Groups building names in activism

Protesters at justices’ homes relatively new to long-running dispute

- Erin Mansfield, Merdie Nzanga and Chelsey Cox

CHEVY CHASE, Md. – Protests outside two Supreme Court justices’ homes drew a handful of people Wednesday night, outnumbere­d by local and federal law enforcemen­t as they chanted that the justices should stay away from their bodies.

On their way from Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s house to Chief Justice John Roberts’ home, the protesters shouted, “Keep your rosaries off my ovaries,” and “Keep your religion off my vagina.”

Though the turnout was smaller than demonstrat­ions over the weekend, the protests have drawn a backlash from lawmakers and added even more tension to a Washington grappling with abortion rights after a draft opinion by Justice Samuel Alito leaked last week, suggesting Roe v. Wade would be overturned.

Little is known about the groups calling people to the justices’ homes on social media and on their websites.

ShutDownDC and Ruth Sent Us aren’t well-known names in abortion politics, but the groups have led protests around Washington.

ShutDownDC led groups to senators’ homes, providing sign designs and other resources.

Ruth Sent Us, named after the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, has targeted its advocacy mostly on Supreme Court-related issues.

After the draft opinion was leaked, ShutDownDC led a protest at Alito’s home in Virginia on Monday night, and Ruth Sent Us announced protests at the Maryland and Virginia homes of

all six conservati­ve justices for what it called “Walk-by Wednesday.”

The groups have been active on social media, planning and promoting the protests.

“It’s clear that the court doesn’t want to listen to the people, that they’re trying to make decisions that will ultimately impact their lives,” said Hope Neyer of ShutDownDC. “It’s clear that they’re not going to listen to us in the places that they’ve traditiona­lly allowed for protests.

“So the home of the justices, when they cut off the Supreme Court, becomes both a strategica­lly and symbolical­ly valid location to protest at,” Neyer said.

People affiliated with Ruth Sent Us did not respond to emails and phone calls seeking comment. The protesters at Kavanaugh’s and Roberts’ homes Wednesday declined to talk to USA TODAY and said they were not affiliated with any groups.

Hours before the protests Wednesday, the governors of Maryland and Virginia asked the Department of Justice to enforce federal laws prohibitin­g people from attempting to influence justices by picketing outside their homes. That was in addition to a bill the Senate passed unanimousl­y Monday that would provide security to Supreme Court justices and their immediate families.


Formed in 2019, ShutDownDC describes itself as an “organizing space” where individual­s and other groups can galvanize each other around different causes. The group has protested on issues related to climate change, voting rights, police brutality and the filibuster, a hurdle in Congress that has held up some of President Joe Biden’s agenda.

The organizati­on hosts training sessions for demonstrat­ors that cover safety, legal support, how to become a police liaison and working in affinity groups. A how-to on wheat-paste street postering was posted to the Shut Down DC Twitter account Wednesday, as well as a link to a cloud storage site with printable abortion rights posters.

ShutDownDC held a march from the Supreme Court to the U.S. Capitol a day before the Senate was scheduled to vote on the Women’s Health Protection Act, which would have codified abortion rights into law. Rep. Cori Bush, D-Mo., spoke briefly at the event Tuesday.

Monday’s protest at Alito’s house was not the group’s first time outside a federal officehold­er’s home. Neyer said a protest outside Kavanaugh’s home in September to bring attention to SB 8 – a bill that led to abortion restrictio­ns in Texas – garnered a lot of attention.

Two days before the attack Jan. 6, 2021, on the Capitol, ShutDownDC protested on the lawn of Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo. over his public statements that he did not support certifying the 2020 presidenti­al election for Biden. Members protested outside the home of Sen. Lindsay Graham, R-S.C., in 2020 over the confirmati­on of Justice Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court.

Neyer said another protest at Kavanaugh’s home in the wake of the Supreme Court leak was planned in partnershi­p with the justice’s neighbors. She said the neighborho­od organizers plan to continue demonstrat­ions for several months.

ShutDownDC is planning for June, when the group predicts the final decision on Roe v. Wade.

“Our plans aren’t finalized yet. A lot of us are still kind of in emergency mode. A lot of us are taking the time to process, but I can promise that we will be taking action,” Neyer said.

A nonprofit organizati­on called the DC Action Fund registered the trade name for ShutDownDC to “provide education and outreach support” and “(mobilize) for a more just and sustainabl­e world,” according to documents submitted to the Maryland secretary of state that listed Patrick Young as a ShutDownDC officer.

On his website, Young describes himself as an organizer and campaigner with experience in environmen­tal justice and labor relations. His website offers resources to protesters on organizing and legal matters. Young did not respond to a request for comment.

After Hurricane Ida in 2021, ShutDownDC barricaded office doors with spray-painted plywood and sandbags at four firms that lobby for fossil fuels. In November, the group set up a 25-hour mock filibuster to protest Republican­s and moderate Democrats who filibuster bills from liberals.

Ruth Sent Us

The website for Ruth Sent Us advertised a walk-by “at the homes of the six extremist justices, three in Virginia and three in Maryland,” Wednesday night, next to a map that Google said is no longer available because the map violated its policies.

The group told a follower on Twitter, “The Justices’ addresses were not published. We kept the map up after the whining started. Google bowed to mass reporting and took it down. Truth matters. Exaggerati­on is for cowards.”

Members of Ruth Sent Us demonstrat­ed in front of Justice Barrett’s home Wednesday, according to a video posted to the group’s TikTok account.

The webpage for Ruth Sent Us was registered by Sam Spiegel, a leader for an organizati­on called Vigil for Democracy, who in 2017 started a now-defunct political action committee called Unseat. That committee raised $377, according to records from the Federal Elections Commission.

Spiegel did not respond to USA TODAY’s inquiries.

Ruth Sent Us has videos on TikTok showing people wearing red cloaks and white hats to resemble women on the dystopian show “The Handmaid’s Tale” walking through Catholic churches. Vigil for Democracy has a similar video on YouTube that takes place in a Whole Foods. Vigil for Democracy promotes daily protest subjects on its website including a “Strike for Choice” on Wednesdays that includes protests outside justice’s homes, Whole Foods locations and AT&T.

“All our protests are aligned in a struggle against fascism, to connect humanity in love and peace,” the website reads.

Vigil for Democracy describes itself as a distribute­d digital mass mobilizati­on campaign. The group posts an array of sample protest signs, flyers and graphics that protesters can use. Fundraisin­g appeals on the crowdfundi­ng platform Open Collective encourage supporters to make donations based on what protesters should make for giving up time they could be at work.

Vigil for Democracy is a limited liability company registered in Arizona to Snowden Bishop, who did not respond to USA TODAY’s inquiries.

“The home of the justices, when they cut off the Supreme Court, becomes both a strategica­lly and symbolical­ly valid location to protest at.” Hope Neyer ShutDownDC

 ?? KEVIN DIETSCH/GETTY IMAGES ?? Abortion-rights advocates protest outside the home of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh on Wednesday in Chevy Chase, Md. Protesters called for demonstrat­ions targeting all six conservati­ve justices.
KEVIN DIETSCH/GETTY IMAGES Abortion-rights advocates protest outside the home of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh on Wednesday in Chevy Chase, Md. Protesters called for demonstrat­ions targeting all six conservati­ve justices.

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