More than 200 spectators, some of whom had waited in line all night to hear a 3-minute segment of arguments in the Bakke reverse discrimination case, were turned away yesterday by U.S. Supreme Court police because no space was available in the courtroom.
A crowd consisting mostly of college students started forming a line in front of the Supreme Court building as early as 9 p.m. Tuesday. Many of the spectators brought heavy blankets and sleeping bags and slept on the widewalk.
At first, court police told the group they would be permitted into the courtroom during the Bakke arguments in groups of 10, for 3 minutes at a time. Later, police announced that only the first 100 persons would be admitted because of space constraints.
"We had only 100 spaces for 100 people," said Sgt. W. HBlack, who was in charge of security at the front entrance of the Supreme Court building. "I went down the line last night telling people there was a strong chance they wouldn't be able to get in. But they decided to stay and take their chances."
At 10 a.m., Sgt. Black said he began admitting the small groups in to the courtroom. After about 90 persons had entered, he said a showing match erupted among the remaining spectators, who were attempting to push their way to the front of the line.
Sgt. Black said the line was temporarily ordered to disperse. But 20 minutes later, a new line was formed and the 3-minute rotations continued. In all, he said about 250 people who were in line got to the courtroom.
Lionel Oki, 24, a second year student at Georgetown Law School and one of the 200 spectators turned away, said he arrived at the court building at 1 a.m. and slept on the sidewalk.
"We wanted to be among the first to get in to hear the arguments." said Oki, who came with two fellow Georgetown students. But Oki said he was still several dozen heads away from the head of the line when police asked the group to disperse.
Ed Hailes, 23, a first-year law student at Howard University, said he also arrived in the early morning hours, stood in line and was turned away.
I believe Bakkie is a very historic case and i wanted to be here so that I could say 10 or 15 years from now that "I was there" when the Bakke case was argued," said Hailes.
Garnett Smither, 67, an optometrist in Mclean, said he was interested in the Bakke case as it applies to the question of double standards.
"When there are two standards of admission, there will be two standards of graduation," said Smither. "And if a person graduates under a double standards, he will expects to be employed under a dual standard and on and on."
About 40 students from the Rutgers University Law School, in Newark, N.J. arrived at the Supreme Court building about 12.30 a.m. yesterday. Although they slept in line all night, none were among the first spectators to enter the court.
Some Rutgers students later did get in for the 3-minutes alloted. But David Martin, president of the Rutgers Student Bar Association, who never did get inside, was threatened with arrest when he unfurled a huge Bakke protest banner on the Supreme Court steps, which is prohibited by law on the Supreme Court ground. He folded the banner as police led him to the sidewalk.
Across the street from the court building, about two-dozen protestors chanted slogans in favor of affirmative action programs and waved placards calling for the court to decide against Bakke.
Brenda Bisbon, 25, a law graduate of Duke University, now in private practice in Baltimore, was among the spectators who got a 3-minute glimpse of the Bakke arguments.
"Three minutes are really not enough time for you to find out where the lawyer is in his argument," she said, "But just being able to sit in the U.S. Supreme Court and hear a historic argument for even that short time was worth it."