Protesters opposed to replacing U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg before the presidential election marched through downtown Salt Lake City on Saturday.
The march — from the federal courthouse near 400 S. West Temple to the federal building at the corner of 100 South and State Street — happened hours before President Donald Trump announced his latest nomination to the Supreme Court. Protesters took aim at Utah’s two senators — Republicans Mike Lee and Mitt Romney.
“What do we see? Hypocrisy!” the marchers chanted as they walked on 100 South.
“The only thing worse than fabricating a rule to serve yourself,” said 24-year-old Abby Draper, one of those who took a microphone to address the 75 or so protesters, “is abandoning that rule four years later to serve yourself!”
Lee was among the Republican senators in the winter and spring of 2016 who cited a pending presidential election as a reason not to consider the Obama nominee, Merrick Garland. Lee stuck to that position even as a poll showed the majority of Utah voters favored a Senate hearing for Garland.
For the vacancy left by Ginsburg’s death on Sept. 18, Lee has sidestepped the election year issue and focused on the “advice and consent” role the U.S. Constitution bestows upon senators.
Romney was elected to the Senate in 2018. In the past week, he has raised the “advice and consent” role, too, and, in the case of Garland in 2016, argued the party in control of the Senate does not typically confirm an other-party nominee to the Supreme Court in an election year.
Saturday’s protest and march touched on other themes, too. Ginsburg, who before becoming a judge worked as a lawyer to ensure equal protection for women, was remembered as a hero by Salt Lake City District 7 Councilwoman Amy Fowler. She encouraged those in attendance to speak out and to register their friends and family to vote.
“We will not be speechless,” Fowler said, “and with every vote cast we will boldly shout, ‘We dissent!’”
“I dissent” is a catchphrase associated with Ginsburg and has been a rally cry since her death. Community activist and former Democratic congressional candidate Darlene McDonald told the crowd that Ginsburg and another fighter for equal rights who died this year, Rep. John Lewis, worked so that she — a Black woman — could stand up and speak.
Trump represents a threat to the American democratic republic, McDonald said. She noted Utah’s notorious low voter turnout, calling the state the only place she’s ever lived where people voluntarily disenfranchise themselves.
“We’re going to turn this red state purple,” McDonald said, “and then we’re going to turn it blue!”
Kitchen table issues were on minds Saturday, too. As Amy Powers, of Cottonwood Heights, marched up Main Street toward the federal building, she worried another Trump-appointed Supreme Court justice and a Trump re-election would pose dangers to women’s health care — from access to abortion and contraception to the availability of screenings and common procedures now available through the Affordable Care Act.
“It’s just astounding that [the hypocrisy] can be so blatant," Powers said, “but it’s terrifying [Lee and Romney] have so much control over women’s health care.”
At the federal building, stacks of signs reading “I dissent” were distributed. So were signs supporting Black Lives Matter and the Democratic presidential ticket, Joe Biden and Kamala Harris.
Eva Lopez, a community liaison in the Salt Lake City mayor’s office, told the audience at the federal building they might not be able to stop confirmation of Trump’s new Supreme Court nominee.
“What we can do,” Lopez said, “is hold two people accountable here in Utah named Mitt Romney and Mike Lee. What a hypocrisy!”