Hundreds gathered in Portland’s Monument Square on Sunday night to memorialize the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, but the vigil carried a strong undercurrent of defiance toward attempts to rush through her replacement, and an urgency to fight for the causes the liberal justice stood for.

“Honor her wish. Wait to replace,” said Marie Follayttar, a founder of Mainers for Accountable Leadership, which organized the event. Follayttar was referring to Ginsburg’s dying wish that she should not be replaced until a “new president is installed.”

Artwork depicting Ginsburg, flowers, candles and a Ginsburg figurine was displayed next to the podium where activists paid their respects. But the speakers also vowed – sometimes by shouting in defiance – to fight attempts by President Trump and Senate Republicans to rush through a conservative replacement before the Nov. 3 election or during a lame duck session in December. Ginsburg died on Friday at age 87 after serving 27 years on the Supreme Court.

In Maine, vigils were also being held on Sunday night in Bangor, Augusta and Bar Harbor.

Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden, the Democratic nominee, are vying for the presidency, but if Biden wins, he wouldn’t take office until Jan. 20. A new Congress would not be seated until early January, giving Republicans an opportunity to rush through a nominee before Biden, if he were to win, would assume office.

“We are staring down authoritarianism as it barrels toward us like a freight train,” Follayttar said. “We are striving for a more perfect union, a country that works for all of us. A system of true checks and balances and when that system fails, who is the final check on unchecked power? We, the people.”


Republicans hold a 53-47 majority in the U.S. Senate, and could afford to lose three Republicans and still confirm a Trump nominee. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has vowed to bring a Trump nominee to the Senate floor for a vote this year.

U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, said in a statement Saturday that she does “not believe the Senate should vote on the nominee prior to the election.” Collins also said that the lifetime Supreme Court appointment “should be made by the President who is elected on Nov. 3.”

Collins is locked in a tight re-election race with Democrat Sara Gideon, speaker of the Maine House of Representatives. Polls show Gideon with a narrow lead.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, has also said she’s against voting for an appointee prior to the presidential election, but so far no other Republicans have agreed with the stance taken by Collins and Murkowski. In February 2016, McConnell blocked former President Barack Obama’s Supreme Court pick, arguing at the time that the nomination was too close to a presidential election. Democrats cried foul when McConnell said he would push through a nominee this year despite the election being only six weeks away.

Meanwhile, activists like the ones in Portland on Sunday night say Ginsburg would want them to fight for fairness and equality by not jamming through a pick this close to a presidential election.

The vigil also had many moments of somber reflection.


Nyamuon “Moon” Nguany Machar of Portland wrote a poem in honor of Ginsburg, referring to the justice as a “magnetic warrior.”

“May we find a Ruth in each one of us, that holds her death as a calling for a changing tide,” Machar recited.

Hazel O’Connor, 7, holds her RBG sign above the head of her sister Lilah, 10, while at a vigil Sunday night for Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg at Monument Square in Portland. They were with their parents, Brian O’Connor and Sonya Kahlenberg of Yarmouth. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer

Lilah O’Connor, 10, held up a sign that said “Rest in Power, RBG” while her 7-year-old sister, Hazel O’Connor, grasped one that said “We won’t let you down.”

Lilah – who along with her sister has been volunteering on voter registration drives and enjoys learning about current events – said she has long been inspired by the “Notorious RBG.”

“I know she worked hard for women, and devoted her life to women’s rights,” said Lilah, of Yarmouth, who was there with her parents, Brian O’Connor and Sonya Kahlenberg.

Kahlenberg said they were motivated to attend the vigil because Ginsburg “has done so much for all of us.”

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