Pressure to end protests at Supreme Court justices’ homes is mounting


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Source: Waging Nonviolence

On Saturday, hours after the Supreme Court’s chief security officer asked state officials to enforce laws prohibiting protests outside the homes of justices, a group of protesters read the First Amendment out loud in an impromptu march past Brett Kavanaugh’s house.

“They have an incredible amount of power, and they’re also reaching into our privacy — into our homes and our healthcare and our bodies,” said Sadie Kuhns, an activist with Our Rights DC, one of the groups organizing the protests. “I don’t find it appropriate for them to make decisions for everybody, and then ask for their privacy in return.”

Since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade on June 24, protests outside of the homes of justices have become an increasingly popular form of protest — and a flashpoint for criticism from conservative politicians and pundits. Last Saturday, Marshal of the Court Gail Curley sent a flurry of letters to officials in Virginia and Maryland, asking that they enforce laws that “prohibit picketing outside of the homes of Supreme Court Justices.”

Yet, the activists organizing the protests, which they say have been nonviolent and organized in accordance with local laws, are refusing to back down.

While Maryland and Virginia state laws prohibit picketing at private residences, protesters are typically permitted to march through neighborhoods, as demonstrators have done. However, in her letters, Curley accused protesters of loitering outside of justices’ homes for up to 30 minutes at a time.

In response, state officials have called on federal officials to enforce federal statutes prohibiting picketing at justices’ homes, and criticized a “continued refusal by multiple federal entities to act” on the demonstrations.

“Had the marshal taken the time to explore, she would have learned that the constitutionality of the statute cited in her letter has been questioned by the Maryland Attorney General’s Office,” wrote Michael Ricci, a spokesperson for Maryland Governor Larry Hogan.

The protests themselves preceded the decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, but have since grown in size — first following the leak of a draft majority opinion in May, and again in the immediate aftermath of the ruling, when Kuhns said the number of attendees increased from roughly 20 to 100 protesters.

A spokesperson for Ruth Sent Us, who spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of doxxing or other retaliation from conservative critics, said the group — which has also been organizing protests outside of justices’ homes — saw an increase in attendees after the ruling. The group first formed in response to Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death and subsequent replacement by conservative Justice Amy Coney Barrett in October 2020.

“When it was just the draft [decision], people were hesitant — it seemed like maybe we were going too far,” the Ruth Sent Us spokesperson said. “But now, it’s very different — people think the court went too far.”

According to the spokesperson, the police presence — both federal and local — has also increased in the aftermath of the ruling, and law enforcement officials have been more likely to bully protesters when numbers are small.

So far, the activists don’t plan to ease the protests in the face of new enforcement, though they fear the repercussions for protesters.

“[The justices] want to abuse us, and for us not to even look them in the eye,” the spokesperson said. “If they charge people under that and it’s contested and goes all the way up, the Supreme Court will probably not privilege our First Amendment rights over their convenience.”

So far, Kuhns, who organizes with Our Rights DC, says that the Montgomery County Police have stood behind their right to protest. As for whether they plan to ease demonstrations in light of new enforcement, Kuhns was resolute: “That’s not going to stop us.”

“People say that they’re coming for us next, but they’re coming for us now,” Kuhns said. “We need to feel that sense of urgency.”

 

Sara Herschander is a freelance journalist and audio producer based in New York City. Her work has appeared in The American Prospect, Documented NY, and Univision, among other publications.

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