Ready or Not, U.S. Supreme Court’s Close-Up

The U.S. Supreme Court was dragged into the internet age this week, when a covert two-minute video was posted online showing a protester being hauled away by police.

In what must surely be an embarrassment to the leading “democracy” of the world, it is thought to be the first video of the proceedings of America’s highest court

Unlike the other branches of government, the Court unilaterally refuses to allow electronic devises, including cameras, into the courtroom.

Televising coverage of the Court is important in the context of employment law because a pro-business majority of the Court has issued a series of rulings in recent years scaling back the ability of workers to assert their right to be free from discrimination and abuse in the workplace. It is unclear whether most Americans are even aware of this because they get their news from television. A Gallup poll in 2013 found that television is the main place Americans say they turn to for news about current events (55%), leading the Internet, at 21%. Nine percent say newspapers or other print publications are their main news source, followed by radio, at 6%.

The two-minute video was posted Thursday on the website of 99rise.org, a group that describes itself  a network of activists and organizers dedicated to building a mass movement to reclaim our democracy from the domination of big money.

The video features a protester rising during oral arguments on a patent case to denounce the Court’s 2010 ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Elections Commission, which held  it is unconstitutional to ban free speech through the limitation of independent communications by corporations, associations, and unions.

“I rise on behalf of the vast majority of the American people who believe money is not speech, corporations are not people, and government should not be for sale to the highest bidder,” stated the protester, Noah “Kai” Newkirk, a co-founder of 99 Rise.

The protest occurred on Feb. 26 toward the end of arguments on a case involving patent attorneys’ fees, not campaign finance.  An unidentified person seated near Newkirk in the courtroom took the video, which is shaky and of poor quality. Reportedly, several audience members had “cameras” – probably cell phones.

Newkirk said he has pleaded not guilty to a charge of violating a federal law that prohibits “loud threatening or abusive language” in the Supreme Court building.

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