Abortion: Washington Post Calls Peaceful Protest Outside Justices' Homes Against Roe Reversal ‘Totalitarian’

protesters demonstrating outside of Supreme Court justices’ houses
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With the right to bodily autonomy on the line and protesters demonstrating outside of Supreme Court justices’ houses, the Washington Post editorial board (5/9/22) weighed in:

The right to assemble and speak freely is essential to democracy. Erasing any distinction between the public square and private life is essential to totalitarianism. It is crucial, therefore, to protect robust demonstrations of political dissent while preventing them from turning into harassment or intimidation.

An issue that illuminates this imperative in sharp relief is residential picketing—protests against the actions or decisions of public officials at their homes, such as the recent noisy abortion rights demonstrations at the Montgomery County dwellings of Supreme Court Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh.

The disruptors wanted to voice opposition to a possible overruling of Roe v. Wade, as foreshadowed by a leaked majority draft opinion last week. What they mainly succeeded in doing was to illustrate that their goal—with which we broadly agree—does not justify their tactics….

A Montgomery County ordinance permits protest marches in residential areas but bars stationary gatherings, arguably such as those in front of the Roberts and Kavanaugh residences. A federal law—18 U.S.C. Section 1507—prohibits “pickets or parades” at any judge’s residence, “with the intent of influencing” a jurist “in the discharge of his duty.”

These are limited and justifiable restraints on where and how people exercise the right to assembly. Citizens should voluntarily abide by them, in letter and spirit. If not, the relevant governments should take appropriate action.

To be clear, the cited federal law states that the appropriate action taken against violators is that they “shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than one year, or both.”

A search of the Post‘s website turns up no other instances of the editorial board applying any variation of the word “totalitarian” to the domestic context. In the Post‘s view, then, those people protesting an attempt by unelected government officials to give the state control over one’s own body—including, by the way, various state laws that deputize neighbors to report on neighbors—are the ones putting our country at risk of totalitarianism, and they should be punished with a fine and/or prison.

No one has seriously argued that the peaceful protesters were “harassing” or “intimidating” the justices; they were exercising their First Amendment right to peaceably assemble and speak freely. The Post also refused to consider that, as many observers have pointed out, the Supreme Court itself (Madsen v. Women’s Health Center, 1994) has ruled that requiring anti-choice protesters—who, by contrast, have a documented history of harassment and intimidation—to stay more than 300 feet from clinic doctors’ private homes violated their First Amendment rights.

The Post‘s screed against protesters came days after the very same editorial board (5/3/22) charged that Samuel Alito’s draft opinion “would inaugurate a terrifying new era in which Americans would lose faith in the Court, distrust its members and suspect that what is the law today will not be tomorrow,” and that overturning Roe would be:

a repugnant repudiation of the American tradition in which freedom extends to an ever-wider circle of people. By betraying this legacy and siding with the minority of Americans who want to see Roe overturned, the justices would appear to be not fair-minded jurists but reckless ideologues who are dangerously out of touch and hostile to a core American ethic.

The Washington (“Democracy Dies in Darkness”) Post presents itself as a great defender of democracy and freedom—unless, God forbid, your angry cries against attacks on those things might make a reckless, out-of-touch ideologue uncomfortable while enjoying his dinner.

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