WASHINGTON, D.C. – Protesters descended on the U. S. Supreme Court on Friday as part of the nationwide effort that Occupy Wall Street has dubbed “Occupy the Courts.” The rallies at courthouses around the country were to challenge a 2010 Supreme Court decision that largely removed limits on union and corporate spending in support of political campaigns.
Roughly 100 protesters gathered outside the Supreme Court steps touting signs with slogans such as “Corporations are not People” and “We are the 99 percent.”
Shouting, “Whose steps? Our steps!” the rally then moved to a grassy park between the court and the U.S. Capitol, where organizers spoke from a prepared stage. Speakers included Medea Benjamin of Code Pink and progressive radio host Thomas Hartmann. At one point a choir of demonstrators dressed as Supreme Court justices sang, mocking the judiciary’s record on campaign finance.
The rallies were orchestrated around the two-year anniversary of the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. The high court’s decision in that case set a precedent that would eventually lead to the legality of Super PACs, private entities that can raise money for political campaigns without the restraints normally applied to candidates under campaign finance law.
No more than a few hundred gathered at each location throughout the country, a far cry from the thousands predicted by its organizers. In New York City protesters were denied a permit to demonstrate at the federal courthouse, forcing them to relocate to nearby Foley Square.
Some events around the country saw clashes with local authorities. At Washington’s Supreme Court rally, 11 were arrested after demonstrators dismantled a police barricade before rushing the court plaza and steps. One was arrested inside the building for unlawful entry. At least a dozen were arrested in San Francisco after protesters refused to break a human chain around the Wells Fargo headquarters. San Francisco police say all arrests were for alleged trespassing.
The national demonstrations were organized by a grassroots group, Move to Amend. Partnered with Occupy Wall Street, the organization is also circulating petitions in several cities calling for a resolution to abolish corporate personhood.