Protesters gathered outside the Supreme Court building in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday to mark the Court's hearing of challenges to the Voting Rights Act. Raw Story spoke to Linda Sarsour, director of the Arab American Center of New York, who was on the scene Wednesday morning.

"We're standing in front of the Supreme Court building waiting for the attorneys to come out," said Sarsour. "There's a pretty big rally here, I would say about 500 people."

The crowd, she said, was startlingly diverse, made up of African-Americans, whites, Asians and Hispanics, as well as disability advocates and "a lot of elders and seniors, which is interesting. A lot of people talked about how there was a time when they couldn't vote and now they're here worrying that potentially this could be another time when they're going to have to fight a fight they've already fought, back in the '60s."

In Wednesday's case, an Alabama county is challenging Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, which stipulates that states with a history of racial discrimination at the polls must consult the federal government before making changes to election law or procedures by way of a process known as "pre-clearance." Alabama Republicans now argue that the law amounts to an infringement on the rights of whites.

During oral arguments on Wednesday, Justice Antonin Scalia called the Voting Rights Act a "perpetuation of racial entitlement."

Nine states are boung by "pre-clearance" rules, Georgia, Alabama, Texas, Alaska, Arizona, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, and Virginia, as well as some parts of other states.

Icons of the Civil Rights movement were on hand at Wednesday's rally to speak and to encourage voting rights advocates. Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), head of the Progressive caucus, spoke to the crowd, as well as Rev. Jesse Jackson and MSNBC commentator Al Sharpton.

In spite of the seriousness of the threat to voting rights posed today, Sarsour described the mood of the rally, which began around 9:00 a.m. as "uplifting." No one, she said, appeared to have come to the rally to oppose the VRA or to heckle its supporters.

"I don't see any hecklers, yet," she reported. "I was looking for them earlier because usually they're around, but this particular rally, I've walked around it a couple of times and I haven't seen any."

Watch video of Rep. Grijalva's speech, embedded below via YouTube:

[photo by Linda Sarsour]