Protests Interrupt Supreme Court Over Citizens United

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On the anniversary of the Citizens United decision the US Supreme Court was interrupted by a series of protests decrying the corruption of government made worse by the decision.

Reuters reports:

Activists staged a rare protest inside the U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday, shouting denunciations on the fifth anniversary of a ruling that lifted limits on corporate spending in elections as police rushed to corral them, knocking over chairs and causing a ruckus in the normally staid chambers.

While the protests were ongoing they report “Chief Justice John Roberts tried to begin business but kept being interrupted by shouts.”  The New York Times described the protests reporting:

The disruption came shortly after the justices took their seats on the bench at 10 a.m., when a woman rose in the back of the courtroom and yelled, “Overturn Citizens United.” She was hustled from the room. It was the fifth anniversary of the Citizens United ruling, which allowed unlimited political spending by corporations and unions.

Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. seemed to take the protest in stride. “Our second order of business this morning …” he started to say, but he was interrupted as a second protester rose, followed, one by one, by five more.

“One person, one vote,” one said.

“We are the 99 percent,” said another.

While Chief Justice Roberts showed a public cool and tried to use humor, SCOTUS blog reports: “The Chief Justice was heard to mutter, ‘Oh, please.'” They further report:

As more officers entered the courtroom to deal with those protestors, a man in a back corner stood and said, “We are the ninety-nine percent,” a populist slogan referring to those not in the wealthiest one percent of the nation. After he delivered the line, this protestor looked around nervously as there were no police officers immediately near him.

As another protestor rose near the same corner, the Chief Justice felt obliged to come to the aid of the police force. “We have a couple of more over here,” Roberts said, pointing to the corner.

As to arrests and charges, SCOTUS blog reports: 

Kathleen L. Arberg, the Court’s public information officer, said eight individuals were arrested in Wednesday’s disturbance. Seven have been charged with violating a federal law against making “a harangue or oration, or utter[ing] loud, threatening, or abusive language in the Supreme Court Building,” as well as with violating two Court regulations.

The eighth person arrested and facing conspiracy charges reportedly had a camera with him in the courtroom. Huffington Post reports: “An eighth person identified as Ryan Clayton was arrested with a camera, court spokeswoman Kathy Arberg said. Clayton appears to have made it past stepped-up security screening by court police officers.”

The protest was organized by 99Rise.  A spokesman for the group,  Timothy Brown, who was not among those in the courtroom told Reuters they spent Tuesday night practicing how they would rise in succession and shout slogans including: “Reverse Citizens United” and “Money out of politics.”

A protest occurred around the Citizens United decision one year ago. That protest was secretly recorded with the video footage posted online. See In Rare Protest US Supreme Court Is DisruptedSince then, according to Reuters, “scrutiny of visitors appeared to increase. Police seemed to examine more carefully pens and other objects that could contain a small camera.” But according to Brown  the activists who entered the courtroom carried a device that would capture pictures or video. Brown declined to reveal how the recording device was concealed. SCOTUS blog reports “the video will be posted to the Web within days.” [We will update this article with video when it is available.]