Groups gather at The House Cafe to petition against recent Supreme Court ruling

Linze Griebenow

“This is like velociraptor capitalism, like ‘eat-everything-in-your-path capitalism,'” said Sycamore resident Hannah Dwyer.

Local economic justice activist groups gathered Thursday at The House Café, 263 E. Lincoln Highway, in hopes of obtaining petition signatures and uniting NIU students with the community to rally against the Supreme Court’s “Citizen United” ruling.

Under the “Citizens United” law, corporations are considered “people” and thereby are protected under the First Amendment. This allows political ads sponsored by corporate or union campaign contributors donations to be uncensored.

Jennifer Tompkins, founder of Rebuild the American Dream Dekalb (RADD), said choosing The House to host the petition celebration was simple.

“We wanted to support a local business and find a location that kids from campus could easily get to,” Tompkins said.

Groups such as MoveOn.org, Occupy Dekalb, Rebuild the American Dream Dekalb and Northern Illinois Jobs with Justice sponsored the event that included an entrance fee of a signature on the “Get Money Out of Politics” petition. The petition aims to support senators, like Ill. Senator Dick Durbin, in their goal to amend the Constitution so it reverses the recent Supreme Court ruling.

Local musicians associated with Occupy Dekalb, Rebuild the American Dream Dekalb and MoveOn.org played sets to a crowd of about 30 to 40, all in the name of social change.

“It’s really a non-partisan issue,” said Occupy Dekalb member Rachel Becknell. “No matter what side of the divide you’re on, you don’t want to believe what these politicians are saying. You want them to be responsible.”

Dave Anians, junior community leadership and civil engagement major and RADD member, was contacted by members of MoveOn.org and RADD to contribute musically for the cause.

“Any show is good, but especially this one because it’s a petition-signing event and this is such an important issue,” Anians said.

The economic and labor crisis Americans face today could be repeated for future generations if not addressed now, said MoveOn.Org member Bill Weiss.

“If [students] don’t help to change things now they won’t be able to get jobs [in the future].” Weiss said. “Just like there are no jobs now and then they won’t be able to pay off their student loans. Frankly, whatever their major is now may not even exist as a job once they’ve graduated.”

Tompkins said she encourages NIU students to take a close look at what a post-graduation future could entail economically for younger generations.

“I keep wondering, when will NIU students wake up to the fact that when they graduate they’ll have no jobs.” Tomkins said. “Northern Illinois University isn’t a national name; it doesn’t have the same prestige as better-known Ivy League schools, where graduates are essentially guaranteed jobs.”

Weiss, too, worries that the full impact of the economic turmoil has not yet reached students.

“I’m afraid a lot of kids will wake up one day and kick themselves and say, ‘Why didn’t I do something when I had the chance?'” Weiss said. “I don’t want to see a whole generation of people with no jobs and no direction and a wasted education.”

Though student involvement in the occupy movements in Dekalb may be low, Anians and Dwyer agree apathy and lack of impact may be explanations.

“Students should see what’s happening,” Anians said. “Getting jobs after college will be hard. Degrees are more useless, college is more expensive. We just keep getting more and more screwed.”

Dwyer said she agrees students would be more compelled to become involved if they could see how the economy directly affected them.

“I feel like a lot of students are insulated from the actual hardships that are going on,” Dwyer said. “They’re living off credit.”

However, the impact is very real.

Dwyer said she recalls having to leave community college, the hypocrisy between requiring a degree for a virtually unavailable job market and learning to survive with little help from the government.

“I was a teacher’s aid at a special education complex, working full-time and making under $10,000 a year,” Dwyer said. “The only reason I can afford a house now is because I didn’t go to a four-year school. I had to leave Kish so that I could work full-time and keep my health insurance.”