WASHINGTON — On the eve of what would originally have been Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony, 128 protesters were arrested in Senate offices calling Brett Kavanaugh “disgusting.”
The Women’s March and the Center for Popular Democracy kicked off a week of protests with a mass arrest action in support of Dr. Ford, whose allegations against the Supreme Court nominee have sparked turmoil.
With the Senate Judiciary Committee meeting on Thursday to hear Dr. Ford’s testimony and Kavanaugh’s response, activists — many of whom are back protesting on Capitol Hill following lengthy campaigns against health care and tax reform — are hopeful that undecided members of Congress will hear them out before the committee moves for a vote.
“She called for more information and more hearings,” a staffer for Maine Senator Susan Collins told a protester, one of many lining the fourth floor halls of the Dirksen Senate building . On Monday morning, the Women’s March-led action had split into three groups, each visiting the Washington offices of Senators Susan Collins, Jeff Flake, and Ben Sasse.
“She has information he’s a sexual predator,” the group’s leader replied, “If she’s not ready to commit to a ‘no,’ we’ll have to shut this office down.” Moments later, Capitol police moved in to cuff a group of protesters who ceaselessly sang “we believe Dr. Ford, we believe Deborah Ramirez, we believe Anita Hill” — the latter, a callback to Justice Clarence Thomas’ accuser upon his nomination in 1991.
Flake and Sasse are Republican members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which will ultimately have to vote on advancing Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Senate, assuming he doesn’t withdraw before then. Collins, together with her Republican colleague from Alaska, Lisa Murkowski, have seemingly wavered in recent days from unilateral support of Kavanaugh, and their stances could prove pivotal in determining Kavanaugh’s fate in the Senate if his nomination heads to a floor vote.
Sasse, in particular, was roped into today’s protests after a New Yorker article revealing a second allegation of sexual assault against Kavanaugh, this time during his freshman year at Yale University. Sasse earned his doctorate from Yale in 2004.
After office visits, protesters took to the rotunda of the Russell Senate Office Building to share their experiences with sexual assault, and fears over potential repercussions for speaking out. The group, numbering in the hundreds, mostly wore black in an act of solidarity with Dr. Ford. Also among protest-sanctioned garbs of “Be a Hero” and “Believe Women,” were college apparel from Yale.
“I have not been raped myself, but I will fight with everything I have to make sure we change this culture where women are disbelieved, persecuted, receive death threats, are assaulted,” one protester, a mother to a young daughter, said to a circle of people gathered around her. “That’s unacceptable, and it won’t happen to my daughter — I’ll fight with everything I have.”
Front-and-center in the group was 34-year-old activist Ady Barkan, a lawyer whose leadership of similar protests against Republican health care reform elevated him to a position of prominence and respect among progressive activists. Barkan suffers from ALS, an incurable neurodegenerative disease — but a year on from his fight against the health care bill, he’s back on Capitol Hill.
“Cis men have a crucial role to play. We must stop committing violence, and stop violence when we see it,” he said. Due to his disease, a fellow demonstrator stood by Barkan and read out his written statement.
“Cis men have a crucial role to play, we must stop committing violence – stop violence when we see it.” pic.twitter.com/InMeLqWQHF
— Ford Fischer (@FordFischer) September 24, 2018
A final round of arrests saw most of the group detained in the rotunda, and Barkan was one of the last to go.
On Monday evening, Capitol Police confirmed 128 arrests in total, including 46 outside the offices of Senator Collins, and 82 later on in the Russell Senate building rotunda. All protesters were charged under D.C. code for unlawfully “crowding, obstructing or incommoding.” Protesters were expected to pay a post-and-forfeit, essentially amounting to a $50 fine.
In addition to Monday’s action on Capitol Hill, MoveOn.org and NARAL Pro-Choice America joined the Women’s March in calling for a nationwide walkout from schools and places of work for an hour on Monday afternoon in support of Dr. Ford. The Women’s March itself is planning another round of protest on Capitol Hill during Thursday’s hearing.
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