WASHINGTON – Along with 10,000 demonstrators in the city, several members of Congress made the short walk from their Capitol Hill offices to the area around the Supreme Court yesterday to either listen to oral arguments in Grutter v. Bollinger and Gratz v. Bollinger or express their support for the University’s race-conscious admissions at various press conferences and rallies.
Students Supporting Affirmative Action – a coalition of several University student groups – held a rally on Constitution Avenue yesterday. They were joined by members of Michigan’s congressional delegation and other politicians.
Two main speakers included long-time U.S. Reps. John Dingell (D-Dearborn) and John Conyers (D-Detroit). The representatives directed criticism toward the Bush administration for speaking out against the University’s admissions policies in January.
“This is April Fools Day and I’m telling you it’s going to be an April Fool’s Day for the folks on the other side of the Supreme Court,” Dingell declared to a cheering crowd. “We want equality in the United States and we want diversity at the (University).”
“I would have gone to the University of Michigan but they didn’t have affirmative action,” Conyers told the crowd, adding that he predicts a close victory for the University in these cases.
Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), who unsuccessfully fought against her state’s Proposition 209 – a state constitutional amendment banning affirmative action – when she served in the California State Legislature in 1995. She warned the crowd that the danger of the nation’s schools becoming as segregated as California’s would grow if the court ruled against the University.
But Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Lansing) said that if the University suffers a loss, the civil rights movement and the hope for equality in schools will not die. “We simply will re-crack and re-debate and move again,” Stabenow said. “We’ve all got a stake in what happens.”
Two Congressional Black Caucus members made an appearance on the steps of the court after attending both hearings. Reps. Sheila Jackson-Lee (D-Texas) and Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) expressed a lack of faith in conservative members of the Rehnquist Court and the Bush administration.
Jackson-Lee said she was horrified by some of the questions asked by the justices, as well as by Solicitor General Theodore Olsen speaking in conjunction with the plaintiffs, which she said wasted taxpayers’ money.
“It was evident in the courtroom that race will continue to be a decisive factor,” Jackson-Lee said. “(Minority groups) always become a stepping stone for anyone’s complaints.”
Jackson-Lee added that if the court rules against the University, the Bush administration should no longer be in power. “My prayers are with the (court) and the Bush administration,” she said.
Waters said if the government continues to be apathetic in helping minorities, she hopes to rely on supporters of the University such as the business community to continue to spread racial diversity.
“The hope for my people does not simply lie within these justices,” Waters said.