Protesters from around the country rallied at the Supreme Court steps to support their presidential candidate while the legal teams of Texas Gov. George W. Bush and Vice President Al Gore squared off inside the court Friday.
Police in riot gear separated demonstrators to prevent physical confrontation outside the Supreme Court, where justices heard arguments in Bush’s challenge to the Florida Supreme Court’s ruling on vote recounts.
A small but vocal group of about 300 protesters began heated verbal confrontations before 8 a.m., but as the hours passed and the crowd’s numbers grew, the fervor of some of the protesters diminished.
Bush supporters, who outnumbered Gore supporters, called for the vice president to drop his contention of the Florida election results. Some yelled for Gore to leave Cheney’s house.
GW College Republicans Executive Chair Bill Eldridge said about 30 to 40 GW CRs attended the protest. About 30 College Democrats from GW joined about 120 other CDs from the D.C. area.
Anjan Choudhury, president of the GW College Democrats and political affairs chief for the national organization, joined the morning protest. He said the Supreme Court case is crucial for Gore’s campaign.
To lose, at this point would obviously be a bad sign, he said.
The opposing groups of protesters stood about 10 feet apart separated by a line of police officers. Both sides tried to offer support to their candidate as lawyers testified in an unprecedented legal challenge to the Florida election results.
By 10 a.m. the crowd grew to about 1,000 protesters, reporters and tourists.
Bush supporters threw chads into the air like confetti as they shouted Hey, Hey! Ho, Ho! Al Gore has got to go! and held signs reading Don’t Let the Gore-rinch Steal the Election.
University of Maryland sophomore Sam Colbert, a member of Maryland’s CRs, defended his sign, which read Sore/Looserman 2000, a spoof on the standard Gore/Lieberman (2000) campaign poster.
The vice president seems to want to recount all those Florida votes until he has enough to win, Colbert said. This is tantamount to stealing the election, and I can’t stand by and watch.
Brett Gesh, a senior at Johns Hopkins University offered a similar defense for the Texas governor.
He won the election – that’s all there is to it, he said. This is really not the way to be fair about electing the president.
There were tense moments in the early morning as the Rev. Jesse Jackson walked through Republican supporters to meet with reporters.
Shouts of Jesse go home, Bush has won! followed the civil rights leader, as he struggled to get through the crowd.
We really do not know who won until all the votes are counted, Jackson said. There has been an awesome struggle to discount votes rather than to count votes. They are willfully running away from the law in Florida.
Jackson said the integrity of democracy and the election process is at stake in the case.
You can afford to lose an election, but you cannot afford to lose enfranchisement, Jackson said. The count is what matters, not the clock.
The Rev. Al Sharpton also joined the crowd, leading a march of young and old Gore supporters around the Supreme Court building.
Gore supporters, including the National Organization of Women and College Democrats from across the country, defended Gore’s stance saying all votes should be counted to determine a fair election result. They called for Bush to stop opposing recounts and questioned the legitimacy of the Florida election.
Jack Ross, a Democrat from Annapolis, Md., called for an investigation of what he described as massive voter fraud in Florida.
Bush supporters eager to support their candidate on the national level yelled at television reporters broadcasting live to get their views heard. They shouted, Concede today on CNN!
The court’s proceedings were not televised, and the first analysis available to the media was obtained from first-hand accounts from people inside the chamber.
Sen. John Ashcroft (R-Mo.), who attended the proceedings, called Supreme Court justices’ questioning very aggressive and well balanced.
The real question before the court today was – should the Florida courts be allowed to change the rules after the election is over? Ashcroft said. I think that the answer is no.
This article appeared in the December 4, 2000 issue of the Hatchet.