Solemn Saturday at the Supreme Court
The nation is still mourning after Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg passed away late Friday evening on September 18.
The first-ever Jewish woman to ever serve on the highest court in the land, the Supreme Court of the United States, had succumbed to her longstanding battle with cancer, but her life and legacy has not been extinguished like the flickering flames from a simple candle.
People from all across the country are still congregating in the nation’s capital. They are flocking to Washington, D.C. and honoring her memory with assorted flowers and candles.
Coming with chalk in-hand, some wrote personal messages of female empowerment and gratitude, citing Ginsburg as their source of inspiration as a longtime advocate for justice and women’s equality in the courtroom.
Some shed tears and others stood in silence outside the steps of the Supreme Court building located on 1 First St. NE just one day removed from her death.
It was a somber Saturday. The pair of American flags were flown at half mast. Hundreds kept circulating in front of the building throughout the day, bringing gifts as tributes.
During these trifling hours of sadness and despair on Rosh Hashanah, some saw this moment as the start of something new.
Yi Tai Shao is a Chinese woman and lawyer from California. In 1996, she passed the State Bar of California in 1996 after attending the University of Iowa College of Law. She traveled from the Golden State to pay her respects in honor of Justice Ginsburg.
On that Saturday, she sounded the shofar, an ancient instrument to usher in a new year filled with good luck on Rosh Hashanah.
As the sound of the shofar echoed into the air for all to hear, she insisted that blessings will be bestowed upon the Supreme Court during these tumultuous times.
“God will bless the United States of America, especially the U.S. Supreme Court to have a breakthrough and a Justice prevailing to recover the justice in the United States. This is the new year,” Shao told FingerLakes1.com.
The Jewish holiday marks the start of the new year in Judaism, and it seemed fitting that this solemn day sparked a new movement just less than 50-days before the 2020 presidential election: the RBG Revolution.
The hashtag #RBGDyingWish went viral this weekend. It was reportedly Ginsburg’s final request for her seat to not be filled until after the 2020 presidential election occurred: regardless of the outcome.
NPR legal affairs correspondent Nina Totenberg originally reported that Justice Ginsburg shared with her granddaughter Clara Spera just a few days before she died.
However, her dying wish is seemingly under attack by President Donald J. Trump, who vows to fill the seat with a handpicked appointment before the 2020 presidential election.
Even President Trump could not escape scrutiny over his latest remarks about the status of Ginsburg’s seat on the Supreme Court.
Outside the Supreme Court in the middle of a pandemic, there are people nestled shoulder-to-shoulder and protesting regardless of age, race, gender, demographic and creed, including Melinda Church, a second-year law student at Georgetown University.
She and her fellow law friends stood out in front on the sidewalk and switched holding their signs by frequently rotating their shifts.
Church kiddingly told FingerLakes1.com that she planned to stay outside “until her sunburn gets too bad,” but all jokes aside, she solely sought to stand-up for Ginsburg and her legacy on that Saturday.
“I think that we are the next generation of female lawyers, and at this time, we tend to take that for granted the position that we have in society… I think that we are here to pay tribute to her legacy and the way that she made for people that look like us and reaffirm our commitment to fighting the same injustice that she dedicated her entire career to,” Church admitted.
A hundred years ago, the suffragettes in Seneca Falls sought to secure the right for women to vote in America.
In 2020, Ginsburg’s loss is one that has been felt throughout the movement as an all-time feminist icon of unrivaled proportions, and Church acknowledges that and all of the hard work Justice Ginsburg constantly fought for.
“The suffragettes and Ruth Bader Ginsburg did a lot for us in establishing intermediate scrutiny, gender-related distinctions in the law, and we owe a lot to the women who came before us and, it’s up to men and women everywhere to rededicate our lives to fighting the same injustice every step of the way throughout our lives,” she added.
But Church wasn’t ever alone. There were plenty of others who vocalized their disdain toward Trump at the very place where Ginsburg called home since 1993 for nearly three-decades while sitting on the bench through sickness and in health.
Al Hassane Mouhamed was born in Senegal and became a general contractor at Sophie-J, which is just a block away from the Capitol Hill neighborhood.
He walked from his home and spoke just out in front of the press barricade with a megaphone in-hand, urging anyone who would listen to simply vote in this upcoming election.
Mouhamed had a loud personality and never shied away from speaking his mind. He really didn’t need the megaphone even though he happily obliged for those in attendance that were standing along the sidewalk.
Using President Trump as an example, he explained that when the Commander in Chief infamously referred to some African nations as “shithole countries,” it personally offended him.
“You know, that is personal to me because after I see the president of Nigeria in the White House, he repeats everything he said before. That guy doesn’t represent African people. He represents himself,” Mouhamed told FingerLakes1.com.
On this day, however, Mouhamed remembered the legacy of Ginsburg and elaborated on why representation really matters to him.
“People put you where you sit to represent them. For example, this high Supreme Court here, anything going on in our life, they’re going to decide what’s going to happen. Then people need to understand, you need to get out and vote. Why? Your vote can make a difference,” he elaborated.
That’s what motivated him: representation and elections. This upcoming one is the most important one in his lifetime.
For him, it’s not about the politics or parties but rather about the future, claiming this is the nation’s chance to steer the country into a new course with former Vice President Joe Biden leading at the helm.
“The election is coming up. People need to get out and vote and vote for Joe Biden. It’s not about Democrats. It’s not about Republicans. It’s about your future. We need to wake up and get out. This is our chance,” Mouhamed ended.
While most mourned the nation’s loss of Justice Ginsburg, not everyone was fully onboard; Don Folden was one of them.
Folden, a former Washington, D.C. mayoral candidate who unsuccessfully vied for the seat back in the 1990s and founder of Capital Buddy Tours lugged around a speaker system.
He didn’t shed any tears. Instead he spoke his own truth about the current situation with the Supreme Court.
“Let me tell you something, you’re protesting the criminal justice system. Look at all these unqualified judges that are getting on the bench man, and it’s gonna be business as usual; but you ain’t protesting that,” Folden shouted from the street curb.
In fact, Folden is also concerned with the Supreme Court too and the role of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) in confirming Trump’s appointees.
He’s just more confrontational about it even shortly after Justice Ginsburg’s passing.
“But look at how Mitch McConnell is stacking unqualified judges on the bench, who’s got to make decisions. Now, you got judges that have been there, that are qualified and skipped over,” Folden told FingerLakes1.com.
Trump’s selection for his two Supreme Court nominations in Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh are truly telling. For Folden, these picks are problematic and relay a negative message to the American people.
At the same time, however, he’s still not sold on former Vice President Biden and his campaign either in saving America ahead of the 2020 election.
“Look at what we’re telling the young people that you can cheat, lie and steal and get to the top; that hard work doesn’t pay no more, and nobody is saying this. Joe Biden says that he wants to unite the country. Well, the only way you’re gonna unite this country is that we got to learn how to disagree with each other without hating each other,” Folden claimed.
Disagreements are bound to happen, but allowing Trump a third Supreme Court pick seems to substantiate Folden’s beliefs even further, calling for citizens to step-off the sidelines and becoming more active in public.
“You’ve been on the sidelines for too damn long. Get involved, not only voting in your community. Get involved,” Folden ended.
An Evening Vigil, Filled with Sadness and Surprises
The stage was set for an evening vigil just right outside the steps of the Supreme Court. It started at 8 p.m. and drew massive crowds even amid a global pandemic.
Under the veil of darkness, the marble white Supreme Court building still glowed against the black sky.
A black banner depicting Ginsburg’s face and the message “Honor RBG” along with a podium and had been placed just front of the steps and fenced-off plaza area before the columns.
But before the proceedings ever began, conflicts had been brewing. A “Make Again Great Again” hat wearing Trump supporter appeared without a mask on even though he’s supposed to be wearing one while out in public.
— Gabriel Pietrorazio, M.J. (@GabePietrorazio) September 19, 2020
He stood there sparring in intellectual debates opposite of several combatants, including a woman doctor from NARAL Pro-Choice America, a non-profit with 2.5 million member strong that promote women’s reproductive rights.
Eventually the Trump supporter left the premises, but there were other peaceful crowd agitators who freely came because of their own will and debated with some of the mourners about pro-choice, Black Lives Matter and other political issues.
Shortly after, the vigil started with a series of several song renditions like “Go Down Moses” and John Lennon’s “Imagine” were sung to open the event.
— Gabriel Pietrorazio, M.J. (@GabePietrorazio) September 20, 2020
Organizers called for a cantor to recite the Mourner’s Kaddish on Rosh Hashanah to honor her memory. Some in the crowd were familiar with the prayer and joined in Hebrew to harmonize their voices while raising lit candles toward the dark sky.
A major surprise from that evening’s vigil emerged from the wings soon after when Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) took center stage.
Senator Warren fondly remembered the spirit of Justice Ginsburg and promised that her dying wish would not be broken by Trump or her colleague in the U.S. Senate with McConnell.
“Mitch McConnell believes that this fight is over. What Mitch McConnell does not understand is this fight has just begun… Tonight is the moment to say from the heart, with conviction, to ourselves and to anyone who’s listening: when it comes to the fight to protect a woman’s right to choose, I will fight,” she declared.
Shortly after the senator led the crowd in several chanting verses of “I will fight!” until stepping away from the podium, but only after saying: “It is an an honor to be in this fight with you.”
Even though Justice Ginsburg had only passed a few days ago in the nation’s capital, her life and spirit had touched many places, including the birthplace of the women’s suffrage movement from its humble beginnings in the town of Seneca Falls.
At the Birthplace of Women’s Suffrage: The National Women’s Hall of Fame on Her Death
Eighteen years have passed since Justice Ginsburg visited Seneca Falls. That is when she had been inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame back in 2002.
Kate Bennett, the current director of the NWHF personally remembers meeting her on that special occasion.
She insisted that “her whole point of view, her thrust in her life was to be of service, and she made such a difference,” one that even had been above politics.
Bennett, who speaks about behalf of the NWHF truly disappointed after hearing the recent news about one of their own.
“We are so saddened at the National Women’s Hall of Fame, that another one of our inductees has passed away this year. Ruth Bader Ginsburg has been such an inspiration for so many of us,” Bennett exclusively told FingerLakes1.com.
After spending some time with Justice Ginsburg, Bennett described her as “a huge person, yet down to earth, and engaged with all who sought her out on that day.”
But now with that unparalleled presence gone from the bench, Bennett believed that “it definitely complicates things in our political lives.”
Still, despite this saddening setback for the Supreme Court and rest of America, Bennett recognizes that the National Women’s Hall of Fame has been entrusted to protect her life and legacy in the annals of their historical records at the newly opened Seneca Falls Knitting Mill.
“I am so grateful that we had, that we’ll be able to honor her legacy forever, because she made such a powerful statement about equality,” Bennett concluded.