Riverside candlelight vigil honors late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Mallory Castorena, 30, of Riverside, kneels at the candlelight vigil honoring Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg at the Riverside County Historic Courthouse on Sept. 19. (Erik Galicia | Viewpoints)
By Erik Galicia

A small crowd gathered at the Riverside County Historic Courthouse on Sept. 19 to pay their respects to a late Supreme Court justice considered a champion of women’s rights.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg died Sept. 18 from cancer complications at 87 years old. She served on the Supreme Court since her appointment by President Bill Clinton in 1993.

Local mourners showed up, with candles in hand, and put together an altar at the top of the courthouse steps.

“She’s an iconic figure for women everywhere,” Moreno Valley resident Brielle Fierro said. “She’s definitely a woman to be cherished.”

Fierro, 23, is a social studies teacher at Valverde High School in Perris. She said she encourages her students who are interested in academia to follow women like Ginsburg.

Ginsburg was the second woman to be appointed to the Supreme Court, after Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, who was appointed by President Ronald Reagan in 1981 and served until 2006. The late justice wrote the opinion that struck down the Virginia Military Institute’s men-only admissions policy in 1996. Ginsburg was also a staunch supporter of a woman’s right to choose.

“It is essential to woman’s equality with man that she be the decision maker, that her choice be controlling,” Ginsburg told the Senate before her appointment was confirmed. “If you impose restraints, you are disadvantaging her because of sex.”

Patricia Verwiel, 74, of Riverside, described Ginsburg’s legacy as a willingness to dissent.

“No matter patriotism is too often the refuge of scoundrels,” Verwiel said, quoting author and activist Barbara Ehrenreich, during her characterization of Ginsburg. “Dissent, rebellion and all-around hell raising remain the true duty of patriots.”

Posters honoring Ruth Bader Ginsburg line the top of the steps at the Riverside County Historic Courthouse on Sept. 19. (Erik Galicia | Viewpoints)

Verwiel urged young people to follow this example during the political argument that will result from Ginsburg’s replacement.

President Donald Trump said Sept. 19 that he will nominate a woman during the week of Sept. 21 to replace Ginsburg. Democrats are calling for the nomination to be made after the presidential election.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-K.Y., said Sept. 18 that the upper house will vote on Trump’s nomination.

“It’s completely hypocritical for Republicans to consider nominating someone 45 days before the election,” said Leslie Grafstrom, 72, of Riverside. “Especially when so many of them were against that during (Barack) Obama’s presidency.”

Grafstrom, like many others at the downtown vigil, said there is not much that can be done to stop the confirmation of a conservative judge due to the Republican control of the Senate. But some in the crowd argued Democrats can stop the confirmation by convincing four Republican senators to break from their party’s decision.

Sam Stager, 49, of Riverside, called for anti-Trump Republicans, such as The Lincoln Project and 43 Alumni, to pressure the Senate majority. The two organizations are political action committees that have worked to prevent Trump’s reelection.

“We need to apply pressure,” Stager said. “All we need is four or five Republicans to block this and (Sen.) McConnell won’t have the votes.”

Those in attendance at the vigil urged the public to keep fighting no matter what comes from Trump’s expected nomination. 

“People like (Ginsburg) leave big shoes to fill,” said Zach Cryder, 27, a Riverside City College alumnus. “She represented always fighting against what’s wrong. Don’t be apathetic. It’s gonna be hard but we have to keep trying.”

Candlelight vigils were held at courthouses across the country Sept. 19.