Kavanaugh neighbors agree with abortion rights protesters but not with their tactics


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On paper at least, Emily Strulson might seem like a welcoming host to the weekly protests outside the home of Supreme Court Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh.

The 46-year-old artist, who lives half a block away, first marched for abortion rights as a college student with her mother at the National Mall. The court’s recent steps to set aside Roe vs. Wade encouraged her to chalk a message on her driveway: “Reproductive rights are human rights.” And she’s had more than 200 street signs printed and distributed that echo widely held sentiments in her left-leaning jurisdiction just north of Washington: “Chevy Chasers for Choice.”

But two months after the protesters – often loud and vulgar – arrived, Strulson has come to find their methods so disturbing that on Wednesday evenings she and her family go to a restaurant for a long dinner.

“I understand where their passion comes from,” she said, “but I’ve had enough.”

The vibe seems to be shared on their narrow street of towering trees, closely spaced houses, and families with young children.

“The vast majority of people here are pro-choice,” Lyric Winik said, speaking on his porch at several conservative justice houses. “And the overwhelming majority of people here think these protesters have gotten out of control.”

Montgomery County law enforcement officers and the U.S. Marshals Service have been a constant presence during the protests. In recent weeks, Montgomery officials say they have received more noise complaints from residents, with police appearing to step up enforcement – with enlisting decibel detection meters to document sound levels . Last Wednesday, officers said the protesters were about to be arrested.

Supreme Court Marshal urges leaders in Maryland, Virginia to stop home protests

Protesters strongly object to the backlash, saying that to the extent they disturb the peace it is part of a much bigger message – drawing attention to how a number of judges have changed the lives of millions of people – and a message could be even stronger with the participation of the inhabitants. As they recently chanted, “Out of your homes and into the streets!

“We’ve had our rights taken away from us before,” said Sadie Kuhns, 28, who liaises with abortion rights advocates in conversations with police each week. “We have our voices, literally the volume of our voices, controlled, on top of everything we’ve already been stripped of.”

Kuhns and others noted that over the past two months, protesters have cooperated with police by following guidelines to keep moving rather than stopping in front of specific homes, and they have stopped using noise amplification devices such as megaphones or loudspeakers.

The Washington Post attempted to speak with 18 Kavanaugh neighbors. Three spoke publicly, expressing their frustrations with the protesters — not so much their presence as their volume and often jarring language. Four, who spoke on condition of anonymity citing concerns about their privacy, shared those frustrations. A resident, also speaking on condition of anonymity, said she had no problem with the protesters. Residents of the remaining homes either refused to speak in person or did not respond to letters left on their doorstep requesting interviews.

The sample of those who spoke, along with police statements and video recordings of the protests, paint a picture of rising tensions. Some residents have risen to directly challenge the protesters’ methods, while protesters have responded by attributing the term “Karen” in their chants to ridicule locals as uptight and privileged. Their shouted exhortations that previously tied “Kavanaugh” to lewd action now include a variation that has “Karen” as the subject.

Demands for protesters to reduce the volume, Winik said, are quickly rebuffed.

“They just call us fascists,” she said. “Nothing about this is healthy. We have children on this street who are afraid to leave their homes.

She fears their efforts — highlighted as they are by abortion advocates — are counterproductive. “I think they’re hurting their own cause,” she said.

Those outside the Washington area who see footage of protests outside Kavanaugh’s home might assume, given his choice to live there, that Chevy Chase is at least as politically conservative as he is. Those closer know better. In the last presidential election, the polling place closest to Kavanaugh’s house — filled with million-dollar homes — voted overwhelmingly for Joe Biden over Donald Trump.

Strulson grew up half a mile from her current home. A clear childhood memory: her mother waking her up one weekend morning in the late 1980s to take the subway to an abortion rights rally at the National Mall. “Come on, let’s go to this walk,” she recalled, telling her mother.

The protest made an impression, as did learning a few years later that a close friend had an abortion. Strulson struggled with conception, going through in vitro fertilization, and learned that two other women she knew had aborted. All of this was in addition to a strong belief that decisions about reproduction and abortion belonged to a woman.

Last fall, as it became clear the Supreme Court could fundamentally adopt abortion, Strulson learned of a march through Chevy Chase to Kavanaugh’s home. She decided to participate – feeling good for the cause and during the trip, but not at the destination, where the language changed from a problem to a personal language – directed at a neighbor.

After a minute, Strulson said, she went home.

Then came the May leak of the draft notice, the clear signal deer was in trouble. Strulson spoke to his friends about how to respond — conversations that took place on the football pitches, his book club and on the tennis court. Another footballing parent said he had a print shop. His wife suggested “Chevy Chasers for Choice”. And soon, Strulson had 100-meter signs printed. Friends and other residents picked them up, erected them in their yards, and she has since had 300 more printed.

As the protests came to her street, Strulson says she stayed inside, but could hear them getting louder and louder as the weeks passed. It got to the point where on July 1, her husband emailed Montgomery County Councilman Evan Glass (D-At Large) warning him of the significant disruption caused by protesters.

He said protesters had become “more belligerent, using a lot of foul language in their chants” and “left signs with offensive language” on his street. He continued: “I am expressly concerned about the safety of children on our street, including mine. Children have stopped playing outside due to fear and the constant presence of protesters.

Abortion rights lawmakers and protesters arrested in Supreme Court

Wednesday’s protests follow a similar route. Protesters gather in parking lot along Brookville Road, march to Kavanaugh’s house, walk back and forth past, walk about half a mile to Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr’s house ., protest there and walk back to Kavanaugh’s block for more demonstrations.

Kuhns, one of the activists, says that equates to a relatively short stint on Kavanaugh’s block.

“We’re there for about 30 minutes between 7 and 8 p.m. and then we leave,” Kuhns said. “It’s a minor inconvenience once a week for a few minutes, while people are inconvenienced now and threatened now, their lives are threatened for the foreseeable future.”

The vocals range from creative to raw. A vigil: “Keep your religion! Out of my vagina!

During the school year, police heard parents say their children couldn’t concentrate on homework during the protests because of the noise, according to police spokeswoman Shiera Goff. There were specific noise complaints, she said, on May 18, June 29 and July 6, with the volume steadily increasing.

Last week, police commanders who work the weekly protests met with protesters at the start of their parking lot and relayed these concerns, according to the videos from the conversation posted by an abortion rights activist on social media.

“There’s been an overwhelming amount of noise complaints from the community, okay,” Capt. Jason Cokinos told the group, adding that the department just tweeted applicable state and county laws, which he had also printed if anyone needed a copy.

One of the laws prohibits “picketing” in a private residence.

“Anyone who’s been here knows you’re walking, you keep moving, no problem,” Cokinos said. “We’ll help you with that.”

Cokinos walked back the noise complaints, saying if authorities received them during the protest, they would issue a warning to individuals which, if not heeded, could lead to arrests. “If you want to do that and it’s fine, keep it at normal volume like we’re talking here and you should be fine.”

In front of Kavanaugh’s house, a neighbor mobilizes for the right to abortion

The protests led to six complaints from five people, according to Goff. The police appeared to issue warnings, but ultimately made no arrests.

“What happened [on July 13] and moving forward is no one else’s responsibility,” Goff said. “It is solely based on the concerns of our residents. We’re trying to balance their ability to exercise their First Amendment right, but also the right for the people who live in the neighborhood to be able to have peace and quiet in their neighborhood.

Protests are generally meant to be disruptive, said Ashley Howard, an assistant professor in the history and African American studies program at the University of Iowa, whose research includes the intersection of social movements and violence. racial.

“The protests are strategic. You want to go somewhere where they will have an impact, where it will put pressure on the target of your protest,” Howard said.

Thinking back to the civil rights movement, she said, not all protest tactics have been widely endorsed.

“In those times, it was also deemed inappropriate,” she said. “It wasn’t rented, it wasn’t accepted.”

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