Protests over campaign finance during high court session

AP News
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Posted: Jan 21, 2015 4:54 PM

WASHINGTON (AP) — Protesters briefly interrupted proceedings at the Supreme Court Wednesday to mark the fifth anniversary of the court's Citizens United ruling on campaign finance.

Supreme Court police removed eight people from the courtroom, including one who had a concealed camera, just after the justices took the bench, court spokeswoman Kathy Arberg said. The protest briefly delayed the justices from reading summaries of their opinions shortly after 10 a.m. EST.

99Rise, the same group that was behind last year's surreptitious video recording and protest inside the courtroom, claimed responsibility for Wednesday's demonstration.

The protesters "stood up in the tradition of nonviolent dissent to speak out against corruption and to defend our democracy on the fifth anniversary of Citizens United," 99Rise leader Kai Newkirk said in a telephone interview.

The 5-4 Citizens United decision in January 2010 freed corporations and labor unions to spend as much as they want on elections for Congress and president.

President Barack Obama issued a statement repeating his view that the decision was wrong and "has caused real harm to our democracy."

Newkirk was arrested last year, and barred from the court grounds for a year, after a protest in which the group managed to get a camera inside the courtroom and post video on the Internet.

Newkirk acknowledged that the protesters also had a camera Wednesday. He said he did not know whether there would be footage available.

It was unclear how the camera made it past the enhance security screenings that were put in place following the embarrassing breach of court rules, which do not allow cameras.

Those arrested were charged with conspiracy-related offenses arising from the courtroom disturbance, Arberg said. Seven of the eight also were charged with violating a law against making "a harangue or oration, or uttering loud, threatening, or abusive language in the Supreme Court Building," Arberg said.

Those arrested were Andrew Batcher, Ryan Clayton, Irandira Gonzales, Margaret Johnson, Alexandra Flores-Quilty, Katherine Philipson, Curt Ries and Mary Zeiser. Clayton allegedly had the camera.