Protesters Disrupt Supreme Court as Obama Criticizes RulingDavid McLaughlin and Greg Stohr
Seven protesters shouting “money out of politics” disrupted the start of the U.S. Supreme Court session Wednesday, the fifth anniversary of the justices’ ruling that allows unlimited corporate spending on campaigns.
At the opening of the high court session, the protesters stood up one at a time in the back of the audience, shouting at the justices, “one person, one vote,” “money out of politics,” and “we are the 99 percent.”
Chief Justice John Roberts delayed the reading of three opinions while Supreme Court police officers removed the people from the courtroom.
The demonstration came five years to the day after the Supreme Court’s ruling in Citizens United, which struck down decades-old restrictions on corporate campaign spending and upended the political landscape.
Eight people were arrested and charged, including one who tried to use a concealed camera in the courtroom, according to Kathy Arberg, the Supreme Court’s spokeswoman. Police confiscated the camera, Arberg said.
Separately, President Barack Obama issued a statement that said, “The Citizens United decision was wrong, and it has caused real harm to our democracy.”
“With each new campaign season, this dark money floods our airwaves with more and more political ads that pull our politics into the gutter,” Obama said. “It’s time to reverse this trend.”
The ruling’s anniversary came on the day after Obama’s State of the Union address to Congress. In 2010, when the president used the State of the Union six days after the Citizens United ruling to criticize the decision, television cameras caught Justice Samuel Alito mouthing the words, “not true.”
Roberts later questioned whether the justices should continue attending the annual event, likening it to a “political pep rally.” The chief justice was among six members of the court who attended Obama’s address Tuesday, while Alito hasn’t attended a State of the Union since 2010.
At the Supreme Court on Wednesday, after the first protester was tackled by officers near the back of the courtroom, Roberts joked that the justices would take up “the second order of business” for the day. Then another individual stood up and yelled, followed by others.
At one point, Roberts told officers, “There’s another one over there.”
The advocacy group 99Rise took responsibility for the demonstration. The group’s spokesman, Kai Newkirk, was arrested for a similar protest in the courtroom last year.
The 2014 demonstration was secretly videotaped. Newkirk said the latest one was as well, though he said the group wasn’t connected to the person who was arrested with the concealed camera.
The protest “was a message from folks who represent the vast majority of the American people, who are tired of the corruption and money in politics and the role of the Supreme Court in making it much worse,” Newkirk said in an interview.
On Feb. 28, 2014, the group conducted a protest over Citizens United during a Supreme Court session, and afterward posted a secret recording of the demonstration on the Internet.
Seven of the arrested people were charged with violating a federal law that bars outbursts in the Supreme Court building, Arberg said. In addition, all eight were charged with conspiracy-related offenses, she said.
The court’s oral arguments are open to the public. Spectators must pass through metal detectors before entering the courtroom and remain silent during arguments.