Outgoing White House press secretary Jen Psaki gently chided pro-abortion protesters who marched outside the Maryland homes of Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Brett Kavanaugh over the weekend, saying Monday that the nation’s top judges “must be able to do their jobs without concern for their personal safety.”
About 100 sign-holding demonstrators walked from Kavanaugh’s home to Roberts’ nearby abode Saturday.
Video posted on social media showed the group chanting, “The whole world is watching!,” “We will not go back” and “My body, my choice.”
The protests took place days after a draft Supreme Court opinion that would strike down the landmark abortion decision Roe v. Wade was leaked.
It is unclear whether either Roberts or Kavanaugh or their families were home at the time. However, concerns have been raised for their safety and the safety of the four other conservative Supreme Court justices as additional “walk-bys” have been planned for later this week.
Last week, Psaki had declined to condemn the demonstrations, instead opting to urge protesters to remain peaceful.
“I think our view here is that peaceful protests — there’s a long history in the United States, in the country, of that,” she said at the time. “And we’ve certainly encouraged people to keep it peaceful and not resort to any level of violence.”
“The president’s view is that there’s a lot of passion, a lot of fear, a lot of sadness from many, many people across this country about what they saw in that leaked document,” she added. “We obviously want people’s privacy to be respected. We want people to protest peacefully if they want to protest. That is certainly what the president’s view would be.”
On Monday, Psaki changed her tune after the displays at the justices’ homes, tweeting: “.@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.”
Since the leak of the draft opinion by conservative Justice Samuel Alito, thousands of protesters have gathered in major cities across the US, including outside the Supreme Court building in Washington.
Some have speculated about whether Saturday’s demonstrations were legal, as 18 U.S.C. 1507 states that anyone who has the intent of “interfering with, obstructing, or impeding the administration of justice, or … the intent of influencing any judge, juror, witness, or court officer” and pickets or parades in or near a court building or residence “occupied or used by such judge, juror, witness or court officer” will face a fine or imprisonment of up to one year.
The law also applies to people using sound trucks or similar devices “or resorts to any other demonstration in or near such building or residence.”