Montgomery County officials said Wednesday that there is “no evidence” so far that people protesting in front of Supreme Court justices’ homes in the county are in violation of local regulations that limit protests in front of residences.
Protests have been occurring for several weeks in front of the justices’ homes since the leak of a draft opinion in May signaling the overturning of Roe v. Wade and have continued after the Supreme Court overturned the law June 24, leading to the rolling back of abortion rights in states across the country. Another protest was planned in Chevy Chase on Wednesday night.
In addition to the peaceful protests, a 26-year-old man from California was charged with attempted murder after he went to Associate Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s home in Chevy Chase with the intent of killing him, according to authorities.
Over the weekend, the Supreme Court’s marshal addressed a letter to Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich, which was released to multiple news outlets, asking him to enforce a county ordinance that prohibits picketing in front of a person’s home. Under the ordinance, groups may march in a neighborhood if they remain in motion.
The marshal’s letter referred to a protest last week in which 75 people allegedly “loudly picketed” in front of one justice’s home in Montgomery County for at least 20 minutes, then went to another justice’s home and picketed for 30 minutes as the crowd grew. The crowd then allegedly went back to the first justice’s home and protested for another 20 minutes, according to the letter.
Earl Stoddard, the county’s assistant chief administrative officer, told reporters Wednesday that the observations of local law enforcement differ with the court marshal’s description.
“While I’ve seen the claims in the letter made by the marshals, I’ve actually not seen any direct evidence that people have been lingering there for 20 or 30 minutes,” he said. “And when we talked to our police officers they told us it’s not happening. So there seems to be a disagreement about the facts between the marshal and our police department.”
Stoddard added that officers have not been told not to arrest people if they aren’t following the county’s ordinance, and that officers often give warnings to protesters if they do not continue moving.
Elrich reiterated that he has no problem with the protests as long as they remain peaceful and said that police aren’t looking to arrest protesters unless they are breaking the law.
“That is not the desire of the local police, and it’s not the desire of the police chief,” he said. “But they should expect they will be told to keep moving, to not have loud, boisterous and disruptive demonstrations. They can peacefully gather, they can express their view, but they can do it in a way that doesn’t become disruptive and doesn’t endanger people.”
Elrich also doubled down on his criticism of the Supreme Court’s marshal for not contacting him directly and instead releasing the letter to the media.
“If the marshal is concerned about security, then she and her staff should communicate directly with our police chief, myself and my staff rather than having a letter released to the press,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Montgomery County State’s Attorney’s Office on Wednesday released a statement saying it will not cooperate with investigations by authorities in other states looking to prosecute women who travel to Maryland for an abortion.
“State’s Attorney John McCarthy pledges to protect the reproductive rights of all women,” the statement read. “His office will not participate in the extradition of any woman who travels to Maryland as a safe haven in order to obtain an abortion, nor cooperate with any investigative efforts to identify providers.”
According to the office, a state would not have the legal authority to pass a law making it illegal for a woman from another state to undergo a medical procedure in Maryland. The statement also said the office will continue to protect the privacy rights of anyone who receives medical care in the state.
Elrich said during the Wednesday press briefing he is concerned about women coming to Maryland for abortions and facing the possibility of criminal prosecution in their home state. He said abortion providers will not be allowed to share a patient’s “HIPAA record,” or private medical information, with authorities.
Dan Schere can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org