Protesting at the Supreme Court…you need a costume

Hands off my body! – Conservative Baby Boomer outside the Supreme Court protesting “Obamacare”

I walk by the Supreme Court every day as I shuffle to and from work. Some days I dread the walk past the Court like January 22nd of every year. That is the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, and the pro-life crowd, though entertaining, is completely rude and extremely messy…. they give off this feeling as if they are hanging out in their church parking lot instead of being on Capitol Hill.1 The mere thought of sharing space with non-pissed off people is a foreign concept to them. Some days, I make extra trips to the Supreme Court during the day just to witness the crowds.2

Earlier this week, Monday-Wednesday specifically, I strolled by the Supreme Court not only in the morning and evening, but also during lunch. These were the days that the Supreme Court was deliberating on HHS v. Florida. The main question the Court is addressing is “whether Congress had the power under Article I of the Constitution to enact the minimum coverage provision” of the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010 (“Obamacare” to the ignorant). Some protests are better visit and view than others… I had hoped that the people for and against this law would entertain me.

As Matt‘s dad said “the only rational reason to go to a street protest is to meet girls,”3 unfortunately rationality affects very few people when they purposely head out to protest. As stated earlier… “Hands off my body!” isn’t exactly the chant you expect to hear from conservative protesters especially considering the typical conservative view on abortion. Modern politics definitely entertains in ways that may be lost on the entertainer. I am still grappling with determining whether or not this phrase “Hands off my body!” (by what I assumed were pro-life but anti-mandated health insurance coverage people) was ironic or intentional.

Matt was my let’s-go-check-out-the-crowd companion on Monday, and he wrote a quick, yet extremely insightful, blog about our visit. His main points being that 1) the scene in front of the Court was not particularly memorable, 2) protesting in front of the Court is logically awkward, and 3) the Court and its environment doesn’t enable a good protest. I too have a few thoughts about these protests (and protests in general).

– Wear a costume. As with the “George Washington” above, having a costume has a significant effect on passerbys and the media. Everyone wants to talk to a person that makes the effort to dress up like it’s Halloween, even though no one was promising candy. Tuesday at 4:10pm is when I saw George and he was holding “court” with a few members of media. By physically drawing attention to himself, he was able to spout his thoughts. What I heard him utter as I passed was “the Court is attacking liberty… ” I didn’t stay to hear the rest of his diatribe, but the circle of reporters were highly interested. I bet the rest of the “interview” was entertaining and devoid of fact as that simple statement. On Wednesday afternoon, approximately the same time as my Tuesday encounter with George, I witnessed another costumed protester outside the Court. This time it was a female Paul Revere… I think. Unlike the somewhat accurately dressed George,4 this Paulette Revere had decided to dress herself in black tights (the ones that show panty lines so well), a black t-shirt, brown suede vest, brown leather belt with a bugle dangling seductively low near her crotch, and a tri-cornered hat (with a feather flourish). What truly set Ms. Revere apart was the large dark red Joker lips that was drawn from ear to ear.5 She too had a crowd of reporters. Wear a costume and you will get your message out.

– Be loud. Chant, sing, megaphone it out. “Hands off my body!” and “Give me healthcare!” seemed to be the favorites of the two competing crowds. Monday seemed to have a more pro-mandate crowd over the anti-mandate crowd. Tuesday was more balanced, and by Wednesday the anti-mandate crowd had assumed a dominate role. But getting your message out through costume or chant is important. Matt, however, makes a good point by identifying the fortress-like bubble the Justices work in and how the front sidewalk area of the Court doesn’t exactly lend itself as a good spot to be heard. The Court doesn’t give a shit about what you have to say… but the media does.

– Ensure security and big names. If your case is important enough to get costumed protesters and chanting crowds, then your case is important to draw political celebrities. On Monday and following mine and Matt’s crowd walk-through, Rick “Sweater Vest” Santorum decided to arrive in a convoy of silver SUVs and make an impromptu speech. With speedy efficiency, Santorum arrived and with security in tow… marched up the steps and without microphone addressed the crowd. Really he addressed the media and unfortunately he wasn’t sporting a costume or a sweater vest. I was viewing from a picnic table in front of the Library of Congress at this time and the best view I got was the arrival of his entourage… which was slightly speeding. Rep. Michelle Bachmann made an appearance later, unfortunately I didn’t witness it. I did, however, get to see the federal government’s attorneys get escorted by Secret Service… make a hole people. For the record, the federal government uses black SUVs… silver ones are reserved for presidential candidates only.

The moral of this story… if you are going to protest wear a costume (regardless of any resemblance to Batman’s enemies), have a good slogan (regardless of how inaccurate or ignorant), and try to get your side to bring a few celebrities to the forefront. Forest Gump got his day in the sun and so should you. If you do show up in costume though, don’t be surprised when Capitol Hill workers and DC residents stop, laugh, and take your picture… you people crack me up.

1. I support everyone and anyone’s right to protest. Just pick up after yourself and don’t leave your signs and trash all over the ground. Your mom raised you better.

2. I work approximately 250 yards from the Supreme Court on Capitol Hill.

3. The protesters this week weren’t exactly eye-candy… but oddly there seemed to be more suits than slogan emblazoned t-shirts.

4. Or at least the imagined George Washington to this protester. The buff and blue are correct though.

5. These ears also sported dangling feather earings that were of the roach clip variety… reminded me of the county fair prizes of my Tennessee youth.

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