WASHINGTON (REUTERS) – Grief-stricken Americans gathered at makeshift memorials around the country on Saturday (Sept 19) to mourn the death of liberal, feminist icon Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, while politicians and Hollywood celebrities paid tribute online.
Democratic Party vice-presidential candidate Kamala Harris and her husband, Douglas Emhoff, joined crowds outside the steps of the US Supreme Court in Washington on Saturday morning.
Ginsburg was “a titan – a relentless defender of justice and a legal mind for the ages,” Harris wrote in a tweet with a photo of the visit.
Some on the Supreme Court steps clutched candles, flowers, signs, and young children.
Others appeared in running and biking clothes, on a detour from their morning exercising.
Ginsburg, 87, died on Friday night after a battle with pancreatic cancer, giving President Donald Trump a chance to expand the US top court’s conservative majority at a time of deep divisions in America, as a presidential election looms.
Mourners heralded Ginsburg’s groundbreaking legal career and expressed dark worries about the future of the country.
“I am heartbroken,” actor Jennifer Lopez wrote on Instagram.
“She was a true champion of gender equality and was a strong woman for me and all the little girls of the world to look up to.”
In Cambridge, Massachusetts, Cynthia Enloe channelled her grief by making a poster encouraging motorists to honk in honour of the pioneer of women’s rights, and stood at a busy intersection on Saturday morning.
“When I heard the terrible news of Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death last night, my first thoughts and all my friends on email and text was, ‘this is horrible, it cannot get worse',” Enloe told Reuters.
“But then I thought, they want us to get depressed and I thought I will do the opposite of being depressed. I will go out and make a poster and stand at the intersection and let people honk their support.”
In New York, Governor Andrew Cuomo unveiled plans to erect a statue of Ginsburg in New York City’s Brooklyn borough where she was born.
“Her legacy will live on in the progress she created for our society, and this statue will serve as a physical reminder of her many contributions to the America we know today and as an inspiration for those who will continue to build on her immense body of work for generations to come,” Cuomo said.
A trailblazing women’s rights lawyer before she joined the court in 1993, Ginsburg – popularly known by her initials RBG - emerged as an unlikely pop icon in recent years, her image emblazoned on coffee mugs, T-shirts and children’s books.
Just before midnight on Friday, a woman at the Supreme Court sang the mourners’ Kaddish, a traditional Jewish prayer for the dead, on the first night of Rosh Hashanah, the beginning of the Jewish New Year.
“It just feels so nice to be out here with other people who feel the same way,” said Dominik Radawski, 46, standing on the steps that are often the site of boisterous shouting matches when the court hears arguments on sensitive cases.
“There’s no one here being angry. It’s this sense of quiet contemplation, this sense of respect.”
In liberal San Francisco on Friday night, more than 200 mourners held a candlelight vigil and marched through the city’s Castro district carrying a large sign that said, “We won’t let you down RBG.”
Another tribute played out in New York, where 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.
The quiet tributes belied the likely political fight coming.
Republican US Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Friday said the Senate would vote on any replacement nominated by Trump, who now has a chance to appoint a third justice to the court, giving it a 6-3 conservative majority.
“This is the question everyone’s thinking about tonight,”said David Hill, 60, speaking on the steps of the US Supreme Court on Friday.
“Will someone like her come through again?”