Meet the groups organizing protests outside the homes of Supreme Court justices over Roe v. Wade
ShutDownDC and Ruth Sent Us have organized protests at Supreme Court justices' homes after a draft opinion that would overturn Roe v. Wade leaked.
- Activists have taken the protests against the leaked Supreme Court draft opinion to justices' homes.
- ShutDownDC and Ruth Sent Us have a history of organizing for and against a number of causes.
- ShutDownDC advertised a protest at Justice Samuel Alito’s home.
- Ruth Sent Us announced protests at the Maryland and Virginia homes of all six conservative justices.
CHEVY CHASE, Md. – Protests outside two Supreme Court justices’ homes drew about a dozen people Wednesday night who were outnumbered by local and federal law enforcement as they chanted that the justices should stay away from their bodies.
Though the turnout was smaller than demonstrations over the weekend, the protests have drawn a backlash fromlawmakers and added even more tension to a Washington grappling with abortion rights after a draft opinion leaked last week, suggesting Roe v. Wade would be overturned.
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ShutDownDC and Ruth Sent Us aren't well-known names in abortion politics, but the groups have led protests around Washington. ShutDownDC have led groups to senators' homes and provided 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 Justice Samuel 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.
Abortion protests: Va., Md. governors press DOJ for security at Supreme Court justices homes
"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.
Here is what we know about ShutDownDC and Ruth Sent Us:
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 ShutDownDC 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 Joe 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 Youngas 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.
Reached on Twitter and asked to describe his role as head of the group, Young told USA TODAY he considered ShutDownDC an organization that relies on the work of many people.
"We are a leaderful group and lots of people are working together to respond to this outrageous attack on our freedoms," he said.
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 forRuth 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 Tik Tok 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 for each issue they protest. 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. The group is connected to addresses in Florida and California.
Bishop did not respond to USA TODAY's inquiries.