But Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) had a different description for the scene outside his family’s home in Fairfax County: “leftwing violence.”
“Tonight while I was in Missouri, Antifa scumbags came to our place in DC and threatened my wife and newborn daughter,” he wrote on Twitter late Monday. “They screamed threats, vandalized, and tried to pound open our door.”
Demonstrators with ShutDownDC, which organized the protest, told The Washington Post that they did not engage in vandalism or even knock on Hawley’s door. A 50-minute video shared by the group shows protesters writing in chalk on the sidewalk, chanting through a megaphone and at one point leaving a copy of the Constitution on Hawley’s doorstep.
“This was not threatening behavior,” said Patrick Young, a ShutDownDC organizer. “This is people engaging in democracy and engaging in civil discourse. … This was a pretty tame and peaceful visit to his house.”
Police in Vienna, Va., who responded to the protest, did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Post late Monday. The group’s video shows several officers asking protesters to quiet down, but then standing by as the crowd continued with its demonstration.
With Congress set to confirm President-elect Joe Biden’s victory on Wednesday, thousands of members of far-right groups, including the Proud Boys — whose leader was arrested in D.C. on Monday — are expected to assemble to falsely claim that President Trump was reelected.
Young, a 37-year-old research analyst at a nonprofit organization, said that ShutDownDC targeted Hawley because of his role in promoting unsubstantiated theories about widespread election fraud.
Last week, Hawley became the first senator to announce that he would object when Congress convenes on Wednesday to certify the electoral college vote, thus forcing a contentious floor debate. More than 10 others have since vowed to join him in challenging votes from some battleground states.
Those efforts, Young said, had also encouraged the Trump supporters who are expected to descend on D.C. this week for a “Stop the Steal” protest, in turn putting the city at risk of violent clashes and hurting trust in the democratic process.
Given that the coronavirus pandemic has shut down many of the offices where the group might usually protest, Young said that the group decided to bring its demonstration to Hawley’s doorstep. (Congress nonetheless continues to meet in person.)
“If we want to talk to powerful people, we need to talk to powerful people where they are,” Young said, “and more often than not, that’s home right now.”
It is hardly a new tactic for protesters to take their message to politicians’ doorsteps, but activists across the political spectrum have increasingly adopted such a strategy over the past year: Racial justice protesters last summer targeted the homes of Democratic mayors in cities such as Chicago, St. Louis and Seattle, while armed protesters alleging voter fraud surrounded the home of Michigan’s secretary of state in December.
On Monday night, ShutDownDC took a cue from that playbook as members assembled in Vienna. Outside a tall green house on a residential street, they chanted: “Hawley, Hawley, shame on you” and “Due diligence has been done, Biden-Harris have won.”
A few minutes later, the group’s video shows, a woman opened the front door to Hawley’s house and appeared to admonish the group, telling them she has “neighbors and a baby.” Then, a man approached from across the street and asked the crowd, “Why are you disturbing our neighborhood?”
Young said that three police cruisers were present for most of the brief demonstration. About 15 minutes after the group arrived at Hawley’s residence, a law enforcement officer can be seen on the live stream asking them to quiet down until her supervisor arrives.
On Twitter, Hawley wrote that the group’s vigil consisted of “screaming threats through bullhorns, vandalizing property, pounding on the doors of homes and terrorizing innocent people and children.”
But Young said the group made a point not to knock on Hawley’s door, instead ringing the doorbell as he left a copy of the Constitution on the senator’s door. Members of the group also read messages from people in the contested states whose votes Hawley, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) and other senators have said they plan to challenge.
Responding to the senator’s tweet, Young said he proudly identifies as an anti-fascist, yet added that he was disappointed in Hawley’s rhetoric.
“That’s not the level of discourse that we would want to engage in,” he said. “But if he wants to call us scumbags, then we’re happy to call him a snowflake.”