Protesters Rally Outside Supreme Court

The U.S. Supreme Court began hearing arguments Monday on the legality of President Obama's health care law. Outside the court, there were protesters, a band and even a presidential candidate.

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MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Melissa Block.

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

And I'm Robert Siegel.

If you were expecting three days of Supreme Court arguments over the health care law to kick off with a bang, think again. Today's arguments began like this.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: The Anti-Injunction Act imposes a pay-first-litigate-later rule that is central to federal tax assessment and collection.

BLOCK: Today, the court delved into a procedural question, which for all its complexity, amounts to this. Does the Supreme Court have jurisdiction now to hear the case? Even one of the lawyers involved previously said today's arguments would be boring and that he felt sorry for people who camped out to hear them.

SIEGEL: In a few minutes, we'll explain what happened inside the court in the clearest English we can. First, outside the court, you could find protesters, a band, even a presidential candidate and NPR's Sonari Glinton.

SONARI GLINTON, BYLINE: The Supreme Court has become the main stage for the drama over health care. If what's going on inside the court is the main event, here outside is the opening attraction.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: (Singing) This little light of mine, I'm gonna let it shine. Let it shine...

GLINTON: In the days preceding the argument, a variety of rallies and vigils were held, mainly by opponents of the health care law. Today, it was supporters who were out in full force. James Winkler is with the United Methodist Church.

JAMES WINKLER: Health care is a human right, and that it is a governmental responsibility to provide citizens with health care.

GLINTON: Opponents of the law have been gathering at the courthouse all weekend. Ken Campbell considers himself a Tea Partier. Campbell says he opposes the law. He says while he's only able to afford catastrophic insurance, he doesn't think the government should force him to buy any at all.

KEN CAMPBELL: You know, right now they're dictating that we have to buy health care and what are they going to dictate to us tomorrow? We don't need a bureaucrat in Washington telling us what we need to buy. If Obama tells us that we have to buy health care today, what's he going to tell us tomorrow? We have to buy a Chevy Volt?

GLINTON: There were groups of doctors, groups of students, labor unions and groups of lawyers. But there was only one presidential candidate, Republican Rick Santorum.

RICK SANTORUM: This is the most important issue in this election. It's one that encapsulates all the issues that are at stake in this very critical election in our country's history.

GLINTON: Santorum blasted his Republican rivals for not coming out to the Supreme Court steps. There were also many casual spectators. Kelly Ross and her 16-year-old son Finlay are visiting Washington from Chicago. They both support the health care law. They were planning to see pandas at the National Zoo, but decided on a whim this morning to see justices at the Supreme Court instead.

KELLY ROSS: We kind of feel like we can see a panda, you know, tomorrow. We could've seen them yesterday. But the justices are kind of harder to get a look at, I think.

FINLAY ROSS: Plus, we don't get the protesting in front of the gates.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

K. ROSS: Right. No one's protesting at the National Zoo.

GLINTON: More rallies and vigils are planned in the days to come as the stakes get higher in the oral arguments.

Sonari Glinton, NPR News, Washington.

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