People have been leaving flowers, notes, placards outside the court in tribute to the ‘Notorious RBG’.
The United States began three days of tributes to Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on Wednesday, as pallbearers carried her flag-draped coffin into the white marble court building and members of the public lined up to pay their respects.
Wearing dark suits and black face masks due to the coronavirus pandemic, dozens of the liberal icon’s former clerks stood at attention as the coffin was carried up the court’s broad steps and into the Great Hall, where a private ceremony was planned for friends and family.
“Her voice in court and in our conference room was soft. But when she spoke, people listened,” Chief Justice John Roberts said in a private ceremony inside the court’s Great Hall.
“The words that best describe Ruth tough, brave, a fighter, a winner, but also thoughtful,” Roberts said, “careful, compassionate, honest, when it came to opera insightful, passionate, when it came to sports, clueless.”
Members of the public watched from behind barricades as they awaited a public viewing due to start at 11am (15:00 GMT).
“It’s almost like I felt the hand of God on my shoulder saying you have got to come and pay your respects to this person who was a fierce champion of women’s voices and women’s rights,” said Cecilia Ryan, 64, who drove 12 hours from the Chicago area.
Ginsburg, who during the course of her long legal career championed gender equality and other liberal causes, in recent years became something of a pop icon for the American left. She died on Friday at age 87.
After two days of public viewing under the neoclassical court building’s massive Corinthian columns, Ginsburg will, on Friday, become the first woman to lie in state in the US Capitol when her coffin is placed in National Statuary Hall.
Nearly 200 members of the public had gathered to pay their respects by early morning, intermingling with dog walkers and joggers who cut through the crowd. At the front of the crowd were lawyers Cara Stewart and Jenny Beene-Skuban, who drove overnight from the Cincinnati area to be there.
“I felt like I couldn’t not be here,” said Stewart, a public-interest lawyer from Martin, Kentucky.
Stewart said she particularly identified with Ginsburg’s early career as a civil rights advocate.
“What moves me more is her career before the court,” she said. “Using the courts for justice and being successful – that’s not easy to do.”
Beene-Skuban, of Cincinnati, said Ginsburg’s career blazed trails for women who came after her.
“We’re here to recognise the shoulders we’re standing on,” she said.
Outside the building, chairs and monitors were set up.
Following a private ceremony Wednesday in the court’s Great Hall, her coffin will be moved outside the building to the top of the court’s front steps so that public mourners can pay their respects in line with public health guidance for the pandemic.
Since her death Friday evening, people have been leaving flowers, notes, placards and all manner of Ginsburg paraphernalia outside the court in tribute to the woman who became known in her final years as the “Notorious RBG”. Court workers cleared away the items and cleaned the court plaza and sidewalk in advance of Wednesday’s ceremony.
Both historic events for Ginsburg, however, come with modifications due to the coronavirus pandemic.