The U.S. Supreme Court marshal has asked Governor Glenn Youngkin to enforce state law in response to protesters outside justices’ homes, according to ABC News, but Youngkin’s office placed the main responsibility on local authorities in statements to the media.
In a new statement Tuesday, Youngkin spokesperson Christian Martinez said, “Governor Youngkin has condemned picketing at the homes of the Supreme Court Justices. At the direction of the Governor, Virginia State Police have been at the ready and in constant coordination in the protest response which is led by the local primary authorities, the Fairfax County Police Department. The Governor remains in regular contact with the justices themselves and holds their safety as an utmost priority. Governor Youngkin will continue to push for every resource of federal law enforcement, including the U.S. Marshals, to be involved while the justices continue to be denied the right to live peacefully in their homes.”
Fairfax County Police Department spokesperson Second Lieutenant Jason Chandler said in a statement, “The Fairfax County Police Department (FCPD) is responsible for maintaining public safety throughout the county, including at the homes of one retired and three sitting justices of the Supreme Court of the United States. FCPD is also tasked with protecting the constitutional rights of our community members, including First Amendment protected speech and the right to peacefully assemble.”
“Our Civil Disturbance Unit (CDU) is trained to help crowds that gather to express their views and are well versed on the laws that govern these planned gatherings. Our officers work to provide a safe space for individuals to exercise First Amendment rights and also maintain community safety,” the statement continued. “FCPD works with its regional partners ahead of all major events, including the Virginia State Police (VSP) and others. This high level of cooperation is necessary as events throughout the region frequently cross boundaries and require a regional response.”
In a document reminding the public of applicable laws, FCPD highlights laws against picketing outside homes, obstructing free passage of others, laws about riots and unlawful assembly, crossing police lines, disorderly conduct, and stopping on highways.
Delegate Tim Anderson (R-Virginia Beach), who is a lawyer, told The Virginia Star, “Virginia law provides a class 3 misdemeanor for picketing in front of any person’s home (18.2-419). In addition, there is a civil proceeding that could request an injunction against groups and persons picketing. Should an injunction be granted and picketing were to continue, the Court could hold picketers in contempt of court, which could involve jail time. Finally, Virginia law allows for police to arrest for failure to follow lawful orders under 18.2-464 such as ordering disbursements of protestors from residential property.”
“In addition, there is a federal statute directly on point that prohibits picketing in front of a home of a judicial officer that is completely being ignored by the DOJ (18 USC 1507),” he said.
“Prosecutors, both federal and state, have criminal and civil tools to stop this. The localities in Northern Virginia where Supreme Court justices live have liberal prosecutors that are failing to enforce all the tools currently available to them to protect the conservative members of the court. I think it’s pretty clear why,” Anderson said.
Fairfax County Commonwealth Attorney Steve Descano is a progressive prosecutor. That’s made him a top political opponent for Virginia Republicans, and Attorney General Jason Miyares has tried unsuccessfully to get more power to intervene in local prosecutions.
Additionally, Republicans are critical of the U.S. Department of Justice helmed by Attorney General Merrick Garland for not enforcing a federal misdemeanor against protesting outside judges’ homes and court buildings.
In an appearance on The John Fredericks Show, Anderson said federal prosecutors generally haven’t filed many charges under that law.
“I think they recognize it, that it’s unconstitutional,” he said.
Governor Glenn Youngkin tried to take similar language to the federal misdemeanor and make it a felony, which would expand the ability of local and state authorities to charge protesters with crimes.
However, House Republicans blocked that effort.
Anderson told The Star, “I did oppose the governor’s amendment. Not because I disagree with the idea of providing criminal penalties protesting in front of a house of a judge, but because it included felony penalties for protesting in front of a courthouse. If the amendment had been strictly prohibiting picketing in front of residences, I would have agreed with the amendment. Peaceful protesting in front of courthouses can never be a crime as far as I am concerned as that would be a blatant assault on the First Amendment.”
Candidate for Virginia’s 7th Congressional District Yesli Vega is a county supervisor in Fairfax neighbor Prince William County, and has worked in law enforcement. She also criticized local and federal authorities.
“It is irresponsible to do nothing and wait, hoping a tragedy will be evaded. When individuals have the intent to intimidate justices, their families, and even get violent, we can’t wait until after the fact to act; that would be extremely irresponsible. Many seem to have forgotten that a radical left-wing extremist has already gone to Justice Kavanaugh’s home with the intent to murder,” she said in a statement.
She added, “So yes, I believe local and federal authorities should begin working together to provide the proper security for our justices and their families. The integrity of the Court was compromised when the ruling was leaked to the public. Allowing lawlessness to carry into the justices’ homes only aggravates the situation. The time to act is now.”
This article originally appeared in The Virginia Star. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the positions of The Republican Standard. Republished with permission.