Abortion rights activists have gathered in recent days outside the homes of three conservative Supreme Court justices to protest the possible demise of Roe v. Wade, taking his defense in an intensely personal and politically divisive direction.

The attack on the residences — which belong to Samuel Alito, Brett Kavanaugh and John Roberts — has forced the White House to grapple with a thorny question about the proper limits of political discourse, one with deeply divided views on whether the tactic marks a troubling escalation or an impassioned response befitting the likely loss of a nearly 50-year-old constitutional right.

The Biden administration attempted this balancing act on Monday, when White House press secretary Jen Psaki denounced the possibility of threats or violence, but stopped short of condemning the protests outside judges’ homes.

“We are a country that promotes democracy and we certainly allow peaceful protests in a variety of places in the country,” Psaki said. “None of that should break the law.”

Some political analysts saw that response as lukewarm. Russell Wheeler, a visiting fellow at the Brookings Institution Governance Studies Program, said the message from the Biden administration could have been stronger.

“They’re trying to walk a line, pretty clearly, between taking a strong stance against violence toward judges and not alienating their pro-Roe base,” Wheeler said.

Recent demonstrations have unfolded as street protests in major US cities and a suspected arson attack on Sunday against a Wisconsin anti-abortion group has fueled concerns that Roe’s possible disappearance could trigger a new wave of political violence in the US. .

Robert Blair, coordinator of the Democratic Erosion consortium at Brown University, argued that the risk of political violence in the US is very high and anything that contributes to the problem should be avoided. He said that leaders must say that these protests cross a line to reduce violence.

“One of the fundamental problems with January 6 is that people in leadership positions didn’t come out and say, ‘Hey, stop doing this.’ The most obvious: Donald Trump,” Blair said. “To the extent that you have people like [President] Biden, or people known to be supportive of abortion rights, coming out and calling out these kinds of tactics, that’s important because it sends a very important signal that this is alienating people and I think that’s valuable.”

Other experts expressed less concern. Rachel Kleinfeld, an expert on political violence, agreed that government officials’ homes should be off limits, but said she’s “not particularly worried” about the possibility of political violence erupting in response to the ouster of Roe.

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“The vast majority of political and criminal violence worldwide is committed by men. The people most angry about the Roe decision are women,” said Kleinfeld, senior fellow for democracy, conflict and governance at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. “While men may be on the streets, their feelings are generally less visceral.”

On the political left, he added, those who support violence the most are those least close to the Democratic Party: “That makes their violence more spontaneous and less politically organized,” he said.

Speaking about his opposition to protests outside people’s homes on both sides, Kleinfeld said “there should be a separation between where people live and the jobs they do, to protect their children from trauma, as well as for democratic reasons.

ShutDownDC, which is organizing the demonstration in the Alito neighborhood this week, defended its decision to protest outside individual homes because “it is clear that the judges do not want to listen to public opinion.”

“If they don’t hear us in the building that symbolizes their power over us, then they’re going to have to hear us long enough in a building that symbolizes how personal this is: their homes,” said Hope Neyer, a member of the ShutDownDC communications team. he told The Hill.

“To those who suggest that protests like this go too far or cross a line, we say that this leaked decision, if officially announced, crosses the line,” Neyer added.

Republican leaders strongly denounced the demonstrations outside judges’ homes as an intimidation tactic.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) called the protests Monday an attempt to “scare federal judges into ruling a certain way” and “well outside the bounds of speech or protest.” of the First Amendment.”

Lawmakers are moving to try to quickly pass legislation that would extend the security Supreme Court justices have for their families. A close Biden ally, Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.), was among the senators who introduced the legislation.

A draft Supreme Court opinion last week revealed that a slim 5-4 majority of the court’s most conservative justices are prepared to overturn the landmark decision in Roe, which for nearly five decades has guaranteed the federal right to access to abortion.

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Within hours of the Monday night leak, published by Politico, large crowds had gathered outside the Supreme Court. By Tuesday, law enforcement officials had installed 7-foot black security fences around the building and subsequently closed off portions of adjacent streets.

The fence is part of heightened crowd control precautions in the wake of unrest at the US Capitol on January 6, 2021, when a mob of Trump supporters stormed the building in an attempt to stop the certification of the results of the 2020 elections. Security fences were placed around the Capitol grounds for almost five months after the insurrection.

The latest tumult comes amid a sharp decline in recent years in the public standing of the Supreme Court, which has sunk to an all-time low, and as new polling suggests the 6-3 conservative court is drifting further apart. of Americans, a majority of whom want Roe confirmed.

Amid last week’s fallout, critics accused the three Trump-appointed justices of having lied to the American public during their confirmation hearings by indicating they viewed Roe as established law, only to support overturning the decision. 1973 landmark shortly after joining the court. Many also recalled the Senate GOP’s refusal in 2016 to allow then-President Obama to fill the vacancy left by the late Justice Antonin Scalia, a move that would have isolated Roe.

The fallout from the opinion draft has created a messaging problem for the Biden administration. Although the White House has clearly condemned the attack on the office of an anti-abortion group in Madison, Wis., the more difficult response concerns the demonstrations in the DC area.

Asked Monday if Biden plans to condemn the protests at the homes of Supreme Court justices, Psaki noted that there has been no violence or vandalism against justices.

“As an independent body, it is not for me to determine how or if they are influenced, but we believe in peaceful protest,” he said.


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