It should not be so difficult for the White House to say what is plainly true: Harassing individuals at their homes and committing violent acts for the sake of a political cause is extremist, abhorrent behavior—no matter who they are targeting, no matter how “scared” they are, and no and no matter the cause.
And, yet, it was mot until Monday morning that the White House condemned the protests outside the homes of several Supreme Court justices who appear poised to overturn Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey. And even then, their condemnation was half-hearted at best.
Irrespective of one’s opinion on abortion or Roe, this conduct is unacceptable. It would be unacceptable outside of Justice Sonia Sotomayor’s house, and it is unacceptable outside the home of Justice Brett Kavanaugh. The White House should have said so immediately.
The White House statement is three days too late. Protesters have been gathered outside Chief Justice John Roberts’s home and Justice Kavanaugh’s home since Saturday. Justice Samuel Alito was forced to move to an undisclosed location with his family on Sunday night, according to press reports.
All of this was predictable. In fact, a leftist group that calls itself “Ruth Sent Us” publicly released the home addresses of Roberts, Kavanaugh, Alito and Justices Amy Coney Barrett, Clarence Thomas, and Neil Gorsuch last Friday and announced their intention to visit the homes on May 11. The group also encouraged protesters outside of Washington, D.C. to interrupt Catholic church services across the country.
Yet when asked to condemn these transparent acts of intimidation, the White House at first refused.
“Do you think that progressive activists that are now planning protests outside some of the justices’ houses are extreme?” Fox News correspondent Peter Doocy asked White House press secretary Jen Psaki last Thursday.
Psaki replied: “Peaceful protest? No, peaceful protest is not extreme.”
“Some of these justices have young kids,” Doocy noted. “Their neighbors are not all public figures. So would the president think about waving off activists who want to go into residential neighborhoods in Virginia and Maryland?”
Psaki answered, “I think our view here is that peaceful protests — there’s a long history in the United States in the country of that. And we’ve certainly encouraged people to keep it peaceful and not resort to any level of violence.”
Doocy interjected: “These activists posted a map with the home addresses of the Supreme Court justices. Is that the kind of thing the president wants to help your side make their point?”
It is wrong for protestors to hound justices inside their homes because they disagree with a putative ruling, just as it was wrong for protesters to demonstrate outside Boston Mayor Michelle Wu’s home in February to protest COVID-19 mandates. No person should be made to feel unsafe in his or her own home—which, of course, is exactly the point of these kinds of protests.
Unfortunately, they’re becoming more and more common. Over the past few years, school board members, election officials, TV pundits, and various government officials from both the Democratic and Republican parties have faced uncivil and indecent behavior from angry protesters who want to intimidate and punish them.
Last week was an opportunity for Jen Psaki and President Biden to step up and lead on this issue. But the White House balked and refused to take a clear stand. Even on Monday, after Psaki released a long-awaited follow-up statement urging protesters not to resort to “violence, threats or vandalism,” the president’s team stopped short of telling protesters to leave justices’ homes.
.@POTUS strongly believes in the Constitutional right to protest. But that should never include violence, threats, or vandalism. Judges perform an incredibly important function in our society, and they must be able to do their jobs without concern for their personal safety.— Jen Psaki (@PressSec) May 9, 2022
By waiting until the justices’ safety was at risk, and warning protesters against committing violent acts only after a pro-life center was burned to the ground, the White House signaled its tacit endorsement of such tactics.
Regardless of their reasoning, the White House has no excuse for dragging its feet on this issue, and any follow-up statement Biden’s team releases now should be seen for what it is: a half-hearted attempt at damage control.