Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, known for her judicial fight for women’s equality, passed away Friday, Sept. 18 at the age of 87. In response, an event called “When There are Nine: Remembering RBG and a Call to Action” was held at Tiguex Park on Sunday evening.
“If there was ever a moment folx were waiting for to be mad as hell, this is it,” the event page stated, referring to President Donald Trump and Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s promise to replace Ginsburg before the imminent election.
In 2016, following the death of former Justice Antonin Scalia, McConnell refused to hold a Senate vote on former President Barack Obama’s nominee, saying voters should decide which presidential candidate should pick the next justice.
The event was hosted by ProgressNow New Mexico and Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains, along with 12 other organizations, and was supported by El Centro de Igualdad y Derechos. Over 1,000 people interacted with the Facebook event page, and at least 300 people showed up in person. The event was largely attended by older members of the community.
When asked about why they were in attendance, responses varied but one thing was clear — people loved Ginsburg. Flora Lucero, the chair of the Democratic Party of Bernalillo County, said she was inspired by Ginsburg because she “wasn’t just about today, or four years from now: She was about securing women’s rights in the future.”
Cami, who was tabling for Common Cause New Mexico and asked to be identified by her first name only, said that Ginsburg wasn’t on her radar until she had her daughter. Nine years later, she shares her love of the late justice with her daughter, who got incredibly excited after she watched the documentary “RBG” and “even wrote a paper about her.”
Another attendee, Debi Patterman, said Ginsburg was important to her because she thought that she “could handle the old boys’ club” and was the only woman justice who could “keep women’s rights and women at the forefront of her decisions.”
Representatives from the various organizations each took their turn in front of the mic to speak about the significance of Ginsburg’s work. They spent the majority of their time speaking about the need to continue fighting for the very things that she fought her whole life for.
After beginning with a land acknowledgment, activist Erica Davis-Crump focused on the intersectionality within the Black Lives Matter movement by leading a breathing exercise. She followed an inhale of breath with an exhale of the names of Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd.
Davis-Crump recognized that the night was a time for remembrance but finished by calling the audience to action by proclaiming, “Tomorrow we rise.”
The next speaker brought attention to the fact that Ginsburg was fallible and said it was important “to recognize the voices not here today.” She said she had reached out to Indigenous women in the community who said that they mourned her loss but were also “conflicted because RBG had ruled against Indigenous sovereignty.”
The following speaker said, “If we hold up our heroes to be more than human, that prevents us and our children from believing that we can do heroic things.”
Speakers also talked about the potential consequences if the landmark abortion rights case Roe v. Wade is overturned with a solid right-leaning Court and the dire necessity of voting in the upcoming presidential election, but the night closed out with a more serene focus on the significance of the day Ginsburg passed.
Sept. 18 was the beginning of Rosh Hashanah, the start of the Jewish New Year and a time of “reflection and repentance,” according to Rabbi Harry Rosenfeld, who closed out the night via a Zoom call connected to the sound system.
He said that a Jewish person who dies during Rosh Hashanah is considered a tzaddik, someone who is “most righteous” and who “God held back because they were needed the most.”
He then gave a benediction as people all around the park lit candles that had been passed out earlier. After what had been a fairly lively event, silence enveloped the park as attendees remembered the life that was lost.
As the sunset waned, the benediction finished and people began to pack up to the sound of “Physical'' by Olivia Newton-John.
Police presence at the event was minimal. A maskless counter-demonstrator in a motorized wheelchair antagonized the people around him by yelling, “Don’t make this country a socialist country” and trying to upstage the speakers before he was escorted out of the park by Albuquerque police officers.
Shelby Kleinhans is a freelance photographer and reporter for the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted at email@example.com or on Twitter @BirdsNotReal99