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Montgomery County will continue to allow protests at justices' homes

County Executive Marc Elrich called a letter from court security officials "irresponsible and disappointing." But he cautioned it doesn't mean "anything goes."

CHEVY CHASE, Md. — Montgomery County Police will continue to allow peaceful protests near the homes of Supreme Court Justices, the county executive said Wednesday.

Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich accused the Supreme Court’s chief security official and the court's conservative justices of media grandstanding after the court went public this weekend with letters to local authorities in Maryland and Virginia demanding they use local ordinances to shut down protests near the homes of justices.

“It's not about security when when you get a message from the press office about security," Elrich said.

Elrich complained his office has still not recieved an official copy of the letter from Supreme Court Marshal Gail A. Curley, the court's chief law enforcement officer.

“I think all you got to do is look at Putin's Russia, and get an idea of where you don't want to go," Elrich said. "This idea where people can gather together and if you gather together you're gonna be arrested. That's not happening here.”

RELATED: Supreme Court marshal seeks enforcement of anti-picketing laws in Maryland and Virginia to protect justices

In her letter to Montgomery County, Curley cited state and local codes, including an ordinance that “persons must not picket in front of or adjacent to any private residence.”

However, Curley noted a moving march is specifically allowed.

Similar letters were sent to Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, Virginia Gov.  Glenn Youngkin and the Fairfax County Police Department. 

Elrich said Montgomery County Police are striking a balance.

“Nobody wants to arrest anybody," he said. "We want them to be able to express what we think is their right -- to express without becoming disruptive." 

The county executive said demonstrators should know that one threshold for police to take action would be trespassing on private property.

“They should expect to be told to keep moving and not to have loud boisterous demonstrations," he said. 

The court’s letter complained that groups had been allowed to loudly picket at Justice Brett Kavanaugh's home in Chevy Chase for up to 30 minutes. But county officials said they had no such reports.

On June 8, police did arrest an armed man near Kavanaghs home after the suspect himself called 9-1-1. The suspect was not involved in picketing with a group.

RELATED: Gun, zip ties, crowbar found on man accused of threatening to kill Justice Kavanaugh

Three Supreme Court Justices live in Montgomery County and between 10 and 30 local officers have responded to demonstrations in the county. Three other justices are residents of Fairfax County in Virginia. 

Officers frequently discuss with protestors what will be tolerated, according to Dr. Earl Stoddard, the County's Assistant Chief Administrative Officer. He said police have warned protestors twice about behavior, but have made no arrests related to the demonstrations.

Fairfax County Police reacted to the court's letter by saying, "Our officers work to provide a safe space for individuals to exercise first amendment rights and also maintain community safety." 

Elrich said the personal security of justices is the responsibility of the Supreme Court Marshal's Office, and that county police always stand ready to assist if called upon.

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