Protesters frustrated that marches on the streets haven’t resulted in more dramatic police reforms have found a new stage: the homes of big city mayors.
In San Jose, Calif., a group of about 100 people spray-painted an obscenity on the front door of Mayor Sam Liccardo on Aug. 28, threw eggs and burned an American flag as they demanded that he defund the Police Department.
In Portland, Ore., protesters threw burning material into the lobby of the apartment building where Mayor Ted Wheeler lives. In Seattle, they marched to the home of Mayor Jenny Durkan, who as a former federal prosecutor later expressed alarm that her previously undisclosed address had been made public. In Chicago, activists descended on the home of Mayor Lori Lightfoot, prompting the city to begin enforcing a statute banning protests in residential neighborhoods.
Most of the mayors are Democrats who support Black Lives Matter protests and have said they want to see some law-enforcement reform.
But they are attempting to draw the line at damage or threats to their homes, putting liberal leaders in the unusual position of confronting activists on their side of the political spectrum, instead of opponents on the right.
Mr. Liccardo initially called the protesters who came to his home “menacing thugs” in a tweet he later deleted. In an interview, he said these kinds of actions go too far. “When people start committing acts of vandalism, it’s just not right—especially when you’re talking about a residence,” said the mayor, who has championed a slate of police reforms that don’t include funding reductions.
No arrests were made in the San Jose case. Mr. Liccardo said he believes the protesters wanted a confrontation but officers “didn’t take the bait.” A police spokesman said officers responded too late to make arrests.
Activists say marches on mayors’ homes are justified because the city leaders aren’t responding to calls for large budget cuts to law enforcement and other reforms made at protests since the killing of George Floyd in police custody in May, followed by the deaths of other Black men in confrontations with police.
Some say property damage is justified as well.
“Vandalism is a consequence of the collapse of the social contract. That contract is violated when those entrusted with serving and protecting the community continuously murder unarmed people of color with impunity, not when someone spray paints a house to protest those murders,” Kiana Simmons, president and founder of HERO Tent, a social-justice group based in the San Francisco Bay Area, said in an email.
People who peeled off from a march her group helped organize were among those at the San Jose mayor’s house.
Some protests at mayors’ homes have been loud but peaceful, as when hundreds of activists gathered outside the official residence of Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti in June to push for police reforms.
But others have turned threatening. The crowd that threw burning material into Mr. Wheeler’s apartment building was previously seen burglarizing a nearby business, taking furniture out and feeding it into fires they set on the street, according to a police report. Portland police declared a riot and made 19 arrests on misdemeanor charges including disorderly conduct and interfering with a peace officer.
A spokesman for Mr. Wheeler said the mayor is moving “out of consideration for his many neighbors.”
Leaders of smaller cities have been targeted, too. A crowd of about 100 mostly teenage protesters surrounded the home of Oak Park, Ill., Mayor Anan Abu-Taleb as he presided inside over a virtual village board meeting Aug. 25. They banged on his windows and doors, tore up a garden and spray-painted sidewalks when the board voted down a police defunding measure.
In an interview, Mr. Abu-Taleb said, “Police brutality is real and cannot be tolerated. That said, public servants should not feel unsafe or threatened while inside their own homes.”
A group that helped organize the protest, the Revolutionary Oak Park Youth Action League, said in a statement the actions at the mayor’s home pale in comparison to what people of color have faced in the majority white city of 52,000 outside Chicago. “Our lives are disrupted, trespassed and vandalized on a daily basis!” the group said.
Oakland, Calif., Mayor Libby Schaaf ran upstairs to check on her children when activists shot fireworks and paintball guns and covered her property with graffiti after she approved a 5% reduction in police spending, rather than the 50% some protesters had demanded.
Three decades ago, after graduating law school, Ms. Schaaf served as a legal observer to protect street protesters from potential police abuse.
“It feels a little Twilight Zoney that many of us got into public service because…
Read More: For America’s Mayors, Home Is No Longer Safe