Jonathan Ernst / Reuters
Demonstrators stage a protest on the steps of the U.S. Supreme Court building, on the anniversary of the Citizens United decision, in Washington, January 20, 2012. Under the banner 'Occupy the Courts,' organizers expect thousands of people to rally on Friday at 150 courthouses to mark the second anniversary of the Supreme Court ruling that protesters say allows unlimited corporate campaign donations.
Hundreds of people gathered at courthouses across the nation Friday to protest a landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision that removed most limits on corporate and labor spending in federal elections.
Occupy Wall Street activists joined forces with Move to Amend, a coalition that organized the event in more than 100 cities, though the turnout in many places was low. In some cities, fewer than a dozen protesters showed up. Protesters said they were kicking off petition drives in support of a constitutional amendment that would overturn a 2010 court ruling that allowed private groups to spend huge amounts on political campaigns with few restrictions.
In Washington, a couple of hundred protesters gathered across the street from the Supreme Court, chanting "Rights are for people, not for corporations" and "Which side are you on?" Police arrested a handful of protesters. At least 13 people were arrested, including one arrested inside the Supreme Court building on the ground floor.
"I don't see how a real democracy of the people can take place when so much money is in our electoral system," said Lucy Craig, 36, from New Jersey, who was holding a sign that read: "Citizens United: best democracy money can buy."
More than 100 protesters rallied outside the federal courthouse. Jacqueline Leary, 72, a writer from Beverly, Mass., said there was too much money in politics.
"Citizens United, it's been eating away at me, infuriating me," she said, referring to the court decision that prohibits the government from placing limits on independent spending for political purposes. "It's so wrong and erodes your belief in the Supreme Court," she added.
About 50 protesters marched outside the Sandra Day O'Connor U.S. Court House in Phoenix, chanting, "The 99 are here to stay, Wall Street it's time to pay!"
"Four hundred Americans control all the wealth," said Micky Mize, a spokesman for Occupy Phoenix. "They are the ones who control the job market, they are trying to control everything from education to our birthrights."
In San Francisco, where a couple of hundred protesters gathered in the city's financial district, protesters chained themselves to the front doors of Wells Fargo's corporate headquarters. Others linked arms to prevent people from entering a Bank of America branch. Authorities said 18 people were arrested in the protests, SFGate.com reported.
Activists were hoping to disrupt the city's financial district as part of "Occupy Wall Street West." A protest was planned later Friday at the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals as part of the "Occupy the Courts" action.
Protesters chained themselves to the entrance of Wells Fargo Bank's corporate headquarters at 555 California St. near Montgomery Street, protester Pete Woiwode told NBCBayArea.com.
"We are trying to shut down the bank," Woiwode said.
Woiwode, 29, of Oakland, said there were protesters on all four sides of the building, as well as a marching band that was playing music.
Donna Vieira, 42, a real estate appraiser, was protesting at Wells Fargo in San Francisco because she said the bank had "unfairly" foreclosed on her home in Reno, Nev., last year.
"I can get it back if the attorney general takes action," Vieira said. "Nobody is going after the big banks. And loss and pain and suffering doesn't matter to the regulators."
In Cleveland, about 40 to 50 protesters in hats, hoods and gloves held a morning vigil outside the Metzenbaum Federal Courthouse, followed by a march through downtown streets. During the march, paper $50 "bills" were taped over the mouths of ralliers.
About 50 people braved blizzard-like conditions in Chicago, waving at passing cars and chanting, "Money out of politics."
The Associated Press, Reuters and NBCBayArea.com contributed to this report.
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