WASHINGTON – A stream of tearful mourners converged at the Supreme Court Thursday to say goodbye to Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, celebrating the liberal icon's life as the country braces for a bitter confirmation battle over her successor.
The quiet, sorrowful crowd erupted in boos and chants when President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump appeared at the high court to pay their respects to the late justice, who died last week after a lengthy battle with cancer.
"Vote him out!" some mourners called out, while others jeered "Honor her wish!" as the Trumps made their way to Ginsburg's casket, both wearing black masks. The president and first lady stood expressionless at the late justice's casket for less than a minute before heading back to the presidential motorcade.
Ginsburg's dying wish was that the next president fill her vacancy.
“Showing up here is disingenuous at best and a disgrace at the worst,” said Steven Hoochuk, who booed the president when he emerged from his motorcade. "His very existence in that office and his very existence on the steps of this building is a disgrace, and he himself is a disgrace to the office, to the principles to the country."
Other elected officials – including Sens. Joe Manchin, D-W.V., and Roger Wicker, R-Miss. – attracted little notice as they filtered through the crowd. Manchin, a Catholic, made the sign of the cross as he gazed up at Ginsburg's casket, draped in an American flag and perched atop the marble steps of the Supreme Court building.
Most of those who gathered on Thursday were not dignitaries; they were regular Americans who said they revered Ginsburg's work for women's equality and social justice.
“I’m worried about lots of things being overturned," said Katie Staub, a Maryland resident who said she fears a more conservative court could overturn the landmark 2015 ruling legalizing gay marriage. "I’ve been with my girlfriend for five years, and we were kind of hoping after the virus to get married," she said.
Staub said she's also worried about environmental cases, the fate of Roe v. Wade, "and just making sure that we have a court that actually works for everybody and not just a few people."
Sandy Lee came dressed in a robe and lace collar to honor a woman she viewed as “a symbol of hope” during an otherwise difficult time.
With “so much social injustice and especially with yesterday’s verdict with Breonna Taylor, I just felt like I needed to come,” Lee said, referring to the 26-year-old emergency room technician from Kentucky who was killed in March after officers used a search warrant to enter her apartment.
Lee said she was grief-stricken when she learned of Ginsburg’s death on Friday.
“I was hoping she would hold on for just until the election was over, because I feel like she was sort of a beacon of hope and a light and she was fighting for people that are so underrepresented in our current culture and society,” she said.
By morning Thursday, the line to see Ginsburg's flag-draped coffin extended blocks away from the Supreme Court in Washington, D.C. Those in line snapped photos with their phones, many carrying flower bouquets.
"I’ve grown up in an era where everything that I am able to do has been shaped by Justice Ginsberg and all of the efforts that she’s done," said Emily Holland of Baltimore. "So the ability for me to have reproductive freedom and to work outside the home and to get an education has really been shaped by her and her legacy."
"I just felt passionately," said Anita Blye, of Maryland. "I wanted to be counted among those who come and say thank you to her."
Hundreds of mourners paid their respects to Ginsburg on Wednesday, including former President Bill Clinton, who appointed Ginsburg to the court in 1993, and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who likely would have named Ginsburg's successor had she won the presidency in 2016.
Earlier Wednesday, Ginsburg's family, close friends, more than 100 former law clerks and colleagues on the high court gathered for one last goodbye as her coffin was carried up the stairs to the Supreme Court’s Great Hall, just outside the courtroom where she served for 27 years.
Ginsburg’s clerks, wearing black masks to guard against the coronavirus, stood socially distanced and in silence on the courthouse plaza in a show of solidarity.
All eight sitting justices and some of their spouses attended a ceremony in which Chief Justice John Roberts lauded Ginsburg's life as "one of the many versions of the American dream." The daughter of a bookkeeper, she rose to the highest court in the land, writing 483 majority opinions, concurrences and dissents that "will steer the court for decades,” he said.
After the brief ceremony, Ginsburg's casket was placed at the front portico of the court for two days of public viewing, with appropriate social distancing to guard against the pandemic that has claimed more than 200,000 lives.
The public will have the chance to pay their respects to the late justice from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Ginsburg’s coffin will be moved across the street to the U.S. Capitol on Friday, when she will become the first woman to lie in state since the honor initially was bestowed on Henry Clay in 1852.
A private interment service will be held next week at Arlington National Cemetery, where Ginsburg will be buried next to her late husband, Martin, who died in 2010.
Trump’s visit to the Supreme Court came as he is preparing to nominate Ginsburg’s successor, despite protests from Democrats that her replacement should be chosen by the next president. Senate Republicans are planning to move ahead with a confirmation hearing for Trump’s nominee over Democrats' objections.
Trump has said he will announce his pick for the seat at 5 p.m. Saturday. The leading candidate is federal appeals court Judge Amy Coney Barrett of Indiana. Several other women, most notably federal appeals court Judge Barbara Lagoa of Florida, are said to be in contention.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Ruth Bader Ginsburg: Trump, other mourners to pay respects to justice