WASHINGTON (AP) — Demonstrators with dueling chants, singers, doctors in white coats, even a presidential candidate and a brass quartet joined hundreds of people sounding off Monday on the broad sidewalk in front of the Supreme Court as the justices considered President Barack Obama’s health care law.
As the justices listened to legal arguments, demonstrators said it was important their messages be heard too.
By the time arguments began indoors, the sidewalk in front of the court was filled. More than 100 health care law supporters walked in a circle, chanting slogans like “1, 2, 3, 4, health care is what we’re fighting for” and “Care for you. Care for me. Care for every family.” One supporter walked with a cane and another drove a motorized scooter. They were joined by a four-piece band of students from Howard University playing New Orleans-style jazz riffs on trumpets and a trombone.
A much smaller group of detractors had their own signs including, “Mr. Obama tear down this bill.” To supporters’ chants of “We love Obamacare” the opponents who believe the law is unconstitutional answered with “We love the Constitution.”
Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum held a brief press conference outside the court after the argument concluded. He vowed to fight for repeal of the health care law if elected and knocked rival Mitt Romney for putting in place a similar health care law as governor of Massachusetts.
At least two heated sidewalk discussions broke out between the law’s opponents and supporters, one of them a parent whose son had a kidney transplant and another whose wife has a health care business. But the demonstrations remained peaceful.
Early in the day, about two dozen doctors stood in front of the court for a press conference with speakers describing how their patients would be helped if the high court upholds the law meant to bring insurance coverage to almost every American.
“This is not about politics. It’s about people,” said Dr. Alice Chen of Los Angeles, executive director of Doctors for America, a group supporting the law.
Robert Kennedy, a resident in internal medicine at New York’s Jacobi Medical Center in The Bronx, described treating the uninsured, many of whom wait to come to the hospital until they are very sick. Kennedy, 29, said one uninsured man worried about the cost of care delayed going to the hospital for pneumonia until it became difficult for him to breathe.
Many opponents of the new law, meanwhile, wore American flag bandanas and called for the court to strike down the law. Keli Carender, 32, of Seattle, wore an American flag bandanna around her wrist and another stuck in her pants pocket. A tea party member, Carender said she has health insurance through her job at a nonprofit group but would drop it in protest if the law’s mandate that almost all Americans have insurance or pay a fine goes into effect in 2014.