Protesters Interrupt SCOTUS Over Campaign Finance

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The Supreme Court saw an unusual and unexpected moment of chaos yesterday when protesters interrupted Chief Justice John G. Roberts’ announcement of opinions. There were only seven of them but they made quite a ruckus. Right as Roberts began speaking, one yelled, “We are the 99 percent.” Others yelled demands such as “one person, one vote.” Eventually, they were escorted out of the chamber. The group taking credit for the protest is 99Rise and they were arguing against the 2010 Citizens United decision that ushered in a whole new era in the way that politics and money interact. Today was the fifth anniversary of that historic decision.

The seven people escorted out of the chamber have also been charged with violating a law by making “a harangue or oration, or utter[ing] loud, threatening, or abusive language in the Supreme Court Building,” among other charges. An eighth individual was also slapped with conspiracy-related charges but it’s unclear how he or she was involved.

99Rise has now dubbed them the “Supreme Court 7.” They appear to be a grassroots-type organization that seeks to take the influence of big money and corporations out of politics. Their website outlines the group’s main goals as the following:

We thus seek a Constitutional Amendment and supplemental federal legislation that would guarantee the principle of political equality, as well as ensure that neither private wealth nor corporate privilege could be used to exercise undue influence over elections and policymaking. To this end, we are committed to deploying the most powerful tool of social and political change: strategic nonviolent resistance.

Despite the splash that the protesters made in the media with their actions, not everyone was that impressed. According to ScotusBlog, Roberts muttered “Oh, please” while all the chaos was going on.

After the protesters were taken out of the chamber, the justices continued with business as usual. One of the more closely followed cases of this term–Holt v. Hobbs–was decided. SCOTUS unanimously decided that Gregory Holt, a Muslim prisoner in Arkansas, should be allowed to grow a short beard in accordance with his religious beliefs.

Regardless of what happened in the Holt v. Hobbs case, however, the protesters ended up being a bigger news story. It’s rare that people interrupt government procedure like they did today, particularly in somewhere as stoic as the Supreme Court.

From an actual goal-oriented perspective, 99Rise’s choice to interrupt the Supreme Court doesn’t make that much sense. While it obviously handed down the Citizens United decision, it has no ability to enact the type of reform, like an amendment, that 99Rise ostensibly is looking for. That being said, from a public relations standpoint, it made total sense. A relatively unknown group got the chance to brand itself, put its message out there, and create martyrs out of its seven members who were arrested.

Anneliese Mahoney
Anneliese Mahoney is Managing Editor at Law Street and a Connecticut transplant to Washington D.C. She has a Bachelor’s degree in International Affairs from the George Washington University, and a passion for law, politics, and social issues. Contact Anneliese at



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