× Hundreds gather at Supreme Court to mourn Ginsburg’s death

(CNN) — Those gathered at the Supreme Court Thursday morning for the 6:30 a.m. start of the court’s open session to gather around the Supreme Court’s main fireplace where the work for justice often takes place.

Many court watchers and opponents of court decisions decried its construction on the walls inside the court, including the marble pillars behind the bench and granite pillars that make up the floor of the justices’ chambers.

“So the message is: Anything we’re doing — whether it’s a vote against the Establishment Clause, a case against an Obamacare (law) — it’s about the rise of the Roman Empire, or it’s about the Revolutionary War, or it’s about the concentration of power and wealth in the hands of a few,” Supreme Court historian Ian Kershaw said.

Ginsburg, an 81-year-old who died Sunday at her home in New York, left a lasting imprint on American history during a period of unprecedented political gridlock on the Supreme Court.

Chief Justice John Roberts and Associate Justice Samuel Alito also spoke Thursday and as the hearse drove off in the dark of night from her home on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, some New Yorkers jumped up and down in sadness.

The white horse that was part of Ginsburg’s 1989 law degree photo hung on the door along with her portrait in her Law School days.

Inside, the Stevens family: Walter, the justices’ oldest son, her second husband, Ginsburg’s third husband, Marty, and their children, Sondra, 11, and Robin, 7, and daughters Nancy, 44, and Robin’s father, Michael Ginsburg, and his wife Carla, all joined the gathering.

Alito, the court’s longest-serving justice, spoke about his mother, a feminist leader who wore glasses and also gave her opinion about heavy-handed police tactics in Ferguson, Missouri.

He recalled her admiration for the late civil rights icon Martin Luther King Jr.’s freedom struggles, saying that the crowd was watching, and that they found it to be “very poignant and touching.”

“She used to break down on TV in tears every time she saw a scene of an injustice,” he said. “She saw how wrongfully the police treated the poor. In every case she disagreed with it, and called for their immediate release. She called for them to be beaten. She called for them to be killed.”

On one occasion when Alito was an Oxford student, Ginsburg walked over and knelt beside him. “I’m sorry this happened, but she truly had a right to be here today,” he said, adding, “I certainly hope that she’s now here watching.”

Several other Supreme Court justices read their names aloud.

They were the last to address the crowd: Stephen Breyer, the court’s only African-American justice, read the names of two Puerto Rican detainees awaiting execution, Christine Wilson, a student at Dartmouth College, and Benjamin Alva, who became the first person to be exonerated for rape and set free after more than two decades in prison.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg always had a small sign with her name in it, which she held out on court busses and in public in courtrooms. Her old student AB Tyagi read out the final name at the memorial service:

Away from the bench, Ginsburg was remembered. She called the memorial service “a grand matriarch” and accepted the heartfelt hugs of more than 300 visitors.

Several people took pictures with her signs and mementos.

Roberta Kaiser and Irena Schmitt played “Justice with Beauty” by Alice Walker in the grass outside the court. Schmitt said that Ginsburg was “just incredibly beautiful.”

The cameras whirred away from Ginsburg as the hearse made the short trip to the historic entrance into the courtroom.

Circling the blue oval Justice Department mansion, and wearing his signature blue suit, Roberts described Ginsburg as one of his best friends and cheered as she joined him at the memorial service.

“She was my best friend,” he said. “I really will miss her.”