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It’s Jail For Protesting Supreme Court

By James Donahue

A man named Noah Newkirk just got out of jail after serving time for protesting the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizen’s United decision.

Newkirk, 33, of Los Angeles and at least one other member of a protest group calling itself 99Rise, managed to enter the court Feb. 26 while the members were taking oral arguments in a patent case.

While another unidentified person was secretly filming, Newkirk interrupted the court proceedings to declare his protest.

What Newkirk said was brief, to the point, and it clearly identified the damage that court decision has caused to the nation’s election system and the balance of power in Washington:

“I arise on behalf of the vast majority of the people of the United States who believe that money is not speech, corporations are not people and our democracy should not be for sale to the highest bidder,” he said.

Newkirk asked the court to overturn Citizens United and shouted that “the people demand democracy,” as the court police were dragging him out the door.
He was charged with violating a law against making “a harangue or oration, or uttering loud threatening or abusive language in the Supreme Court Building.”

It appears that the Supreme Court building is a hallowed place where ordinary citizens are never allowed to express an opinion about a judicial decision, especially while the nine robed judges are in the house.

But Newkirk was right when he accused the court of selling American democracy to the highest bidder. That particular ruling, Citizens United, opened the door for big corporations to dump unlimited amounts of money into political campaigns, thus shifting the balance of power from the people to the big corporate machine.
It was a bitterly argued issue and the court stood divided 5-4 on the decision. The judges that did the damage are the ones known for their hard right-wing views; Chief Justice Roberts, Alito, Scalia, Thomas and Kennedy.
The dissenting opinions were written by Justice Stevens, Ginsburg, Breyer and Sotomayor.

In his opinion, Stevens argued that the ruling “threatens to undermine the integrity of elected institutions across the Nation. The path it has taken to reach its outcome will, I fear, do damage to this institution. A democracy cannot function effectively when its constituent members believe laws are being bought and sold.”

The problem with the Supreme Court is that the members are seated there for life by presidential appointment, supported by the Senate. They leave either by death or personal resignation. There is a provision for impeachment, but it must be initiated by Congress and involves a trial by the Senate, which is highly unlikely.
The video of Newkirk’s daring deed went viral on U-Tube. It is believed to have been the first photo images of events occurring before the Supreme Court. Cameras are prohibited there by law.

Newkirk said the group 99Rise has a website: and the organization exists to “get big money out of American politics.”

And as Newkirk and his friends have discovered, because of the Constitutional protections surrounding the high court, getting that decision reversed will be the first and most demanding thing to accomplish. As it has been with Roe vs. Wade on the abortion issue, shifting the thinking of that court is a very hard thing to do.