A funny thing happened to the First Amendment on its way to the public forum: It was hijacked.
According to the Supreme Court, money is now speech, and corporations are now people.
Yet when real people without money assemble to express their dissatisfaction with the political consequences of this, they're treated as public nuisances - clubbed, pepper-sprayed, thrown out of public parks and evicted from public spaces.
The Supreme Court's Citizens United decision last year ended all limits on political spending. Now millions of dollars are being funneled to politicians without a trace.[ ... ]
Millionaires and billionaires on Wall Street and in executive suites aren't contributing all this money out of sheer love of country. Their political spending is analogous to their other investments. Mostly they want low tax rates and friendly regulations.
Yet all this money is drowning out the voices of average Americans. Most of us don't have the dough to break through. Giving First Amendment rights to money and corporations has hobbled the First Amendment rights of the rest of us.
This is where the Occupiers come in. If there's a core message to the Occupy movement, it's that the increasing concentration of income and wealth at the top endangers our democracy. With money comes political power.
Yet as Occupiers seek to make their voices heard about all this, they're told the First Amendment doesn't apply. When they peacefully assemble - erecting tents in public spaces - they're attacked and evicted.