On the inaugural stage built on the west front of the U.S. Capitol, a calm silence hushed over the crowd Monday as President Obama began his inaugural address, “Vice President Biden, Mr. Chief Justice, Members of the United States Congress, distinguished guests…”
Close to one million spectators listened quietly as the president’s oratory emanated from loud speakers placed on the National Mall and echoed off the historic marble buildings and Smithsonian museums. Most of the audience was respectful, cheering the president as he recited the principles that will guide his second term.
But Rives Miller Grogan, an anti-abortion protester, climbed high into a tree to unleash a lengthy tirade, refusing to yield to the president.
Grogan’s incessant shouting annoyed many in the crowd standing in the grass below him as well as thousands of others within an audible distance of his perch. U.S. Capitol Police tried to coax him down, but Grogan climbed even higher, out of reach of ladders. Officers were compelled to wait him out.
Ultimately, after about five hours, Grogan climbed down and was arrested by U.S. Capitol Police. He was charged with a misdemeanor for illegally climbing a tree on federal property, and contempt of court for violating a Jan. 16 order to stay away from the U.S. Capitol. Grogan has pleaded not guilty.
It’s not the first time he’s been arrested for disrupting events in Washington. Grogan was arrested Jan. 16 and charged with disorderly conduct for an outburst in the House chamber after lawmakers had finished reading the Constitution.
He was also pulled from the Senate chamber Jan. 2 for erupting into protest, blaming the Newtown elementary school massacre on abortion. Grogan’s record in the District of Columbia dates back to 2006 when he was charged for simple assault and using objectionable language in the Supreme Court building.
This same protester ran onto the field at during the MLB playoffs last October during a National League Division Series playoff game between the Cincinnati Reds and the San Francisco Giants, which Mitt Romney attended. That time he held an “Abortion is Sin” placard. Grogan also heckled the president at a campaign rally last November in Lima, Ohio, where he was dragged out of the balcony for yelling during the president’s speech.
Now, D.C. superior court judge Karen Howze has had enough and banned Grogan from entering the District of Columbia, raising the specter of a violation of his constitutional right to free speech.
“I don’t know why they would ban me from all of Washington,” Grogan told the Washington Post. “They are totally suppressing my freedom of speech.”
Grogan, who resides in California, has a court appearance scheduled on Feb. 25 for ascertainment of counsel, for which he will be permitted to enter the District in order to attend.