Communities Take Power

by Doug Pibel

The Citizens of Barnstead, New Hampshire, Used Local Law to Keep Corporate Giants Out of Their Water

Gail Darrell, Gordon Preston and Jack O'Neil, citizens of Barnstead, NH. Photo by Channing Johnson.
Gail Darrell, center, and other Barnstead, New Hampshire, residents pressed for a law to counter the “tyranny and usurpation” of the people’s right to govern themselves, especially with regard to water. Gordon Preston, left, and Jack O’Neil were two of five selectmen who supported the ordinance.
Photo by Channing Johnson for YES! Magazine.www.channingjohnson.com

In 1819, the Supreme Court declared for the first time that corporations are entitled to protection under the Constitution. That case started in New Hampshire. Since then, corporations have been granted virtually all the rights constitutionally guaranteed to human beings. They use those rights to site polluting feedlots, dump toxic sludge, build big-box stores, and take municipal water to sell, all whether citizens want them to or not.

Now, New Hampshire townspeople are fighting to turn that around and put people, not corporations, in charge. What manner of revolutionaries are these? The kind you should expect in the United States: laborers, mothers, farmers, businessmen, and other ordinary citizens. They are people like Gail Darrell, a New Hampshire native who, 25 years ago, moved with her husband to the little town of Barnstead to raise their children in a rural environment. They are people like Barnstead Select Board member Jack O’Neil, a Vietnam veteran and George Bush voter.

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