Protesters inside Supreme Court face harsher charges

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Protesters who demonstrated inside the U.S. Supreme Court are facing the threat of a year in jail and stiff fines, a sign that prosecutors and the justices themselves are losing patience over the courtroom interruptions after the third protest in just over a year.

Five people arrested last week after voicing displeasure with court decisions that removed limits on political campaign contributions now face charges including one that carries a maximum jail term of a year and up to a $100,000 fine — a sharp escalation from the possible penalties sought after two earlier protests.

A leader of the group behind the protests would not rule out future demonstrations, despite what he called an effort to crack down on the courtroom disturbances. "We are not going to be silenced," said Kai Newkirk, whose group 99Rise opposes the influence of big money in elections.

While protests on the sidewalk outside the U.S. Supreme Court are common, until last year demonstrators had rarely broken the decorum of oral arguments inside the courtroom. In February 2014, however, Newkirk was removed from the courtroom after he stood and called on the court to overturn its 2010 Citizens United decision, which freed corporations and labor unions from some limits on campaign spending. It was the first protest to disrupt an argument session in more than seven years.

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