by Ohio Community Rights Activists, Edited by Simon Davis-Cohen and Tish O'Dell
For over eight years, organizers with the Ohio Community Rights Network (OHCRN) have worked hard with CELDF to propose and pass county charters, city charter amendments and city ordinances recognizing protective local self-governance and the Rights of Nature. In Death by Democracy — we hear directly from them.
Ballot initiatives they advanced, like the Lake Erie Bill of Rights, made international headlines and expanded peoples’ political imaginations. But in the end, a power structure revealed itself that saw all branches of the government of Ohio and corporate interests go so far as to alter state law to repress the movements’ tactics and remove a total of 14 qualified initiatives from local ballots, despite all measures gathering sufficient signatures and satisfying all administrative requirements.
The stakes are high in Death by Democracy. Communities face down and organize to oppose oil/gas fracking, fracking waste injection wells, industrial agriculture, water privatization and corporate control of elections. Local community lawmaking is advanced through direct democracy to reorient the priorities and obligations of the law to protect human and ecological life.
This new book is written by the local organizers who engaged in these fights. With CELDF’s help, they took on the State of Ohio, the American Petroleum Institute and other powerful corporate lobbies in Ohio.
Their organizing shifted local political dynamics, advanced rights of ecosystems and inspired campaigns and lawmaking in other states and countries, like Ireland, Netherlands, Sweden, Spain and France.
In this book, Ohioans share the lessons they learned from being on the receiving end of coordinated repression. Eventually, filing a federal civil rights lawsuit, arguing the systemic obstruction and tactics by local boards of elections and the State of Ohio – at the behest of corporate lobbies – amounted to civil rights violations resulting in censoring of local ballots and direct democracy by the people. In reality it was “death” by the democratic institutions they once believed in.
"The book is one way to continue grinding away at the notion of human exceptionalism at the expense of the connectedness of the web; a planetary web of all parts, human and non-human. What happens to one part affects the whole. Fortunately, scientific discoveries are leading us to a broader lens for understanding the Indigenous saying "All my relatives." And the authors of these stories, those who advocate on behalf of the Rights of Nature, need the courage and fortitude to continue efforts to change minds. "Death by Democracy" is a tool for this change that deserves as wide an audience as possible. I am just stunned by the difficulties that these individuals have encountered with law-enforcement the judicial system the legislatures both local and state and the corporations and others. The title of the book is absolutely correct! My eyes are opened. Congratulations OHCRN and CELDF and all associated with this publication." -- P. Jurus, Pennsylvania
"The initiative process amplifies the people's voice by giving them a direct role in lawmaking. The right to vote is fundamental, but it cannot be fully realized when the content of measures being voted upon is artificially constrained by a handful of election officials. The Ohio civil rights lawsuit goes to the core of defending this basic civil right by seeking to remove the unjust and arbitrary barriers that ultimately prevent some initiatives from reaching the ballot while allowing others to do so." -- Elizabeth Dunne, Civil and Ecosystem Rights Attorney
About the Contributors:
Ohio Community Rights Network (OHCRN) is a project supported by the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF). They comprise a network of people committed to securing for all Ohioans the right to local, community self government through the formation of county chapters. The OHCRN supports a systems approach. Rather than expend energy, time, and resources on tackling single-issues - fossil fuel infrastructure, factory farming, water privatization - they realize that our structure of law is set up to deny residents the right to decide on what burdens are imposed on them.