Kavanaugh’s neighbors agree with pro-choice protesters but disagree with their tactics


On paper, at least, Emily Strulson appears to be 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 with her mother on the National Mall for abortion rights as a middle school student. The Court’s Recent Steps to Overthrow Roe v. calf prompted her to paint a message on her driveway: “Reproductive rights are human rights.” And she has had more than 200 yard signs printed and distributed reflecting the widespread sentiment of her left-leaning jurisdiction north of Washington: “Chevy Chasers for Choice.” .

But two months after the protesters’ arrival – often loud and vulgar – Strulson finds their methods so disturbing that she and her family go out to a restaurant for a long dinner every Wednesday night.

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

The vibe seems to be shared up and down its narrow street with towering trees, closely spaced houses, and families with young children.

“The vast majority of people here are pro-choice,” said Lyric Winik, speaking from her porch several doors down from the conservative judiciary. “And the vast majority of people here think these protesters are out of control.”

Montgomery County police officers and the US Marshals Service have been present throughout the protests. In recent weeks, Montgomery officials said they’ve received more complaints about noise from residents as police appear to be stepping up enforcement — including recruiting decibel meters to document sound levels. Officials said last Wednesday that the protesters were getting closer to an arrest.

Supreme Court Marshal urges Md., Virginia leaders to halt protests at home

Protesters strongly disapprove of the reactions, saying that whatever degree they disturb the calm, they are part of a much more important message – drawing attention to how a series of judges changed the lives of millions – and one Message could be even stronger with the involvement of residents. As they recently chanted, “Get out of your houses and onto the streets!”

“We’re already being stripped of our rights,” said Sadie Kuhns, 28, who has been a weekly liaison for abortion rights advocates in talks with police. “We’ve been monitoring our voices, literally the volume of our voices, on top of everything else we’ve already been deprived of.”

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

The Washington Post attempted to speak to 18 of Kavanaugh’s neighbors. Three spoke on record and expressed their frustration with the demonstrators – not so much their presence as their loudness and often shrill language. Four, who spoke on condition of anonymity citing privacy concerns, shared those frustrations. A resident, who also spoke anonymously, said she had no problems with protesters. Residents of the remaining homes either declined to speak in person or did not respond to letters left on their doors requesting interviews.

However, the sample of those who spoke, along with police statements and video footage of the demonstrations, paints a picture of rising tensions. Some residents have taken to the streets to directly question the protesters’ methods, while the protesters responded by using the term “Karen” in their chants to taunt residents as uptight and privileged. Her screamed admonitions, which previously associated “Kavanaugh” with an obscene action, now include a variant themed “Karen”.

Requests to the demonstrators to reduce the volume were quickly rejected, according to Winik.

“They just call us fascists,” she said. “None of it is healthy. We have children on this street who are afraid to leave their homes.”

She fears her efforts – highlighted by anti-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 who are closer know better. In the last presidential election, the voting district near Kavanaugh’s home — filled with million-dollar homes — overwhelmingly voted for Joe Biden over Donald Trump.

Strulson grew up several blocks from her current home. A vivid memory as a child: Her mother woke her up one weekend morning in the late 1980s to take the subway to a pro-abortion rally on the National Mall. “Come on, let’s go to this march,” she recalls saying.

The protest made an impression, as did the news a few years later that an acquaintance had had the abortion. Strulson struggled to conceive, underwent in vitro fertilization, and found out about two other women she knew who were having abortions. All of this led to a strong belief that reproductive and abortion decisions should be made by a woman.

Last fall, when it became clear that the Supreme Court could take up abortion fundamentally, Strulson learned of a march by Chevy Chase to Kavanaugh’s home. She decided to participate – with a good feeling on the matter and on the way, but not at the destination, where the language switched from factual to personal – addressed to a neighbor.

After a minute, Strulson said, she slipped home.

Then came the leak of the draft report in May, the clear signal roe was in trouble, and more protests in her street. Strulson says she stayed inside but could hear them getting louder and louder as the weeks went by. They got to the point where on July 1 her husband emailed Evan Glass (D-At Large), a member of Montgomery County Council, warning him of significant disruption from the protesters.

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

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The Wednesday protests follow a similar path. Protesters gather in a parking lot along Brookville Road, walk to Kavanaugh’s house, pace in front of it, walk about half a mile to Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr.’s home, protest there, and walk back to Kavanaugh’s block for more demonstrations .

Kuhns, one of the activists, says it will amount to a relatively short time on Kavanaugh’s block.

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

The chants range from creative to rough. A willingness: “Keep your religion! Get off my vagina!”

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

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

“There has been an overwhelming amount of complaints from the community about the noise, okay,” Capt. Jason Cokinos told the group, adding the department just tweeted applicable state and county laws, which he also printed out in case anyone has one needed copying.

One of the laws prohibits “picketing” in front of a private home, a rule that avoids walking up and down the sidewalk in front of a particular home.

“Those who have been here before know that you just walk, keep moving, no problem,” said Cokinos. “We’ll help you with that.”

Returning to the noise complaints, Cokinos said if they received them during the protest they would issue a warning to people who, if ignored, could lead to arrests. “If that’s what you want to do and you’re fine, just keep it at a normal volume as we’re talking here and you should be fine.”

A neighbor demonstrates for abortion rights in front of Kavanaugh’s house

According to Goff, the protests resulted in six complaints from five people. Police officers appeared to warn, but ultimately made no arrests.

“What happened [on July 13] and moving forward is not at the behest of anyone else,” Goff said. “It’s just based on the concerns of our residents. We are trying to strike a balance between allowing them to exercise their First Amendment right, but also the right of people living in the neighborhood to have peace and tranquility in their neighborhood.”

Demonstrations 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 racial violence.

“Protests are strategic. You want to go to a place where they’re making an impact, where there’s pressure on the goal of your protest,” Howard said.

Looking back on the civil rights movement, she said not all protest tactics were universally accepted.

“It was also seen as inappropriate in those moments,” she said. “It wasn’t praised, it wasn’t accepted.”

https://www.washingtonpost.com/dc-md-va/2022/07/19/abortion-protests-supreme-court-noise/ Kavanaugh’s neighbors agree with pro-choice protesters but disagree with their tactics

Dustin Huang

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