Montgomery County police say they are keeping an eye on protests held near the local homes of three Supreme Court justices and making sure they remain peaceful.
Following the leak of a draft opinion to Politico last month indicating the possible overturning of Roe v. Wade, protesters have been gathering regularly in front of Associate Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s Chevy Chase home. Last week an armed man from California was charged with attempted murder after authorities say he went to Kavanaugh’s home with the intent to kill him. Nicholas John Roske, 26, was indicted on an attempted murder charge in federal court Wednesday and faces a maximum sentence of life in prison.
In addition to Kavanaugh, Chief Justice John Roberts and Associate Justice Neil Gorsuch also live in the county.
Montgomery County police spokeswoman Shiera Goff told Bethesda Beat on Thursday that police are “closely monitoring” areas near the homes of the three Supreme Court justices. She said she could not provide additional details.
“When it comes to those types of situations, we don’t really say what we’re doing tactically or strategically for safety purposes,” she said.
A 1950 federal statute prohibits “picketing or parading” with the “intent of influencing” near a building or home where a federal judge lives. However, the White House has indicated it will not oppose protests that are peaceful at judges’ homes, The Washington Post reported last month.
A White House spokesperson did not respond to an email from Bethesda Beat on Thursday seeking clarity on the Biden Administration’s position on the protests.
Montgomery County Police Chief Marcus Jones on Wednesday told CNN host Brianna Keilar that it is the responsibility of county police to enforce county laws and not federal rules regarding protests. Generally speaking, protesters can gather in neighborhoods but may not block traffic and may not remain stationary in front of a home while yelling or holding protest signs, he said.
“If they violate any of those particular regulations, then we will arrest them,” Jones told Keilar. Jones also said on the program that no arrests have been made so far.
According to Montgomery County’s policies on protests, a person who violates the county’s protest laws could be fined from $50 to $1,000 depending on whether it’s a first-time or a repeat offense. Additionally, the violation could either be considered a civil penalty or a criminal penalty depending on the severity of the offense. The maximum jail sentence for a criminal violation is six months.
Protests at the homes of local and national public officials in Montgomery County have become common in recent years. In May 2020, about 40members of the county government union, MCGEO Local 1994, demonstrated in front of County Council Member Hans Riemer’s home in Takoma Park after the council rejected pay raises for some county employees. A smaller group of people demanding more action on climate change at the county level protested in July of that year at County Executive Marc Elrich’s home in Takoma Park, The Montgomery County Sentinel reported.
By July, the high court is expected to issue its ruling on Mississippi’s abortion ban at 15 weeks of pregnancy, which could overturn Roe v. Wade. At the federal level, Congress has passed a bill that increases security for Supreme Court justices and their families.
Spokespeople for the Rockville and Gaithersburg police departments told Bethesda Beat this week that their police departments defer to state and county laws when it comes to regulating protests.
Dan Schere can be reached at email@example.com