WASHINGTON- You can march. You can picket. You have every right to do so.
But what makes you think you'll change what the Justices will decide?
You couldn't tell that to the hundreds of Gore/Bush supporters at the steps of the highest court in the land yesterday. And you sure couldn't tell them they couldn't influence the divided justices to accept or reject Bush’s petition for ruling that Florida’s Supreme Court was wrong for extending the state deadline for conducting ballot recounts.
Protestors big and small in size and stature traveled from around the country to yell, scream and chant about their presidential concerns. Many took the day off work to arrive at the Supreme Court late Thursday night and wee hours of Friday morning.
“We feel that our rights are at stake if this doesn't guarantee every vote is counted,” said Al Sharpton, leader of a large group of Gore supporters, one of them former D.C. Mayor Marion Barry.
“Count all of the votes, not some,” Sharpton said. “You cannot certify a robbery. You cannot have a democracy and say we are going to recount some of the votes. We must run society on what's just and fair.”
Police struck a divide at the center of the Court's steps between Gore and Bush demonstrators. Many jumped on stools and boosted each other up to shout insults to the other side.
“No More Gore!” “Stay out of the Bushes!” Gore supporters yelled.
“Bush can count!” Bush contingents fired back.
The day appeared more festive and similar to a costume party rather than seeming like political-trench-warfare.. Demonstrators flooded the sidewalk dressed in their funky garb: one wore an oversized ballot box, another dressed as a GOP elephant and the king of them all – Darth Vader.
Tom Lauria, of Arlington, Va., stood with a poster of Gore eating “chads” in hand while yelling the ceremonial chants.
“What's it take to win an election?” he argued. “Gore's had the votes counted three times. That's why Republicans are so angry.”
Like many Bush supporters, Lauria links Gore's drive for more recounts in Miami-Dade, Broward and West Palm Beach counties to the fact that they are traditionally democratic strongholds. Gore's bull-headed approach to winning the presidency is muddying the nation, he said.
“He's just being very stubborn and it's making American history because it is he alone that's putting the country through this,” said Lauria. “Not since Aaron Burr has this country seen such a sore loser.”
Some Bush supporters side-stepped the issue of missing votes and military absentee ballots and attacked Gore's character instead. Sixty-eight year old Frank Williams led a tour group from Atlantic City, N.J., at 5 a.m.
“For the last eight years, they (the Clinton administration) have brought nothing but disgrace and dishonor, not true leadership,” he said, referring to disorderly conduct by President Clinton in his affair with Monica Lewinsky. “Al Gore's a copy of who's in there now. We need a man to help everyone.”
And forget about hushing the die-hard Gore supporters.
“G-W-B! How may votes can you steal from me!” Sharpton's massive, predominately black group chanted, expressive of their discontent with what they think is total disregard for the black vote.
They sang: “This little vote of mine, I'm gonna let it shine. Every where I go, I'm gonna let it shine,” as they gravitated toward the police barricades.
Away from the airtight mob of demonstrators was the national director of October's Million Family March, Nation of Islam Minister Benjamin Muhammad. He agreed with Sharpton's view that the black vote was ignored in Florida. Muhammad attributed much of the black voter turnout to the success of the Million Family March and the Nation of Islam's voter education and registration drives.
“The tremendous turnout of the black vote in the wake of the Million Family March is what this is about,” Muhammad said. “They don't want to count the black vote… The trick is to make everyone frustrated and so they say forget about the whole thing. We must stay vigilant and we must stay active.”