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Mourners Spontaneously Gather Outside Supreme Court To Honor Ruth Bader Ginsburg

A crowd gathers at the U.S. Supreme Court to mourn the death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on Friday. (Tyrone Turner/WAMU)
A crowd gathers at the U.S. Supreme Court to mourn the death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on Friday. (Tyrone Turner/WAMU)

On the steps of the Supreme Court building, soft cries and the low murmur of chirping crickets filled the air as hundreds of people grieved the death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Occasionally short bursts of clapping broke out before the crowd resumed its silence. At points, the crowd sang "Amazing Grace," "America the Beautiful" and "Imagine" by John Lennon.

Shawn Boykins, 35, said a friend texted him about the news as soon as it happened. He was in the neighborhood and thought to visit the court to pay his respects.

Mourners gather at a vigil for Ruth Bader Ginsburg. (Tyrone Turner/WAMU)

"I can't help but think about the political implications, but I'm trying to set that aside," Boykins said. "It just reinforces that a lot's at stake in the election with so much happening, with the fires, climate change and everything."

Nairika Murphy said she was one of the first people to show up at the Supreme Court to pay her respects. She was on a walk when her family texted her the news. Not too long after she arrived, the crowd swelled into the hundreds.

"I think she just did a lot for this country and it's really important that people recognize that and show support and also be clear and have a visual representation we're not going anywhere, regardless of who's placed in her spot and who's elected, that we're not going to move backward to the 1950s," she said.

A rainbow flag is waved as people gather at a makeshift memorial for late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. (Tyrone Turner/WAMU)

Murphy added that she hopes people channel the feelings of this moment — the anger, frustration and even hope — into civic action at the polls this November.

"I think that this country is in a really dangerous place, and I think the fact that we're still questioning climate science and women's reproductive rights, it's unbelievable to me," Murphy said.

Johanna Elsemore, 34, and Courtney Tate, 36, live a few blocks from the Supreme Court. The couple brought candles to honor Ginsburg's life and legacy. Elsemore said she felt compelled to honor Ginsburg's accomplishments and support of women throughout the years.

A man lights a candle on the steps of the Supreme Court. (Tyrone Turner/WAMU)

"We were talking on the way up here and about how easy it is to get swept up in all the politics and the emotional back and forth of Supreme Court decisions and wrap that up with the grief of losing somebody as monumental," Tate said. "But I think the better thing to do is remember RBG and rejoice in the work she did."

Read more from WAMU and DCist here.

Correction: September 19, 2020 12:00 am — A previous version of this story said the crowd sang "Imagine" by the Beatles. That song is from John Lennon's solo career.

Copyright NPR 2020.

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