WASHINGTON — Droves of mourners outside the Supreme Court paid their respects on Saturday to Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died on Friday at 87.
The crisp, late-summer day drew people of all ages, many of whom said that her leadership on women’s rights and liberal causes inspired generations of Americans. They left flowers, handwritten notes, candles and messages scrawled in chalk near the building’s steps, which had been blocked off with steel fences. By the end of the night, the mass of tributes lined the block and wrapped around the side of the building.
During a candlelight vigil, supporters of Justice Ginsburg promised to continue pressing for the liberal causes she had stood for in her 27 years on the bench, including abortion rights.
“She’s just been the backbone of women’s rights in this country, and she was relentless — probably one of the most important voices women have ever had,” Mary Farrell, 68, an organizer with the Democratic Party, said earlier that day. “It makes me wonder who’s going to take up that mantle, if anyone.”
Dominick LaPierre, 30, who had bought flowers to distribute to mourners, singled out Justice Ginsburg for what he described as her moral spirit. “She helped hold the balance in place in this country,” he said. “It’s terrifying now that she’s gone.”
Many of the handwritten notes thanked the justice for her time on the bench. Other notes, chalked on the sidewalk, carried messages like, “Rest in power, R.B.G.,” and, “May her memory be a revolution.”
Addressing the crowd at the vigil, Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts nodded to the looming political battle to fill Justice Ginsburg’s seat.
“We are here to grieve, but not to despair,” she said, drawing chanting and cheers. “There is too much at stake.”
For many, with only 45 days until the presidential election on Nov. 3, the politics of the moment were hard to ignore.
“Tensions are high; emotions are high,” said Joseph Seyoum, 21. “It seems like this year can’t get any worse. It’s definitely all coming to a head.”
So far in 2020, the United States has witnessed only the third presidential impeachment trial in history, a once-in-a-century pandemic, a devastating economic collapse and an eruption of racial strife that resulted in violent clashes.
Jesana Gadley, 22, a student at American University in Washington, said she wanted to pay respects because of the justice’s rulings that had advocated protecting the rights of African-Americans and the L.G.B.T.Q. community.
Ms. Gadley added that she hoped that the death of Justice Ginsburg would galvanize those in her generation to vote in the election in November.
“It would be my hope that people understand when you are voting for a president,” she said, “you’re voting for more than that nominee.”
For Rita Gold, 78, Justice Ginsburg’s death was a reminder of the possible implications of a conservative majority on the Supreme Court.
“My main concern is that they might try to dislodge the abortion laws,” Ms. Gold said.
The justice was a staunch supporter of women’s rights, and some fear a conservative court could try to roll back Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court’s 1973 decision establishing a constitutional right to abortion.
Ms. Gold said that her family had come to the United States from Europe after World War II, having escaped the Holocaust, and that she had watched as her mother tried to get an illegal abortion, which failed. In Justice Ginsburg, Ms. Gold said, she saw someone who fulfilled the promise of the freedoms of the United States.
“We felt that this was the place that would protect us,” Ms. Gold said. “But the country right now is in real trouble.”
Among those in the crowd was Eleanor Holmes Norton, the District of Columbia’s nonvoting House delegate and a longtime friend and colleague of Justice Ginsburg’s, who took a photograph next to a poster of a raised fist that had been plastered to a barricade blocking the steps.
“People who are here today are on a virtual pilgrimage to pay their respect to Justice Ginsburg, or the Notorious R.B.G., as she is known,” Ms. Holmes Norton said in a live video while outside the court.
Wilson Erickson, 22, a law student at Georgetown University, who also attended a candlelight vigil outside the court on Friday night, said he was glad for a chance to pay his respects.
“She showed that you don’t have to be political to advocate for principles,” Mr. Erickson said. “She was one of those rare people that everyone could get behind.”