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WASHINGTON — The chief security officer of the Supreme Court has asked that Virginia and Maryland officials enforce laws that would prohibit protests outside the homes of Supreme Court justices after weeks of demonstrations favoring abortion rights.
In four letters sent to Gov. Larry Hogan of Maryland; Gov. Glenn Youngkin of Virginia; Fairfax County Board of Supervisors chair Jeffrey McKay; and Montgomery County executive Marc Elrich, the Supreme Court marshal, Gail A. Curley, cited protests and "threatening activity" in her request.
After a leaked draft opinion in early May showed that the court's conservative majority was poised to overturn Roe v. Wade, which guaranteed a constitutional right to an abortion, protesters regularly gathered outside the homes of those justices to denounce the decision. The court formally issued its opinion in late June.
"Protesters gathered outside one Justice's Fairfax County home chanting expletives," read the letter to Youngkin, which was sent Saturday. "And dozens appeared outside another's Fairfax County home chanting 'no privacy for us, no peace for you! This is exactly this kind of conduct that Virginia law prohibits."
The laws cited by Curley are both state and local ordinances that would prohibit various kinds of demonstrations outside of private residences with certain exceptions, but it is unclear whether protesters have necessarily violated the laws.
In one of her letters, Curley also referred to the arrest last month of a California man who was found with a pistol and other weapons near the Chevy Chase, Maryland, home of Justice Brett Kavanaugh. Federal officials said the man planned to break into the justice's home to kill him and have charged him with attempted murder.
On the evening of June 24, after the Supreme Court ended nearly 50 years of federal abortion rights, a small crowd chanted, sang and banged pots and pans on the street in Burke, Virginia, where Justice Clarence Thomas lives. Police barricaded the entire block. Protesters also appeared outside Kavanaugh's home, seemingly outnumbered by police officers, and security vans were seen guarding Justice Samuel Alito's house in Alexandria, Virginia.
The protests prompted by the leaked draft opinion intensified concerns about the safety of the justices, and a fence was erected around the Supreme Court building in response to demonstrations.
Last month, the House quickly passed a bill that would extend police protection to the immediate families of Supreme Court justices. The Senate has already passed the legislation, and it awaits President Joe Biden's signature.
All six of the Republican-appointed justices live in wealthy enclaves in Fairfax County, Virginia, and Montgomery County, Maryland, which border Washington.
Elrich, the Fairfax County official, said in a statement that he did not have any record of a letter from Curley, but he criticized her request, saying that the federal government was primarily responsible for ensuring the safety of justices and their families.
"It is very troubling that the court would take this approach," Elrich said. "If the marshal is concerned about security, then she and her staff should communicate directly with our police chief, myself, and my staff rather than having a letter released to the press."
In a statement, the Fairfax County Police Department said it was responsible for protecting the public, including three justices, and safeguarding the constitutional right of people to protest. It was "well versed" on the laws that govern protests, it said, adding that it had a unit specifically "trained to help crowds that gather to express their views."
Both Youngkin and Hogan have previously expressed concern about the protests.
In statement posted to Twitter on Saturday, the communications director for Hogan said "the governor has directed Maryland State Police to further review enforcement options that respect the First Amendment and the Constitution." He added that the Justice Department had declined a request from Hogan to enforce federal statutes prohibiting protesting at the justices' residences.
Sadie Kuhns, an organizer with Our Rights DC, a group created by protesters in May that has organized more than 30 protests outside the homes of the conservative justices, said the group has not seen a law enforcement response to its demonstrations and has no plans to stop.
"These six people have control over millions of people's lives," Kuhns said. "And if the only thing we can do is exercise our First Amendment rights outside of their homes peacefully, that's what we're going to do. It empowers people."
This article originally appeared in The New York Times .
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