Hundreds flock to Supreme Court for impromptu vigil honoring Ruth Bader Ginsburg
September 19, 2020
People gather at the Supreme Court Friday, Sept. 18, 2020, in Washington, after the Supreme Court announced that Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has died of metastatic pancreatic cancer at age 87. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
What started with a small crowd following the announcement of her death shortly after 7:30 p.m. grew to a few hundred to honor Ginsburg, 87, whose staunch advocacy for women’s rights as a lawyer and a judge helped her become a pop culture folk hero later in life. The American flag was already at half mast by the time people began to gather.
Had to call it a night but there’s still a crowd at the court. On last check, RBG’s memorial included whole potted plants, angel figurines and a section with pens and scrap paper where people could write her their thanks. Photos… pic.twitter.com/OwBmBpD2jq
WTOP’s Alejandro Alvarez reported that the vigil began quietly, with a few people leaving flowers on the steps. Some attendees, according to Alvarez, were crying as well.
“Certain things are beyond ideology, beyond politics,” Kenneth Crawford told CBS News outside of the Supreme Court.
“She was a legend well beyond her time on the court, and especially in the later years, she showed such personal courage and grit and resolve in sacrificing her health and her twilight years for her country.”
A recent Georgetown graduate, Crawford told CBS News that he saw Ginsburg as family.
Alvarez reported that candles began being lit and the crowd, which had swelled into the hundreds, began clapping for Ginsburg.
“Ruth Bader Ginsburg was an icon for women,” Carol Wayman told CBS News. “My success, my family, my wife, I wouldn’t have that without Justice Ginsburg and what she contributed.”
“She was brilliant, she was human, she was compassionate and brave,” Elizabeth Carswell, Wayman’s wife, told CBS News. “A model for all of us who struggle. She fought so hard and just felt like we had to come here and say thank you.”
Renditions of “Amazing Grace” and John Lennon’s “Imagine” were also sung by those gathering at the court.
Jennifer Berger, 37, told the Associated Press she felt compelled to join the large crowd that gathered to pay tribute to Ginsburg’s life.
“I think it is important for us to recognize such a trailblazer,” Berger said. “It is amazing to see how many people are feeling this loss tonight and saying goodbye.”
“She was a lion, an inspiration,” Kali Holder told WTOP, as she stood staring up at the Supreme Court building with her partner, Laura Russo.
From voting rights to women’s rights, Holder says Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has impacted her life in many ways.
“I’m a queer woman and her support in that was really a major part of moving this country forward,” she said.
Elizabeth Lockwood also came to pay her respects.
“Obviously, she meant a lot to a lot of people,” she said.
Lockwood bikes through the area often and today, her friend Eugenie Ballering joined her and said she didn’t expect to see so many people gathered around the memorial so early in the morning.
“It’s wonderful, but it’s also terrifying to think about what is ahead of us,” Ballering said.
Lockwood stressed the importance of staying positive about the future.
“It’s our turn now. We have to step up and we have to be strong.”
Another young woman who attended told CBS News it was “inspiring” to see so many people there.
“I love that so many people, distant and wearing masks, to have the idea to — this is really painful and we should come out and pay our respects,” she said.
The night of remembrance was disrupted when one man — who Alvarez identified as right-wing provocateur Jacob Wohl — took a megaphone into the crowd and began to say “Roe v. Wade is dead,” a reference to the landmark Supreme Court ruling that established abortion rights in the U.S.
A brief shouting match followed where chants of Ginsburg’s popular nickname “RBG” matched Wohl’s own about how Senate Republicans would move to quickly appoint another conservative justice to the court. Wohl eventually left the area.
A source familiar with the plans of the liberal nonprofit Indivisible told CBS News that another vigil is being planned for Saturday, which is expected to be followed by mass events across the country this upcoming week.
WTOP’s Melissa Howell, Alejandro Alvarez, Dave Dildine, The Associated Press and CBS News contributed to this report.