Candles, tears and songs: Hundreds mourn Ruth Bader Ginsburg outside Supreme Court
They came in droves, young and old, all wanting to pay their respects to an icon.
Spontaneously, hundreds of people of all ages and races gathered on the steps of the historic Supreme Court building in Washington D.C. late Friday night. Wearing face-masks to protect them from the coronavirus, many wept silently about the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
Outside Ginsburg’s place of employment for 27 years, they placed flowers and signs in a make-shift memorial to the 87-year-old who died from complications to metastatic pancreatic cancer on Friday, as a candlelight vigil was held.
“I think it is important for us to recognize such a trailblazer,” said one member of the crowd, Jennifer Berger, 37, who told the Associated Press she felt compelled to come out and pay tribute to Ginsburg.
“It is amazing to see how many people are feeling this loss tonight and saying goodbye.”
At times the memorial fell silent, as people sobbed, then pockets of song burst out with hundreds singing “Amazing Grace”, “Imagine” and “America the Beautiful.” As more people joined, their chorus grew louder.
At one point, the crowd also broke into a thunderous applause, to cheer the feminist icon.
Ginsburg, who was Jewish, died on the eve of the Jewish New Year holiday “Rosh Hashanah” and some mourners recited the “Mourners’ Kaddish” — a traditional prayer for the dead.
Parents carried sleepy children in pajamas, a testament to her broad appeal, her supporters said.
“It just feels so nice to be out here with other people who feel the same way,” Dominik Radawski, 46, told Reuters, standing on the court’s steps.
“There’s no one here being angry. It’s this sense of quiet contemplation, this sense of respect.”
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While the political implications of her death were on the minds of many, chants stayed largely apolitical with crowds simply shouting her initials “RBG” and “Justice for All.”
Scores of memorial candles flickered in the wind along the front steps of the court, as people knelt to leave bouquets of flowers and handwritten condolence notes. One read: “Thank you for showing us how to be American.”
Others sat peacefully on the steps, quietly reflecting on Ginsburg’s legacy and taking in the scenes.
President Donald Trump issued a proclamation directing that flags at the White House and all public buildings and military facilities be flown at half-staff, until the late Ginsburg is interred.
The president also directed that flags be flown at half-staff at all U.S. embassies and other facilities abroad.
The proclamation calls Ginsburg “a trailblazer, not only in the field of law, but in the history of our country.”
Elsewhere, in San Francisco crowds gathered downtown, some waving rainbow flags, others marching bearing a banner reading: “We won’t let you down, RBG.”
In New York City, an image of Ginsburg and the alternating messages “thank you” and “rest in power” were projected on the front of the New York State Civil Supreme Court building in Manhattan.
Online the hashtag #RBGRIP was trending on Twitter.
Ginsburg, an opera lover, spent her final years on the bench as the unquestioned leader of the court’s liberal wing and became something of a rock star to her admirers. Young women especially seemed to embrace her, transforming her into a pop culture icon affectionately dubbing the Brooklyn-born judge the “Notorious RBG.”
A diminutive yet towering liberal champion, Ginsburg became the court’s second female justice. She died at her home in Washington and is survived by two children, Jane and James, and several grandchildren.
A private internment service will be held at Arlington National Cemetery.
The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.