Fairfax County board chair rejects Youngkin’s advice for Supreme Court justice protests

Gov. Glenn Youngkin on Fox News discusses protests at Supreme Court justices’ homes (via Gov. Glenn Youngkin/Twitter)

(Updated at 3:45 p.m.) Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin has some thoughts on how Fairfax County should handle abortion-related protests outside Supreme Court justices’ homes.

In a letter sent to the Board of Supervisors and County Executive Bryan Hill yesterday (Wednesday), the governor suggested that the Fairfax County Police Department “establish an expanded security perimeter” and limit “unauthorized vehicle and pedestrian access” around the homes of Justices Samuel Alito, Clarence Thomas, and Amy Coney Barrett, who all live in the county.

“This request is based on credible and specific information received about upcoming activities planned at or involving the homes of the Justices in Fairfax County,” Youngkin wrote in the letter, which was posted online by Springfield District Supervisor Pat Herrity. “…Establishing a perimeter will ensure both the safety of the Justices, their neighbors and the demonstrators.”

Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay resoundly rejected Youngkin’s proposal, arguing that it would amount to “a checkpoint that federal courts have held violates the Fourth Amendment.”

He said it would also raise concerns related to the First Amendment’s protections for freedom of speech and assembly, stating that the county’s “well-trained, sophisticated” police department “stands ready as always to take necessary action, if needed, to protect public safety.”

“My focus is on public safety and protecting constitutional rights of our citizens,” McKay said in a tweet sharing his letter to Youngkin. “I know the well-trained FCPD professionals can ensure both.”

The exchange came two days after abortion-rights advocates organized by the group ShutDown DC marched to Alito’s house in Fort Hunt in protest of his leaked draft opinion indicating that the Supreme Court intends to overturn Roe v. Wade, the landmark case that has been used to protect access to abortion for nearly 50 years.

The demonstration on Monday (May 9) involved approximately 100 participants. The FCPD stated afterwards that it was peaceful, and the crowd “dispersed on their own” with no arrests necessary.

According to McKay’s letter, anti-abortion activists have also gathered outside Alito’s house in recent days and similarly “self-dispersed” without incident.

Just last night, Barrett got a visit at her home in Pimmit Hills from abortion-rights protestors dressed in costumes from “The Handmaid’s Tale,” Margaret Atwood’s dystopian novel that is now a Hulu TV show, according to multiple news reports.

Braddock District Supervisor James Walkinshaw backed McKay up, saying that the county’s public safety agencies “know how to keep everyone safe while ensuring freedom of speech.”

Herrity, the county’s only Republican supervisor, diverged from his Democratic colleagues.

“Protesting in public spaces is welcome in Fairfax County as part of the democratic process and is an exercise of our freedom of speech,” Herrity said. “However, protesting and picketing in front of private residential homes is not acceptable and is not allowed per Virginia statute.”

The Code of Virginia prohibits “picketing before or about the residence or dwelling place of any individual…in a manner which disrupts or threatens to disrupt any individual’s right to tranquility in his home,” designating such gatherings as Class 3 misdemeanors.

The Supreme Court has ruled more than once that laws banning picketing in residential neighborhoods are unconstitutional, but Youngkin noted in a joint letter with Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan that a federal statute prohibits pickets and parades near a judge’s residence “with the intent of influencing any judge, juror, witness, or court officer.”

Violations of the federal law carry penalties of a fine, a prison sentence of up to a year, or both.

In their letter, Youngkin and Hogan called on the Justice Department to “provide appropriate resources to safeguard the Justices and enforce the law as it is written.”

“If people want to demonstrate some place off away from their home, that’s their perogative, but again, this is not a final ruling,” Youngkin said in an appearance on Fox News. “It’s a draft ruling, and clearly, these demonstrations are being pulled together to try to influence the final outcome, and that is prohibited based on federal statute.”

When asked about Youngkin’s suggestion of a security perimeter, the Fairfax County Police Department said in a statement that it “is aware of planned protests in several locations” in the county and elsewhere in the D.C. area.

“As a precaution, we have staffed additional resources to maintain the safety and security of the public, while ensuring First Amendment rights are protected,” the FCPD said. “Our Civil Disturbance Unit is trained to handle crowds that gather to express their views and our officers are well versed on the laws that govern such gatherings.”

A spokesperson from McKay’s office noted that “federal authorities are always on the scene through the Supreme Court Police,” the federal agency that provides security for the Supreme Court grounds and personnel.

“They can enforce federal law,” McKay’s office said.