What’s the point of going to Brett Kavanaugh’s house?

CHEVY CHASE, Md. — A few neighbors of Judge Brett Kavanaugh were visibly upset last night as a dozen pro-choice protesters marched down their tree-lined street, belting out music and chanting “We’re not your incubators!” A couple middle-aged man in jogging suits scoffed and yanked his goldendoodle across the street. A woman driving an SUV pulled dangerously close to a protester and honked the horn. But other neighbors were supportive — even grateful. At least three people stuck their heads out from behind doors or garden gates to thank passing protesters for their dedication to the cause.

It’s impossible to know what Kavanaugh was thinking as the crowd of mostly women paced in front of his lush suburban lawn just across the DC border. Maybe he wasn’t even home, or maybe, as some protesters loudly wondered, he was watching them from a small gap in the upstairs blinds. In the end, the protesters didn’t really care what the second most recent Supreme Court Justice felt about their presence. They had given up persuasion, they said. Instead, they saw their protest as a physical reminder to the judges of the human cost of their decision.

“It’s imperative that they know we exist,” Karen Irwin, a reproductive rights activist who splits her time between DC and New York, told me. “Each of us represents dozens of other people who can’t be here or are afraid to be here.”

Since the draft Supreme Court advisory opinion was leaked last week Roe v. calf, local abortion rights groups have attempted to redefine the “zone of privacy” — gathering not just outside the courthouse itself, but outside the homes of all six Republican-appointed judges in Maryland and Virginia to protest. The organizers of yesterday’s march, progressive group Ruth Sent Us, were here last weekend. Other activists and some of Kavanaugh’s neighbors have also organized demonstrations. Republicans and some Democrats have criticized the decision to picket the judges’ doorsteps, calling it intimidating and arguing that it contributes to the politicization of the court. Protests like this one may actually be illegal, some experts say, and in a joint letter released last night, the Republican governors of Maryland and Virginia called on Attorney General Merrick Garland to crack down on the demonstrations. (“Fuck Larry Hogan!” Irwin yelled when she heard it. Kavanaugh “afraid of people protesting peacefully? Now who’s the snowflake?”)

But for all the anger and activism of the past week, most protesters seemed to recognize the futility of their actions. Earlier in the day, Senate Democrats failed to pass legislation codifying a statewide abortion law. The court will shortly issue its official decision on roe, and a few weeks later abortion will likely be banned or severely restricted in half the US states. The unprecedented release of the court’s draft decision last week had created an unusual opportunity for activists on both sides of the abortion debate: a small window of opportunity to influence the decision. It seems likely that whoever leaked the draft wanted to give outsiders such a chance to intervene, either to cement the judges’ decision or to try to sway some of them. So far, however, acc Politicallyno judges have changed their minds.

Last night’s protest was smaller than the previous ones. The protesters were accompanied by at least five reporters and appeared to be escorted by the entire Montgomery County Police Department. As they marched up Brookville Road, past fragrant honeysuckle bushes and brick houses with imposing pillars, Irwin pushed a cart loaded with speakers playing Tracy Chapman’s “Talkin’ Bout a Revolution.” The group wore pink pussy hats and leather jackets and carried homemade cardboard signs that said ABOLITION OF THE COURT. After turning down a side street to sing outside Kavanaugh’s house, they walked a few blocks over to Chief Justice John Roberts, where they did more call-and-response and argued about whether it would be more gender-specific to use the term uterus or vagina. (Other Ruth Sent Us protesters visited the homes of the remaining conservative judges.) One of Roberts’ neighbors, who asked not to be quoted or named, came outside to show her toddler what a protest looked like. She didn’t mind that marches down her street were becoming a reasonably regular occurrence. It’s their constitutional right, she said.

The demonstration, which lasted about an hour, was rowdy enough. Still, the whole thing felt a little desperate, like a last resort for people with no other options. There really are not many other options, at least not immediately. When I asked Nadine Seiler, a Maryland resident who helped organize the march, about the next steps for pro-choice advocates, she was angry but resigned. “We just have to get over it by voting them out,” she said, referring to Republican lawmakers. “The problem for me is that I know it’s not just about abortion rights.” She mentioned a bill in Louisiana that would allow murder charges to be brought against people who have abortions or use certain forms of birth control. “They went to birth control at warp speed,” Seiler said. “They want to make criminals out of women.”

For the left, the upcoming Supreme Court decision is likely to be just the first drop in a cascade of outrageous rulings to come from the court’s Conservative majority, 6-3. Some predict it will topple over roe will also have implications for other important precedents such as Obergefell v. Hodges, which legalized same-sex marriage nationwide. Last night’s protesters have vowed they will take to the streets one more time before that happens. They already seem to know that their presence is unlikely to change anyone’s mind. Still, they’ll keep coming back, if only to prove they exist.


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