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5 arrested in protest at Supreme Court

Supreme Court

The Supreme Court. (AP Photo / Jacquelyn Martin)

WASHINGTON — Protesters disrupted Supreme Court proceedings on Wednesday for the second time this year with shouted criticism of the court’s previous rulings on campaign finance.

Supreme Court police swiftly removed five people from the courtroom after they rose, one after another, to interrupt the start of the court’s session.

The advocacy group 99rise, which opposes the influence of money in elections, took responsibility for the protest, as it did for similar episodes in January and last year. The group said in a statement that six of its members took part Wednesday, though court spokeswoman Kathy Arberg said only five people were arrested.

Arberg said all five have been charged under a law that prohibits making “a harangue or oration” or uttering “loud, threatening or abusive language” in the Supreme Court Building. They also were charged with conspiracy-related offenses and sent to a holding cell at Washington, D.C., police headquarters.

The first protester rose from his seat among spectators in the courtroom just after the justices took the bench at 10 a.m. “I rise to claim our democracy, one person, one vote,” he said.

Chief Justice John Roberts initially joked that he didn’t think the court’s scheduled arguments in bankruptcy cases “would attract such attention.” But Roberts turned serious as the protests continued and warned that anyone disrupting proceedings could be charged with criminal contempt.

In the two previous protests, at least one person from 99rise carried a camera and recorded the disruption in violation of the court’s ban on cameras in the courtroom. The surreptitiously recorded video was later posted online.

The group said in a statement that the protest was tied to the one-year anniversary of the Supreme Court’s ruling in McCutcheon v. FEC, in which the justices struck down the overall federal limit on individual campaign contributions. The anniversary is on Thursday, when the court will not be in session.