Inside the Supreme Court, a protester makes himself heard

Al Kamen
Columnist February 27

A rare disturbance broke out during oral arguments at the Supreme Court on Wednesday when a lone protester rose and loudly urged the court to overturn its 2010 Citizens United ruling, which opened the door to unlimited corporate campaign contributions in elections.

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

The protester, identified by a court spokeswoman as Noah Newkirk of Los Angeles, yelled from the back of the ornate room before several Supreme Court police officers arrested him. He was charged with violating a law against making “a harangue or oration, or utter[ing] loud threatening or abusive language in the Supreme Court Building.”

A video — possibly the first of a disturbance inside the high court — surfaced Thursday. (See it at wapo.st/court0228.)

“Court officials are in the process of reviewing the video and our courtroom screening procedures,” the spokeswoman said in a statement. The court was unaware of the video until Thursday, she said.


Thomas Perez is happy to be secretary of labor, but his fondest dreams lie in another ballpark. (Matt McClain/The Washington Post)

The justices are rarely interrupted by protest inside the chamber. The most memorable, certainly the most colorful, was in 1983, when Larry Flynt, publisher of Hustler magazine, was arrested after screaming obscenities at the justices from his gold-plated wheelchair — also from the back of the courtroom.

As we wrote at the time, he said:
“- - - - this court. You denied me the counsel of my choice.” He shouted at the startled justices as he opened a white jacket that had concealed a black T-shirt emblazoned with a similarly obscene attack on the court.

He continued to shout obscenities as the police wheeled him out behind the stunned audience, which included a constitutional-law class from Severna Park High School. One of the students asked whether such mayhem often occurred. (We assured him it didn’t.)

Diamond dreams

When President Obama nominated Thomas Perez a year ago to be labor secretary, he noted that Perez was then an assistant attorney general for civil rights and had also been Maryland’s labor secretary.

But he added that Perez — the son of immigrants from the Dominican Republic and the first Cabinet secretary of Dominican descent — had also worked in some less glamorous jobs, helping to pay his way through college as a garbage collector and in a warehouse, before he “went on to become the first lawyer in his family.”

In his Background Check, Perez reveals, that, despite his Dominican roots, he can’t come around very well on a fastball and that his own fastball, well, left a little to be desired. So he had to seek other professional opportunities.

Which Cabinet secretary would you most like to hang out with, and what would you do?

I have enjoyed working with all my Cabinet colleagues, and, while I have spent a considerable time with my former boss, Eric Holder, I currently work extensively and very productively with Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker. We have a shared belief that if we can help workers and businesses succeed, then America succeeds.

What’s your favorite non-work-related Web site/blog/
app/magazine?

ESPN.com

Fill in the blank: People would be surprised to know that I _____.

Ran the Boston Marathon three times and have coached at least one of my children in basketball or some other sport for 10 years.

What’s your dream job (other than your current gig)?

Major League Baseball commissioner. I played baseball throughout high school, but, unlike other Dominican Americans, I couldn’t hit a fastball. My own fastball had deceptive speed — it was slower than you think.

What motivated you to go into public service?

My parents emigrated from the Dominican Republic to escape a brutal dictator. [Loop note: That would be Rafael Leonidas Trujillo, a.k.a. “El Chivo,” finally gunned down, apparently with CIA help, in 1961.] America was a land of opportunity for them, and they taught my four siblings (all of whom are doctors) and me to work hard, aim high and always give back to others. They taught us that if you want to get to heaven, you better have letters of reference from the underserved.

Favorite TV show?

“The Wire.”

Which character from that show do you most identify with?

I identify with the young people living in tough neighborhoods for which meaningful opportunity was elusive.

What subject, other than your work, do you know most about?

Civil rights history.

What’s one word you wish people would use to describe you?

Innovative.

You can draft one person in the private sector to come work for the federal government. Who would it be, and what would you have them do?

I would resurrect Steve Jobs and enlist him to work with the Department of Labor to develop the next generation of technological tools to enable us to carry out our mission of expanding opportunity for everyone.

Going wild? Don’t.

The State Department publishes regular warnings urging people not to travel to dangerous places such as Syria — or, these days, maybe Ukraine.

It also offers advice for students on spring break. In 2012, for example, it warned students to avoid certain parts of Mexico because of drug violence.

But the official Top Five Travel Tips for Spring Break 2014 read like a helicopter parent gone wild, or a post-Colorado-legalization version of “Reefer Madness.”

“Regardless of the destination, the U.S. Department of State encourages students to follow our tips for traveling abroad,” the advice begins.

First, “avoid underage and excessive alcohol consumption.” (Right, that’s not why all those kids are going to Cancun.) “ ‘Overdoing it’ can lead to an arrest, accident, violent crime, or death.”

Next, you should “obey all local laws,” and “don’t carry or use drugs, as this can result in severe penalties.” Who knew? And “don’t carry weapons either — some countries have strict laws, and even possessing something as small as a pocketknife or a single bullet can get you into legal trouble.” Leave the Glock at home.

Some of the advice is straightforward, suggesting you check a State Department Web site, studentsabroad.state.gov, to learn about visa requirements, road conditions, crime and such. And if you lose your passport or are injured, make sure you have the contact info for the embassies or consulates.

Then the nagging begins in earnest: “Keep in touch with your parents,” the State Department advises, and if you’re going somewhere where you won’t be electronically in touch, let them know.

Also, remember to wear clean underwear and, for heaven’s sake, floss regularly!

(Okay, we made that one up.)

The blog: washingtonpost.com/
intheloop. Twitter: @InTheLoopWP.

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