(WASHINGTON) — Abortion rights activists gathered outside of Justice Samuel Alito’s Virginia home on Monday night to protest the draft opinion he authored that leaked last week from the Supreme Court, indicating to the public that the court could soon overturn the Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion nationwide.
While protests extended to Alito’s home — after Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Brett Kavanaugh also saw demonstrators at their Maryland homes over the weekend — the Senate voted unanimously on Monday evening on a bill to provide security details for the justices and their families. The bipartisan bill, authored by Sens. Chris Coons, D-Del., and John Cornyn, R-Texas, heads to the House for a possible vote. If it passes, it would then go to President Joe Biden’s desk.
Two federal law enforcement sources told ABC News Monday that steps have been taken to increase security details around the individual justices, including at their homes. The U.S. Marshals Service also said they are assisting the Marshal of the Supreme Court regarding increased security concerns in the wake of Politico obtaining the draft opinion, but didn’t comment further on specific security measures.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell blasted the demonstrations Monday evening as an attempt to influence the justices and “replace the rule of law with the rule of mobs,” he said.
“We’ve seen angry crowds assemble at judges’ private family homes. Activists published a map of their addresses. Law enforcement has had to install a security fence around the Supreme Court itself,” McConnell said from the Senate floor. “Trying to scare federal judges into ruling a certain way is far outside the bounds of First Amendment speech or protest.”
McConnell went on to cite a federal law — 18 U.S. Code Section 1507 — that forbids “pickets and parades” intended to influence judges, suggesting the law could make the protestors’ actions illegal.
ShutDownDC, which organized the event, has more demonstrations planned for this week.
More than 100 people turned up for the gathering outside Alito’s home in Alexandria which included speakers, a candlelight vigil, quiet moments of reflection and unified chants, including, at one point, “Alito is a coward! Alito is a coward!”
It wasn’t clear whether Alito and his family were home at the time — but law enforcement officers were on the scene as the protest remained peaceful.
Virginia GOP Gov. Glenn Youngkin tweeted that state police were also assisting federal and local law enforcement “to ensure the safety of our citizens, including Supreme Court Justices, who call Virginia home.”
The demonstrators are part of the majority of Americans who believe Roe v. Wade should be upheld, according to an ABC News/Washington Post poll last week. But across the country, if Roe is overturned, at least 26 states would either ban abortion or severely restrict access to it.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Monday the White House supports peaceful protests but would condemn any violence.
“I think 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,” Psaki responded. “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.”
The justices are next expected to convene in person — though in private — in the court building on Thursday for their weekly conference, marking the first official gathering of the nine since the leaked draft sent shockwaves through the court and across the country. The next possible opinion release day is next Monday.
For his part, Alito canceled an appearance at a judicial conference last week after the draft decision leaked.
Democrats will force a vote in the Senate to protect access to abortion on Wednesday. Though it’s all but certain to fail, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said Tuesday it will be a telling vote.
“Tomorrow, there’ll be no more hiding. There’ll be no more distracting. No more obfuscating where every member in this chamber stands,” Schumer said. “Senate Republicans will face a choice. Either vote to protect the rights of women to exercise freedom over their own bodies, or stand with the Supreme Court as 50 years of women’s rights are reduced to rubble before our very eyes.”
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