Illegal Abortion Protests Wednesday Despite Police; Virginia Governor Ordered Police to “Monitor” But Not Arrest
Illegal Abortion Protests
WASHINGTON, D.C. (May 11, 2022) – Abortion rights advocates calling themselves “Ruth Sent Us” have scheduled large protests in Virginia on Wednesday at the homes of three of what they call “extremist justices” likely to vote against their cause – Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, and Amy Coney Barrett – although a state statute makes such demonstrations a crime, even if perfectly peaceful.
However, it's unlikely that the protests will remain peaceful, especially since a protestor at a related protest at Brett M. Kavanaugh’s house warned the Supreme Court justice this weekend, “If you take away our choices, we will riot.” Similarly, about 150 demonstrators at Justice Samuel Alito's home chanted: "When mothers' lives are under attack, what do we do? Stand up, fight back"
Because Governor Glenn Youngkin has ordered police at the Justices' homes to "monitor the situation" but not make arrests, some antiabortionists may instead make citizen's arrests, as the law authorizes them to do.
Like the abortion supporters' protests, these actions might also become violent, at least judging from the chatter about their plans on the Internet. Among the posted comments:
- "Let's get a right wing militia to defend them"
- "Vigilantes for Justices! Assemble!"
- "Violence, extreme violence is just what they need ... broken bones at a minimum ...,"
- "A 'whiff of grapeshot' would do the trick"
- "I fully support a copper jacketed hosedown if they turn violent"
- "The republic is in danger of unravelling. Citizen's arrest is the least people could do"
- "Virginia is a serious right to carry State. . . Everyone who can shoot a gun in Alexandria is going to stand with their backs to Alito."
A legal analysis by public interest law professor John Banzhaf, posted widely on the Internet, notes that any picketing of any home in Virginia is a crime, even if the protest is small and/or remains peaceful.
Moreover, unlike the federal statute which makes it a crime to demonstrate near a judge's home, but only if it can be proven that the intent of the protestors was "interfering with, obstructing, or impeding the administration of justice," [18 U.S. Code § 1507], the Virginia criminal statute does not require proof of any specific intent in order to arrest or convict.
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Thus, unlike federal law enforcement officers (e.g., federal Marshals, Supreme Court police, Secret Service, etc.), Governor Youngkin and his law enforcement officials cannot even claim (some might say hide behind) that they need clear evidence of intent to begin arresting protestors.
A Class 3 Misdemeanor
Virginia's § 18.2-419 mandates that "Any person who shall engage in picketing before or about the residence or dwelling place of any individual, or who shall assemble with another person or persons in a manner which disrupts or threatens to disrupt any individual's right to tranquility in his home, shall be guilty of a Class 3 misdemeanor."
A forceful statement of policy makes clear how strongly legislators feel about the need to enforce the statute: "protection and preservation of the home is the keystone of democratic government"; "good order of the community require that members of the community enjoy in their homes a feeling of well-being, tranquility, and privacy"; "picketing before or about residences and dwelling places causes emotional disturbance and distress"; "its object [is] the harassing of such occupants"; and enforcing the provisions of the statute "are necessary in the public interest, to avoid the detrimental results herein set forth."
If precedent - such as what is likely to happen on Wednesday at scheduled home demonstrations - establishes that law enforcement in Virginia will not arrest those who clearly violate the law prohibiting demonstrates at residences (which is an increasing common tactic), it will only encourage more such demonstrations not only at the homes of judges, but also of legislators, other prominent figures, and even journalists, argues Banzhaf. Needless to say, many such demonstrations can and do get out of hand, so it is better to squelch them at the beginning rather than trying to regain control once the violence escalates. Here's just one example:
As described just last year by Senator Josh Hawley: "Tonight while I was in Missouri, Antifa scumbags came to our place in DC and threatened my wife and newborn daughter, who can´t travel. They screamed threats, vandalized, and tried to pound open our door." The Senator confessed that, as a result, his family was "terrorized." As a result, a local magistrate did find probable cause under Virginia's § 18.2-419 and issued a legal summons.
So, since both sides have indicated that they are willing to employ violence for their respective causes, and it's unlikely that federal officers can or will make arrests, it would be far better if Youngkin obeyed the legal demand he has been served with to comply with Virginia's crystal clear law which makes any such protests at a residence a crime, even if entirely peaceful, and arrest anyone who begins to demonstrate, suggests Banzhaf.