A circus atmosphere outside the Supreme Court turned partisan Thursday after the long-awaited decision on President Obama's healthcare law was released.
The crowds — mostly upbeat and festive to start — were so large that they spilled across the streets onto the adjacent blocks. Opponents of the law gathered near the center of the steps and chanted "Strike it down!" as the clock ticked toward 10 a.m., when the court's session began.
Some in the crowd had brought along a life-size mannequin of Jesus in a tan robe. Many waved the "Don't tread on me" flags associated with the Tea Party movement or held "Defund Planned Parenthood" banners.
Reporters inside the court received the ruling at about 10:11 a.m., and a cheer quickly swept the crush of conservatives as CNN and Fox News ran headlines that the mandate had been struck down. The crowd broke into a rendition of "The Star-Spangled Banner."
That was soon replaced with calls of "This is not over!" as opponents of the law discovered that the mandate had, in fact, survived the court challenge.
"We will never be the same," Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) said of the ruling, adding that opponents of the healthcare law will "not back down in November."
"We have a duty to future generations to replace this president," she yelled above chants of "Four more years."
Soon after, crowds thinned, leaving die-hards on both sides involved in heated arguments.
In one case, a liberal woman and conservative man berated each other to such a degree that Supreme Court police were called to stand by in case of a tussle.
"Healthcare access is about people's lives!" the woman cried, as the man kneeled in mock reverence before her.
"What more free stuff do you want from the government?" he yelled back. "What else do you want?"
Among the progressives outside the court was a group promoting a single-payer system.
They had two belly-dancers in tow that drew stares as they whirled through the crowd. Trailing the women were several seniors holding signs that read "Medicare for all."
Other signs read "We love Obamacare" and "Keep your hands off my healthcare."