WASHINGTON — Missouri Republican Sen. Josh Hawley claimed on Twitter Monday night that his family faced vandalism and threats of violence during a protest outside of their northern Virginia home, but video posted by activists and a description from local police don’t match his account.
The protest took place ahead of his planned objection to President-elect Joe Biden’s electoral votes when Congress meets Wednesday to certify the presidential election.
Hawley was not present when the demonstration took place. But his Twitter post framing the event as an act of violence drew national attention.
“Tonight while I was in Missouri, Antifa scumbags came to our place in DC and threatened my wife and newborn daughter, who can’t travel. They screamed threats, vandalized, and tried to pound open our door. Let me be clear: My family & I will not be intimidated by leftwing violence,” Hawley said on Twitter.
The protest of about 15 activists was organized by Shutdown DC. The group posted a more than 50-minute video of what it called a “Vigil For Democracy.”
While the demonstrators mostly stayed on the public street and sidewalk, at one point four people walked onto Hawley’s property to place a pamphlet on his front door. The group said was a copy of the Constitution.
The video shows activists writing in chalk on the sidewalk, but it doesn’t show any damage to his Vienna, Virginia, home.
Officer Juan Vazquez, a spokesman for the Vienna police, said officers responded to the scene and informed the demonstrators they were committing three violations. The activists left eight minutes later without incident or any arrests.
“It was a minor event,” Vazquez said. “Basically we got a call saying there was some sort of protest in front of a residence in our town … The group was maybe 15 to 20 people.”
Vazquez said Virginia law prohibits protests outside of a private residence. The group also violated ordinances that limit noise and bar writing in chalk on a public sidewalk, which will require municipal workers to clean up.
The incident outside Hawley’s house took place just days after the homes of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell were both vandalized, which is one reason why Hawley’s initial description of vandalism caught national attention.
“Now ‘vigil’ means screaming threats through bullhorns, vandalizing property, pounding on the doors of homes and terrorizing innocent people and children,” Hawley said on Twitter.
The police spokesman said there were no reports from residents of property damage.
“We don’t know of any property that was damaged,” he said. “They didn’t report it at the time we went there.”
Patrick Young, a 37-year-old Washington resident who organized the protest, said Hawley’s vandalism allegations were false and should cause people to question claims about the election.
“Absolutely not. Some people wrote messages to him in sidewalk chalk on the public sidewalk in front of his house. The same kind of chalk kids use to play hopscotch,” said Young, who works as a research analyst for a nonprofit.
“People should pay attention to the way that he’s lying about what happened last night. Because he’s lying the exactly the same way when he talks about the election results in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Michigan and Georgia,” Young said. “This shows his causal relationship with reality.”
In the video, activists can be seen gathering in a McDonald’s parking lot and walking to Hawley’s house, where they held candles and signs. One bore the slogan “You Don’t Have The Votes,” a line from the musical “Hamilton.”
Outside the house, activists delivered speeches and shouted slogans through bullhorns. The speeches included the reading of a letter from a voter in Pennsylvania, where Biden won 20 electoral votes that Hawley plans to contest on Wednesday.
Asked for evidence and details of the alleged vandalism, Kyle Plotkin, Hawley’s chief of staff, declined to offer any specific information. He instead pointed to a tweet in which Shutdown DC said it was careful to stay on the sidewalk as evidence that the group’s account could not be trusted.
“If you’ve watched the video, do you trust them after they tweeted this last night?” Plotkin said in an email.
In a more detailed statement, Hawley’s spokeswoman Kelli Ford said the family was “grateful for the support of law enforcement.” She described a tense confrontation between the senator’s wife, Erin Hawley, and the demonstrators.
“The left-wing activists refused to disperse until the police showed up. In fact, when Erin, Josh’s wife, asked them to leave, they instead screamed threats through blow horns at Erin, a newborn baby and their neighbors, and then they followed up by stepping onto their porch to pound on the front door and peer inside the house at Erin,” Ford said in a email.
However, neither email from Hawley’s office offered proof of vandalism to his property.
Shutdown DC disputed Hawley’s description of the scene on Twitter. But it embraced the label of anti-fascists after the senator referred to the protesters as “Antifa,” a term that has been used to describe a broad range of left-wing demonstrators.
“We are absolutely and unapologetically anti-fascists. We are perplexed that someone would use that in the pejorative and we certainly would hope that Senator Hawley also opposes fascism,” Shutdown DC said on Twitter.
“We visited Senator Hawley’s house for around 30 minutes. We sang songs, chanted and shared our stories. A small group of people delivered a copy of the constitution to his door (with Article II, Section 1 of the Constitution dog eared for easy reference).”
The noisy scene drew the ire of Hawley’s neighbors. About 27 minutes into the video, one resident confronts the group, “Why are you disturbing our neighborhood?”
Young said the police asked the group to stop using bullhorns. He said the protested lasted roughly 30 minutes, which was always the plan. Young said the group expected Hawley to be at his Washington area residence because Congress is in session this week.
“The fact that this clearly got his attention makes it much more likely that we’re going to try to have a conversation with him when he’s back in D.C.,” Young said.
After the police released a statement describing the protesters as peaceful, Hawley’s campaign sent out a fundraising plea to supporters Tuesday evening and repeated his claim that his family was threatened.
“There are some on the far-left who are so brainwashed, they believe it is OK to shout down and stalk those with viewpoints that don’t align with theirs,” said the email, which contained a link to a donation page.
Hawley is one of at least 13 Republican senators who will object to Biden’s Electoral College victory on Wednesday. He was the first senator to announce his intention to oppose certification, a move that has little chance of reversing President Donald Trump’s defeat.
Protests outside politicians’ homes are commonplace. Shutdown DC has previously staged protests outside Washington area properties owned by other Trump allies, South Carolina GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham and Postmaster General Louis DeJoy.
Right-wing sites, such as Gateway Pundit and the Daily Caller, posted stories affirming Hawley’s description of a dangerous mob outside his home. However, reports by The Washington Post and local TV contrasted Hawley’s account with comments from Shutdown DC and descriptions of the video.
In The Post’s case, this drew Hawley’s ire.
“.@washingtonpost this morning printing outright lies from the Antifa group who now describe themselves as sweet angels. BS. You screamed through bullhorns, shouted down my wife when she asked you to leave, vandalized property, pounded on our door, and terrorized neighbors,” Hawley said on Twitter.
“And didn’t have the guts to do it in daylight, but only under cover of darkness so you could hide. You’re scum. And we won’t be intimidated.”