Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s bench chair and the bench directly in front of it were draped in black wool crepe, a tradition that dates back almost 150 years. But outside the Supreme Court, the grounds have been turned into dozens of makeshift memorials for the justice.
“Dear RBG. You gave many women the confidence, inspiration and most of all the ability to soar,” read one poster placed along a sidewalk on the north side of the court, decorated with battery powered candles.
“My daughter’s life and my grandmother’s life are better due to RBG’s life!! Thank you,” read one message written on the sidewalk in punk chalk. “May her memory be a revolution,” read a nearby sign, placed amid piles of bouquets and cards.
Ginsburg is expected to lie in repose at the Supreme Court early this week, but within hours of her death on Friday, mourners showed up on the steps of the court to share in collective grief. The spontaneous vigils are unusual for a Supreme Court justice, but reflect the impact and inspiration that Ginsburg had, particularly on younger generations.
That continued throughout the weekend, as attention turned to House Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s pledge to move forward with the confirmation process rather than waiting until after the presidential election, as he had done in 2016.
On Saturday evening, First Street in front of the court was blocked off as hundreds gathered for a rally, sponsored by groups like Demand Justice and NARAL Pro-Choice America. Among the speakers were Sen. Kristen Gillibrand (D-NY) and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA).
“Mitch McConnell believes that this fight is over. What Mitch McConnell does not understand is that this fight has just begun,” Warren said.
The crowd was markedly made up of those in their 20s and 30s, and their reasons for coming reflected a desire to honor Ginsburg and to express their own consternation over what happens next.
“Justice Ginsburg is a liberal firebrand. Her passing is really worrying for the future, and I thought that it was important to honor her memory,” said Allison Brice, 28, a tour guide, as she and friends held candles they brought with them.
Brice said that when she heard Ginsburg had died, her first reaction was, “I wanted to leave the country a little bit.”
“I’m just worried about the future of rights in America, as a general rule, getting taken away by the Supreme Court in the future,” Brice said. “I am trying not to lose all of my hope.”
With Brice was Cole Zaccaro, 27, who works for a non profit.
“I think it is really rare and special to have someone who was a trailblazer from the start, and today, many decades later, she is still a trailblazer,” Zaccaro said. “She is still fighting for a country that honors and uplifts people of so many different backgrounds, races, genders, ethnicities.”
Zaccaro, who is non-binary, said, “In the face of other justices sitting on this court that threaten to bring our country backwards, threaten to turn time back to a place where the only people who have a voice are white cis men. To have somebody like Ruth Bader Ginsburg sitting on that court, and continuing to fight for a brighter tomorrow and continuing to dissent, it made me hopeful that one day, the whole court will uplift her values and her legacy, that one day the court will look like America, will look like America tomorrow and not yesterday.”