One bore a figurine of a tiny, bespectacled lady with a mighty gavel. Another carried a sign proclaiming: “Not all heroes wear capes. Mine wore a robe.”
Some 150 people, by police estimates, gathered outside the Morris County Courthouse on Sunday night for a candlelit march around the Morristown Green to honor Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the Supreme Court Justice who died Friday from pancreatic cancer at age 87.
“Oppression never rests, and neither can we,” said Meghan Lynch of the Morris County Democratic Women’s Caucus, organizer of the event.
Video: Morristown vigil for the Notorious RBG
The Randolph resident remembered the Notorious RBG, as fans called the liberal justice, as “a giant of excellence, of righteousness and of fairness.”
She said Ginsburg would not want her followers to stand down at a time when President Trump is vowing to replace her with a conservative who would push the high court’s balance further to the right.
“This is the moment to celebrate her legacy, by voting for those people who will uphold the principles of justice and equality that she fought for her entire life. We must vote like our lives and our country depend on it–because they do. Tonight we march, and tomorrow we fight,” Lynch said.
Some women brought their daughters to share this pivotal moment.
“I’m scared. I’m scared for my daughter. Because some decisions are going to get made, and we need to make sure they’re good decisions,” said Abigail Alexander, accompanied by Shoshannah, a 3rd grader.
Their T-shirts listed Eleanor (Roosevelt), Rosa (Parks), Ruth (Bader Ginsburg), Michelle (Obama), and, respectively, “My Daughter” and “My Mom.”
“It’s very important for our daughters to know who Justice Ginsburg was, and how she stood up for women’s rights,” said Randolph resident Meredith Ross, who was accompanied by 11-year-old Chloe. “And I think it’s so important to teach our children to stand by their convictions.”
Ginsburg’s advocacy set an example of professionalism, tact and civility, said Rebecca Fisher, also of Randolph, who came with her daughter Emmy, a 6th grader.
“The ripple effect of what she started is going to carry on for so many years,” Fisher said of the late jurist.
Public officials on hand included Morristown Councilwoman Sandi Mayer, a Democrat, and Morris County GOP Freeholder Tayfun Selen.
“We’re celebrating the life of a wonderful woman,” said Morris County Sheriff James Gannon, also a Republican, whose department assisted Morristown police with security.
Ginsburg, a Brooklyn native, finished at the top of her law class at Columbia University but spent years teaching at Rutgers because law firms would not hire a woman. She later argued several landmark cases before the Supreme Court. President Bill Clinton nominated her for the high court in 1993.
“Ruth Bader Ginsburg was a pioneer. She paved the way for women’s rights in this country,” said Denville resident Rupande Mehta, a Democrat running against state Sen. Anthony M. Bucco in the 25th District, which includes Morristown and Morris Township.
The controversy over naming Ginsberg’s successor is a reminder to vote, “if we don’t want to see a rollback of so many rights in this country,” said Mehta.
A native of India, she became a U.S. citizen in 2017 and ran for Freeholder a year later. Her daughter Sophie, a 3rd grader, joined her on Sunday.
Morris Township Deputy Mayor Jeff Grayzel, who lost a party runoff to Mehta by two votes in his bid to face Bucco for Senate, ranks Ginsburg among his Top 20 of “the most important Americans we have ever had.”
He attended the vigil with his wife, Lynn Grayzel, and their two sons. Lynn, who works in human resources, said RBG broke down barriers for career women like herself.
“I’m also out here because it’s really important that our current leaders continue to ensure that we have true representation in our justice system,” she said. “Each justice should represent different constituencies across the United States — not just one.”
Ginsburg’s death, at a time of escalating polarization in the United States, is likely to go down as a “where were you?” milestone for many. The answer for several dozen will be: The rooftop parking deck of the Morris Museum in Morris Township.
On Friday night, patrons gave a standing ovation to Tymisha Harris for her provocative portrayal of Josephine Baker, a 20th century Black star who was adored in Paris but couldn’t get served in New York nightclubs.
Museum emcee Brett Wellman Messenger then came onstage with news that the country had lost “a great American hero.” A moment of silence was observed on the chilly concrete deck.
Sunday’s vigil was hushed, too, out of respect. But mourners won’t remain silent — also out of respect, said Rosemary Topar, who traveled from Fanwood with her RBG figurine.
Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s slight shoulders were a bulwark against “a relentless march backwards in terms of progress,” said Topar, a violin teacher.
“We are determined to continue fighting even harder for what we believe in, and what she believed in, and we’re going to do it in her name, and we’re going to win. It ’s going to be hard. But we’re going to be relentless, and we’re going to win.”