Outside the Court, a War of Words

  • Share
  • Read Later

The hottest tickets in town Friday may have been inside the Supreme Court. But the most entertaining spot was outside. The scene was like halftime at the Super Bowl. Score tied.

Thousands of noisy Bush and Gore partisans jammed the side walks surrounding the marble-columned courthouse, waving signs that read "Kiss My Chad," "Give Up, You Lost," "We've Been Bushwhacked," "Gore Makes Nixon Look Good." Helmeted police lined the sidewalk, ready to intervene if necessary. But the crowd was in high spirits, ready to party. A man in an Uncle Sam costume paced the sidewalk. A woman reached her hands to the sky, loudly praising God for the countless blessings of democracy. One man paraded with a sign saying, "From Monica to Chads. Enough is Enough." All that was missing were the floats.

"I hear the news media talk about what people think, but they don't usually give my opinion," said Tammy Gerould, 37, who drove from Richmond, Va., with her 61-year-old mother, Gloria, to witness the event. "We wanted to register our voices."

Chants encounter

To keep passions from getting out of hand, police separated Bush and Gore partisans by 10 feet of sidewalk. It was as if they were in bleachers with a playing field between them. Cheerleaders with bullhorns led the chants, and spectators, some holding small children by the hand, sang out in unison. "Count Every Vote, Count Every Vote," cried Gore supporters. "How Many Times, How Many Times," replied the Bushies. Another cry erupted from the Bush camp: "Concede Again, Concede Again." Gore backers sang back, "Don't Get Snippy, Don't Get Snippy." From the Gore side: "Read My Lips, No More Bushes." Bush supporters had a quick retort: "No More Thieves. We Want Bush."

Even the police were laughing. "Gore Got More. Gore Got More," sang the Gore camp. "We Won, Three Times. It's Time For You To Go," replied the Bush fans. There was more: "Cheney Needs a Heart, Bush Needs a Brain," from the Gore camp. To which the Bush fans replied: "Hey, Hey. Ho, Ho. Al Gore's Got to Go." And my personal favorite: "Oh No, I'm Not Ahead. I Think I'll Call My Brother Jeb." We'll leave you to guess who said it.

About half way into the court proceeding, civil rights activists Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton led separate processions down the street, chanting "Gore Got More, Gore Got More." As they passed by the Bush camp, the crowd broke into a chant: "President Bush, President Bush." From a lone Gore supporter elbowing his way through the crowd: "Yeah, in 1988."

Chilly greetings

Fifteen minutes after the session ended, Gore team leader Warren Christopher was escorted down the courthouse steps, inexplicably marching straight toward the Bush camp. Suddenly, boos and hisses filled the air. "Give Up, Give Up," they cried. Christopher, looking like he'd had a cream pie shoved in his face, was quickly led away.

Tickets to get into the inner sanctum were so hard to come by that people began lining up two days in advance. Ron Hutchings, 20, of Anchorage, Alaska, and Scott Shryack, 20, of Los Angeles, were number two and three in line, having camped outside the courthouse in near-freezing temperatures since 6 am Thursday, subsisting on chips, candy bars and coffee. "We wanted to witness history," Hutchings said. "But did you ever stretch out on cold marble? We didn't get a lot of sleep."