I was surprised to read The Washington Post’s recent editorial concluding that pro-choice protesters had crossed the line by demonstrating in front of the home of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.
After all, The Washington Post is not exactly a conservative or rational voice on these types of issues. Almost all the points in the editorial made perfect and logical sense, including the concluding statement: “Leave spouses, children and homes out of it.”
As I finished reading the editorial, one overriding thought came to mind. Where was this logical point of view in 2020 when many Trump administration officials, including me, had to endure months of protests outside our homes for simply doing our jobs?
My experience started in the summer of 2020, shortly after civil unrest began around the country in the wake of George Floyd’s death in police custody. I was acting secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, which got involved because it has responsibility to protect over 7,000 federal properties, some of which were targeted by violent extremists.
For doing my job and exercising the authorities provided by Congress, my home was targeted by “professional” protesters who gathered out front week after week after week. Although I had seen other Trump administration officials endure this sort of behavior, seeing it outside your own home, on your street, gives you a different perspective.
The “protest” in front of my residence usually played out the same way. The protesters would organize roughly a quarter of a mile away and march through my neighborhood streets, holding up traffic, until they arrived in front of my house. There they remained for an hour or more to shout through loudspeakers, again while holding up traffic.
At no point did these protesters apply for a permit, which is required in the city of Alexandria. Even so, city officials allowed the illegal protests to continue.
Worse yet, a third-term member of the Alexandria City Council, John Chapman, actively participated on several occasions. His participation not only legitimized the illegal nature of the protest, but signaled that doing so at someone’s residence was valid.
From a security perspective, I knew my family and I were relatively safe because of the round-the-clock protection of the U.S. Secret Service. I knew that if any of the protesters decided to take their actions to another level, Secret Service agents were on the ready and always one step ahead.
Nevertheless, this unwelcomed activity put me on edge, since such “protests” can turn ugly quickly.
The situation also required my wife and I to have tough conversations with our two sons, who were both in middle school. We had to explain to them why people protest to express their views but why you should never do so in front of someone else’s home, where a family resides.
As a family, we altered our routines regularly. We were especially attentive to apparent strangers and newcomers to our neighborhood.
One of the most disappointing aspects was the response of some neighbors whom we had lived among for over 10 years. A few of them joined in with the protesters, who regularly mentioned my children’s names and where they went to school.
Instead of asking me about and seeking to understand my work at the Department of Homeland Security, these neighbors chose to disrespect me and my family on numerous occasions.
This was particularly difficult for my wife, who is active in our community (raising thousands of dollars for our public school, for instance) and goes out of her way to be nice and neighborly to almost everyone in our neighborhood.
Over time, the protests diminished and eventually stopped. I long have respected anyone’s right to peacefully protest, something I reiterated numerous times publicly as acting DHS secretary. But there is a time and place to protest.
Showing up at someone’s residence or at a restaurant where he is dining is not it. Such action, in my opinion, diminishes the cause that the protesters seek to elevate.
It’s unfortunate that protesting outside private homes has become part of the left’s playbook. Any conservative who lives near Washington, D.C., knows that he probably is in the minority among neighbors. But the lack of decorum and decency from some of those who live closest to us was something we had not planned on.
Fast-forward to the Biden presidency, and such neighborhood protests appear to be nonexistent despite the administration’s many difficulties on the southern border and elsewhere.
Whatever the reason for this discretion, I will be the first one to say it’s a good development and one that should endure. For the first time in a long time, I agree with The Washington Post: Leave spouses, children, and homes out of it.
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