‘Our voices needed to be heard today’: Students gather in support of Amy Coney Barrett’s confirmation
Maria Luisa Paul | Friday, October 30, 2020
Carrying posters emblazoned with phrases like “ND for ACB” and “The Notorious ACB,” and waving the Vatican, Gadsden and American flags, a group of students congregated to celebrate Notre Dame law professor Amy Coney Barrett’s confirmation to the Supreme Court on Thursday evening.
Sophomore Michael Barrett, secretary of College Republicans, said the gathering was planned by a group of conservative students who promoted the event via Instagram on Wednesday as a means to “show support for a member of our community,” he said.
“Justice Barrett was appointed properly through the legislative process,” Barrett said. “She was nominated by the president and appointed by the Senate, and she represents an extensive background on originalist interpretation of the Constitution, which seems to be supported by a large portion of the student body. And we felt that our voices needed to be heard today.”
With an event opposing Coney Barrett’s nomination scheduled during the same time at Library Lawn, the College Republicans’ secretary said the congratulatory gathering also served as a way to give a voice to all students, despite of their political beliefs.
“While this is not a very vocal portion of campus, since normally [conservative] people are silenced and shunned in social media, we thought if we could come together in presence, we could actually stand and represent our political views,” Barrett said. “We have both sides represented on this campus, not just one side. We’re here to show that there’s balance on this campus. We are here for bipartisanship.”
The group of almost 60 people assembled by the Law School’s archway at 5:30 p.m. and then made their way towards Hesburgh Library, chanting “ACB, USA!” as they walked. The event finished at 6:15 p.m. with a prayer at the Grotto.
Reminiscent of the contentiousness that surrounded the replacement of former Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the two groups participating in Thursday’s events — one in support of Coney Barrett and the other in opposition — clashed at Library Lawn.
The cluster of pro-Coney Barrett students initially lined up behind the platform facing the protesters. They were asked to back off to the other side of the reflective pool by Notre Dame Police Department officials because they lacked permission to gather at that space, Sergeant Derrick Chambliss said.
Freshman Aiden Robertson, who participated in the congratulatory gathering, said the encounter between both groups was nevertheless peaceful.
“As much as I didn’t really appreciate the fact that we were led away even though we were still on the other side of the metal fence, I think that it’s still really respectable that they have some show of force to make sure that everything stayed safe,” he said.
Robertson said he disagreed with the scorn Coney Barrett had received from some members of the Notre Dame community, as her confirmation deserved recognition.
“I think people definitely have a very valid reason to not want something like that based on their own political leanings, but to show such disrespect for someone, especially someone that’s really their own,” Robertson said. “We should just respect the fact that even if you don’t like what she stands for, this is a really respectable position that she’s now been promoted to.”
Second-year law student Bridget Bush echoed Robertson in stating that Coney Barrett’s confirmation represented an achievement for the university.
“It’s a huge honor for the University of Notre Dame, especially the law school, and I’m here to express my support for her and for the conservative values that she represents — the rule of law, originalism textualism and Notre Dame spirit,” Bush said.
Even though many have expressed concerns over the new Justice’s conservative values, especially in regards to women’s rights and reproductive health, Bush said there was “no better model of feminism” than Coney Barrett.
“She’s a mother of seven. She’s a wife. She was first in her class at the University of Notre Dame law school,” Bush said. “She was in private practice. She’s been an exceptional judge on the federal court. And I don’t know how much more successful but women you can find the Justice Barrett.”
Similarly to Bush, freshman Marlot Shorey cited Coney Barrett as a role model for women.
“There’s a lot of talk in this day and age that having a baby is something that takes away from what your life can be, which is ridiculous, because as ACB shows, being a mother is one of the most like impressive things you can do, and that’s what we were made for,” Shorey said.
Though most of the participants said they were Republican, third year law student, Allie Howell, said she did not consider herself conservative. Rather, her motivation to attend the event was to support her former professor, Howell said.
“I had the privilege of having now Justice Barrett in class for half of the semester, and I just had a wonderful time in the class and can’t speak highly enough of her as a professor,” Howell said. “She taught everyone the importance of respectful dialogue in classes, and I learned a lot from just having really good conversations with people that thought about statutory interpretation differently than I did.”
Despite holding different views than Barrett, Howell said that the Notre Dame professor would not allow her political beliefs to encumber her practice.
“I do not think the judiciary is inherently political,” Howell said. “I think it’s been politicized, but I think Justice Barrett will faithfully apply the law as is the duty of a judge, and she’s not a political appointee.”
In the midst of a time marked by political polarization, as shown throughout Thursday’s events, Shorey said both sides of the political spectrum had to learn to both respect and listen to one another.
“I think people need to take a step back and think about the perspective that they have, and where they come from, and really think about listening rather than just fighting,” Shorey said. “All we want to do is scream back at each other rather than listening to the other side and thinking about how everyone has different beliefs and values. That’s something that Notre Dame used to stand for, and we’re kind of failing in that front right now.”
With differences across the political spectrum becoming more salient, to achieve a democratic future, freshman Taylor Batilo had a plea for the Notre Dame community: “Vote.”
“I hope no matter what political ideology that you align yourself with, I hope you go out and vote,” Batilo said. “I hope you support American democracy and American ideals, and I hope we show support for whatever candidate you think is the best for our nation.”