Protests break out in Supreme Court

Washington CNN  — 

A rare disturbance broke out in the Supreme Court on Wednesday as several protesters stood up and shouted what appeared to be comments criticizing the court’s controversial 2010 Citizens United campaign finance decision that was issued five years ago this month.

As court opened, Chief Justice John Roberts was preparing to announce the day’s opinions when he was cut off by the first protester who shouted, “We are the 99%.”

Roberts then tried to joke, “Our second order of business today is …” until he was cut off by a second protester.

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A group called 99rise has taken credit for the disruption. The group, which calls itself a grassroots organization trying to get money out of politics, issued a press release saying in part: “We have seen the consequences of the free flow of private money rushing into our public political system.”

They named the 7 protesters who were escorted from the chamber today.

The case Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission was decided in 2010. A divided court struck limits on independent campaign spending by corporations and unions.

According to Garrett Epps, a professor at the University of Baltimore, who was in court, a total of seven protesters stood up shouting statements such as, “money is not speech” and “overturn Citizens United.”

At one point, according to Epps, after all protesters had been led out, Roberts said, “We will now continue with our tradition of having open court in the Supreme Court building.”

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Kathleen L. Arberg, the court’s public information officer, released a statement said that the incident involved a total of 8 individuals. Seven of them have been charged with making “a harangue or oration, or uttering loud, threatening or abusive language in the Supreme Court.”

The eighth person was also charged with “conspiracy-related offenses” arising from the courtroom disturbance.

Arberg said they have been taken to Capitol Police for processing and will then be transported to police headquarters.

Such disturbances have occurred before at the court but they are rare. Last year, Kai Newkirk, the co-founder of the group, briefly interrupted other arguments with a similar message. The group later released a video of his protest that was taken with a hidden camera by someone presumably linked to the group. Court rules forbid cameras in the chamber.

Coincidently, President Barack Obama also released a statement today criticizing the Citizens United opinion: “With each new campaign season,” the statement said, dark money floods our airwaves with more and more political ads that pull our politics into the gutter.”