Downtown Richmond vigil honors RBG

A child at the candlelit vigil holds a candle in honor of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Photo by Jon Mirador

Anya Sczerzenie, Staff Writer

Richmonders mourned the death of an influential Supreme Court justice with candles and Jewish blessings on Sunday, as people across the nation continued to wonder when her spot on the nation’s highest bench will be filled and if her dying wish will be honored. 

Around 150 people gathered outside the Virginia Eastern District Court in downtown Richmond on Sunday night for a vigil honoring the life of late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

The 87-year-old justice died due to complications with metastatic pancreatic cancer on Sept. 18. She was known for her forceful dissents in the United States Supreme Court, and for her support of reproductive and women’s rights. 

“We know that RBG’s passing means we have a fight ahead of us,” Virginia Pride member Stephanie Merlo said during the event. “It is our duty as Americans to fight in her honor. Do not give up, do not despair. Organize. Vote.”

Virginia Pride is an organization that seeks to raise awareness for the LGBT community. James Millner, the organization’s interim director, planned the vigil on Facebook.

Speakers included a rabbi, a Christian minister and directors of local activist groups. Because Ginsburg was Jewish, one speaker read the mourner’s kaddish, a Jewish blessing for the deceased.

Attendees shielded flames of white candles from the wind, reigniting them with others’ as they extinguished. 

Reverend Lacette Cross, pastor of the Restoration Fellowship RVA, spoke at the event.

“This is a moment that her life needs to be mourned, and people are scared,” Cross said. “I believe that the best way to move forward is to collectively grieve, so we can collectively move forward to make a difference.”

Cross requested the crowd take a moment of silence in honor of Ginsburg. As the vigil winded down, a musician played guitar and sang as attendees spoke in quiet conversation. 

Camille Bird, a resident of Carytown, said she came to be with others while grieving the loss of Ginsburg.

“It’s better to be together with others than crying in my living room,” Bird said. “I think it’s really important to grieve as a community.”

Bird said what she remembers most about Ginsburg was the justice’s reputation for writing dissenting opinions in the Supreme Court. 

Attendees at Sunday’s vigil raise their candles. Photo by Jon Mirador

During her lifetime, Ginsburg fought for housing allowances for women in the military, advocated for same-sex marriage, argued the Virginia Military Institute should allow female students, fought for the rights of people with mental disabilities and assisted in many other landmark Supreme Court rulings that marked pivitol moments in the nation’s history. 

Ginsburg’s death leaves a vacancy on the Supreme Court, which has ignited debate on when her spot should be filled. After the death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, the Republican party blocked former President Barack Obama from nominating a justice more than 11 months before a new president would be sworn in. Now, less than two months before the presidential election, President Donald Trump tweeted that he is obligated to fill the seat “without delay.”

President Donald Trump has promised to make an appointment within the upcoming days, despite Ginsburg’s dying wish — according to her granddaughter Clara Spera — that the next elected president nominate her replacement.

Richmond resident Perina Kiner says she came to the event to honor Ginsburg, despite concerns about how her vacant seat will be filled. 

“She wasn’t always liked or agreed with,” Kiner said. “But she always accomplished what she wanted to accomplish.”

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