And they kept coming by the hundreds. Bouquets, signs and chalk messages honoring Ginsburg multiplied by the minute. Joggers stopped mid-run, bikers paused and rested on their handlebars, and mothers from across the D.C. region brought their daughters to pay tribute to the pioneering liberal lawyer and advocate for equality. Even as lawmakers began to clash over when she would be replaced, the space outside the court was mostly one of quiet reflection.
“I wanted to be a lawyer but wasn’t sure I could do it,” said Blake Rogers, 13, who let a single tear fall down her face after positioning flowers Saturday morning. “And then I heard Justice Ginsburg speak, and she showed me that I could do it, that women and girls can do anything.”
Beth Feliciano, 39, squatted next to her 2-year-old daughter, Ellie, holding a book titled “I Look Up To . . . Ruth Bader Ginsburg.” She pointed to the court building and told Ellie, whom she had once dressed as Ginsburg for Halloween, that the late justice had worked there.
“We have been talking about Ruth ever since Ellie was born,” the graduate student said. “She’s someone good for Ellie to look up to as a superhero.”
Children gathered around a paper bag — labeled “Leave a Note for Ruth” — holding colored paper and markers inside. Shiloh Newton, an 11-year-old from McLean, began to draw a rainbow, meticulously tracing a red arc before pausing and looking at the flowers spread out in front of her. “The rainbow is for LGBTQ rights,” said her mom, Annie Couture Newton, 42. “I knew it was essential to come here and show our kids the right thing, that they have to fight for the little guy.”
Sen. Kamala D. Harris (Calif.), the Democratic nominee for vice president, was among the mourners, showing up in a hoodie to offer quiet respects with her husband.
A few conservatives who fervently opposed Ginsburg’s support for reproductive rights, gun restrictions and affirmative action also paid their respects.
“I disagree with everything she stood for, but she was a strong, stable, very professional justice,” said Paul Joseph, a 60-year-old pastor wearing a Trump 2020 mask. “That’s a big loss.”
The passing of the 87-year-old judge immediately upended a fraught election season. Republicans offered condolences with calls to immediately fill her seat and solidify the court’s conservative majority for at least a generation. Democrats raged at the prospect of a president with a history of demeaning women replacing a trailblazing feminist icon.
President Trump signaled he would quickly nominate a successor, and senators mobilized for the coming nomination battle.
But at the plaza outside the Supreme Court, there was a focus on grief and the impact Ginsburg had as a justice and a role model for so many.
Shortly before 11 a.m., two dozen people gathered in front of the court to say the Mourner’s Kaddish, a Jewish prayer of bereavement. After a 27-year tenure, Ginsburg died at the start of Rosh Hashanah as the longest-serving Jewish justice.
Those in the group put brown and tan stones, traditionally placed on graves, alongside the flowers and candles. They sang and prayed.
A few minutes later, Micah Blay, 11, puckered his lips and blew the shofar, a musical horn used to ring in Jewish new year, before the pillars of the Supreme Court.
“The timing of it, it’s a loud wake-up call for so many people. There was a hope she would continue to lead the way in the new year,” said Jessica Brodey, 47. “She broke down barriers, as a woman, a mother and a Jew.”
Sang Lee, a 46-year-old self-identified centrist, teared up as he mourned Ginsburg and fretted about the months ahead.
“It’s the passing of a generation and the upcoming political strife that could tear this country apart if the Republicans don’t do the right thing and wait to confirm a nominee,” said Lee, who, along with his wife, brought his two young children.
Others feared for the future of abortion rights championed by Ginsburg if Republicans succeed at cementing a conservative majority.
“They’ve threatened to undo Roe v. Wade for a long time, but I’m not giving up hope yet,” said Deborah Bombard, a 68-year-old retired health-care professional who lives in Alexandria. “I believe in the power of women in this country who stand up for their rights, including their right of choosing what to do with their bodies.”
The mourners began arriving at the court Friday evening, minutes after learning of Ginsburg’s death. As the night wore on, every bollard protecting the courthouse supported a mourner slumped to the ground.
Those who came were of all ages, including baby boomers and millennials, and some faces were even younger.
Elizabeth LaBerge wrapped her arms around her fiance, Will Sullivan, put her head on his shoulder and quietly sobbed.
The Capitol Hill lawyer arrived at the court plaza filled with fear for the future of the nation as Ginsburg’s death represents another loss from the ranks of people who have made “serious law and order a mission of their lives.”
“I was telling my fiance, the question that keeps popping up in my head is: ‘Who is going to take care of us?’ ” said LaBerge, 36. “It just feels like such a deep loss at this particular time. It’s a lot to put on a woman of her age to keep us safe and functioning as a constitutional democracy.
“I’m very grateful, and sad for the loss and worried for my country,” she said.
At one point, with a crowd singing “This Land is Our Land,” Adrienne Jacobs clutched a friend, who sobbed into Jacobs’s shoulder so hard that her glasses fogged up.
When Jacobs, 30, heard that Ginsburg had died, she raced over to the Supreme Court, a Revel scooter helmet in her arms.
“I live alone,” she said. “And I didn’t want to be alone.”
From behind a floral-print mask, Jacobs said Ginsburg had been an inspiration to many women.
As she spoke, a commotion began near the sidewalk, where conservative provocateurs Jacob Wohl and Jack Burkman were arguing with a small crowd.
“Roe v. Wade is getting abolished,” Wohl said into a microphone as a man waved a cardboard “RIP RBG” sign in Wohl’s face and television cameras gathered. “RBG is dead. We’re going to have a new justice next week.”
“Have some respect,” several mourners shouted. Others called Wohl a “fascist” or a “Nazi” and told him to leave.
After five tense minutes, he did.
The scene was once again solemn.
Elsewhere outside the court building, Regina Burch and her 19-year-old daughter, Micaela, sat on the edge of one of two white marble fountains, staring up at the illuminated columns. They had been at home when Burch received a text message about Ginsburg’s death. They’d flipped on the television, heard Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) promise to fill her seat and decided to drive over.
Regina Burch said that as a law professor and attorney, she had long looked up to Ginsburg.
She, her daughter and their family were worried about what would happen if the president appointed his choice to the court.
“It’s not just her passing,” Burch said. “Our family is very anxious and fearful about what’s going to happen, with the election and filling her seat.”
Howard University first-year law student Quenessa Long, 24, arrived with classmates to pay respects and to be in the same space that Ginsburg once occupied. The justice was among the leaders who inspired Long to pursue law studies because of her dedication to the LGBTQ community and to women and civil rights. Long, a native of Tacoma, Wash., said she deeply admired the strength Ginsburg showed in the courtroom and beyond.
Long said that being in the crowd motivated her and that she hoped she could work at the court in some capacity during her legal career.
“I’m just really thankful to have been alive while she was,” she said.
Petula Dvorak contributed to this report.