GOP senator faces intraparty opposition over his push to have abortion protesters arrested

GOP senator faces intraparty opposition over his push to have abortion protesters arrested
Joan McCarter
Watch: Dick Durbin gives Tom Cotton a history lesson — and a smackdown — on judges

Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark) is advocating for the arrest of demonstrators who are protesting in favor of abortion rights outside the homes of Supreme Court justices.

According to Yahoo! News, Cotton penned a letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland on Tuesday, May 10. In that letter, he chastised "'left-wing mobs' that have protested outside the homes of conservative justices after the draft opinion leaked."

Further backing his claim, Cotton argued: “There is a federal law that prohibits the protesting of judges’ homes. Anybody protesting a judge’s home should be arrested on the spot by federal law enforcement. If [protesters] want to raise a First Amendment defense, they are free to do so.”

He added, “I don’t advocate for arresting people protesting on public streets in Washington, D.C., the nation’s capital. I do believe they should be arrested for protesting in the homes of judges, jurors, and prosecutors. Federal law prohibits an obvious attempt to influence or intimidate judges, jurors, and prosecutors.”

However, some Republican leaders and lawmakers argue that he may be going a bit too far. Sen. Cynthia Lummis, (R-Wyo.), who is a former member of the House Freedom Caucus, pushed back as she noted that such actions could violate demonstrators' First Amendment rights.

“I think if they’re being peaceful and are staying off their property and are not disrupting neighborhoods or causing or inciting fear, it’s probably a legitimate expression of free speech,” Lummis said on Wednesday.

“First Amendment rights are so, so special. … We should all be erring in favor of the First Amendment, in favor of freedom of speech, in favor of freedom of religion, in favor of the freedom of assembly,” she said. “Because if we start fearing our rights to speak and express our religious convictions, and if we fear assembly, the consequences of parsing those rights are extremely dangerous.”

During a recent interview, Sen. Mike Braun (R-Ind.) also expressed apprehension about taking such aggressive actions for peaceful protesters. He, too, cited the First Amendment in his argument. “I’m a First Amendment guy, and I think that cuts both ways,” Braun said. “If they’re there and they’re doing it peacefully, you know, I’m for that ability on either side of the political spectrum.”

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