On a sidewalk in front of the Supreme Court, school teacher Amanda Stafford wrote in chalk the words: “This is the dissident’s hope: that they do not write for today, but for tomorrow.”
It was a quote from Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a justice more renowned for her dissensions than her majority views, including the Bush v Gore case that decided the 2000 presidential election. Ginsburg died of pancreatic cancer on Friday at the age of 87. years, the last shock of an angry, divided and fragile nation.
On Saturday night, as summer gave way to autumn chill, thousands of people came to mourn her during a vigil outside the Washington courthouse. Some have made speeches. Others sang songs. Multiple hands joined or cutlery flowers and candles. Stafford paid homage with chalk.
“I wanted to show empowering words at a time when many people are feeling exhausted,”
Like many others, including numerous mothers and daughters, Stafford has been hit hard by the loss of the feminist North Star.
“I burst into tears and went to sit in a park, sobbing. I called my closest friends and we cried together. What is the state of American democracy in which a single woman who dies feels like a harbinger of despair? We are already in a pandemic and losing it felt like the end. “
Stafford’s homage was one of many outside the court, built in the 1930s in a classical style to project the full majesty of the law, its 16 marble columns illuminated as two US flags flew at half mast. “RIP RGB,” said a banner in the rainbow colors of the LGBTQ movement. “For my daughter,” said another simply.
“Real change, lasting change, happens one step at a time – Ruth Bader Ginsburg” was written on a cardboard sign in the midst of a sea of pictures, candles and flowers. “Kept theology out of our biology” was among the accolades of Ginsburg’s support for reproductive rights.
One of the most popular messages was “When there are nine”, a reference to Ginsburg’s observation, “When I am sometimes asked when there will be enough [women on the supreme court]? And I say, when it’s nine. “There were nods to a hip-hop-inspired nickname,” Notorious RBG, “and a tribute that said,” Even though she was small, she was fierce “- a quote from A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Ginsburg, tall 5 feet and 1 inch, he was a lover of the theater, especially the opera.
But in front of the court loomed the equally imposing United States Capitol, a reminder of the political war to come. A few weeks before the presidential election, Donald Trump appears poised to appoint a Conservative to succeed Ginsburg, sparking a bare-knuckle brawl in the Senate.
There was pain for what the nation had lost and fear for the future of its democracy. But above all in a rally that was partly wake, partly rally, there was a sense of determination and readiness to fight, a word repeated in many of the speeches.
Faced with a banner urging, “Honor RGB, no confirmation until grand opening,” Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren said Ginsburg “was an icon, she was a trailblazer, she was a role model, she was a friend. We’re here tonight to grieve but not to despair. The stakes are too high. “
Warren accused the Senate Majority Leader of attempting to hijack the confirmation process. “Today Mitch McConnell and his henchmen believe they can ram a supreme court judge only 45 days before the election.
“Mitch McConnell believes this fight is over. What Mitch McConnell doesn’t realize is that this fight has only just begun … Tonight is the time to say from the heart, with conviction, to ourselves and whoever is listening: when it comes to the fight to protect the right of choice of a woman, I will fight. “
The senator sang songs of “I’ll fight!” and “I will fight!”, concluding: “It is an honor to be in this fight with you.”
Neera Tanden, president of the Center for American Progress, said at the meeting: “The horrific tragedy of this moment is that a man who has been credibly accused of assaulting about 20 women would have had the audacity to appoint the replacement of Ruth Bader Ginsburg “.
Someone shouted: “Absolutely not!”
Almost everyone wore masks. Five people sat cross-legged and held hands in a circle around two dozen candles. Some carried banners and signs celebrating Ginsburg and denouncing Trump.
Amber Jones, 65, a retired writer, had a sign saying, “Honor your wish. No votes. “He admitted,” Many of my friends couldn’t bear to be here tonight. They’ve turned off the news and are trying to distract them.
“Most of us are preparing for battle. The incumbent is canceling everything we’ve been working for for 50 years. If he stays in office, it could be 50 years before we get back to where we were. Hope RGB looks down on us and intercedes. “
In the flammable mix of pandemics, presidential elections and supreme court clashes, anxieties were high. Jones said: “I’m worried about something approaching civil war because one side has all the weapons. It’s not on our side.”
Kia Hamadanchy, 34, a lawyer, said frankly, “Before that I was worried about the future of America. Just when you think things can’t get worse, they get worse. “
Amanda Barber, 35, a nurse carrying a sign urging, “Honor your precedent, honor his legacy,” said she turned to a house hunter website. “I started Zillowing places in Toronto. It’s just for fun. But I’m not sure I can take another four years of this.”