The circus came to Washington, D.C., on Thursday morning, pitching its tents on the sidewalk in front of the Supreme Court.
The news cameras were among the first to arrive. They rolled in to stakeout spots in front of the steps early. By 3:30 a.m., the prime spots were taken; by 4:30 a.m., the stragglers were relegated to the lawn on the strip of grass next to the court’s steps. At 4:45 a.m., more than 50 people had already queued up to get into the court’s public galleries. A steady stream of public spectators followed, and the line snaked around the front of the building and down East Capitol Street.
Two latecomers arrived after 6 a.m. The 30-something man and woman declined to be named but work for a health care advocacy group and tried to cut the line. The group of young people who had been queuing since 4:30 a.m. was having none of it. The group, which had been just a collection of strangers hours before, banded together and reported the line-cutters to HOH and the police.
The two line-cutters reportedly defended their actions to the offended by explaining that they deserved to see the ruling as they had worked long and hard on the issue. Those at the front of the line were mainly students and interns.
The couple told HOH that they had been there for a long time. They would not say how long.
A police officer eventually asked the couple to move to the back of the line.
Cheers of “justice!” erupted from the line.
About 7:30 a.m., Vermont Rep. Peter Welch (D) sat on a bench, quietly reading the paper. At the same time, a man dressed in his Revolutionary War-era regalia stood under a “Don’t Tread on Me” flag.
A group of young people in suits began to gather their “Defund Planned Parenthood” signs, while the sounds of drums and a snake charmer’s horn swelled in the background. Suddenly two blond belly dancers, the young drummer boy and a man in full scrubs and mask began to move in time with the beat. The tea partyers next to them fiddled with their megaphone. Eventually, the tea partyers figured out how to broadcast patriotic instrumental music over the loudspeaker, pausing to shout “USA, USA” toward the belly dancers, who were advocating a single-payer system.
GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney was well-represented. A stylish woman in a Romney for president T-shirt cinched with a skinny black belt cheerfully wished us a good day with, “May the Mitt be with you!”
Amid this, artist Robin Macklin knelt down and carefully placed a Chia Pet bust of President Barack Obama’s head on the sidewalk.
Suddenly, groups supporting the health care bill began blasting Stevie Wonder’s classic “Sign, Sealed, Delivered.”
Three young people, two women and one man, stood facing the court with tape on their mouths, “LIFE” written on each mouth covering. They stood stoically with their backs toward the singing, dancing and chanting crowds behind them.
Just next to the mosh-pit of cameras and tea party activists, Theresa Browngold was holding a giant, painted sign promoting health care. As she began to shout out her support of the law, a woman who was strongly against the health care bill lit a cigarette. She took a drag and began to debate Browngold.
One young man asked the smoker to ask Browngold if she had “even read the 6,000 page bill.” Browngold ignored him.
Moving back toward the pro-health care dance circle, Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep” swelled to a fever pitch. Standing next to the circle, a man dressed as the grim reaper held up the sign: “Grim Reaper for Obama Care.” Near the reaper stood a man wearing scrubs and an Obama mask waving a sign: “Thank You for Subsidizing My Poor Life Choices.”
By 9:30 a.m., the sidewalk across the street from the court was filled with onlookers.
A young lady wearing a Scooby Doo mask walked through the crowd to urge people people to recycle batteries.
“Dude, everyone is here,” a young man in a suit and a cowboy hat said. “It’s like a street festival.”
“You guys are really going to have to stick together because the protesters are crazy,” a Capitol Visitor Center guide alerted the band of Boy Scouts she was escorting out into the fray.
“People are protesting!?” one scout asked.