force: to assemble and to petition the government when citizens feel government is not serving their best interests. To ignore such an important lesson for the youngsters in favor of "a quiet lunch" was sad, if not plain irresponsible — and certainly short-sighted.
Hopefully, one day, these young students will be taught that it is their civic duty to engage in these events when warranted. In a democracy, they will always be warranted.
Henry Organ lives in Menlo Park.