Capitol Police continued today arresting people protesting and disrupting the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee hearings for Judge Brett Kavanaugh. Several groups of constituents attempting to speak with their senators in their offices were also arrested.
Democratic senators this week have implored people to contact their legislators about their concerns over Kavanaugh’s nomination. “I’m grateful for every woman and man who’s willing to tell their story about why this nominee is wrong for America,” said Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) while addressing a NARAL Pro-Choice America-led vigil in the atrium of the Hart Senate Office Building in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday. “We have 100 senators, every single one of them should be asked to vote ‘no’ on Kavanaugh.”
Groups of constituents, however, have been arrested while attempting to do just that.
A group of Indiana residents associated with Hoosier Action staged a sit-in Tuesday afternoon at Sen. Joe Donnelly’s (D-IN) office in the Hart Senate Office Building. The group decided to sit after declining a meeting with a member of Donnelly’s staff in lieu of a face-to-face discussion with the senator. Donnelly hasn’t yet declared how he will vote on Kavanaugh, and the group was hoping to share their personal stories on key nomination-related issues, such as the Affordable Care Act (ACA).
“This nomination is about more than who will sit on the Supreme Court. It will affect health care for hundreds of thousands of Hoosiers with preexisting conditions like me,” said William Stauffer of Churubusco, Indiana, who was acting as a legal observer for the group. “If Kavanaugh is confirmed, he will gut the ACA. Donnelly has protected our care and needs to keep doing so by voting ‘no’ on Kavanaugh.”
Early in the sit-in, Donnelly’s Chief of Staff Joel Elliott requested that the office door not be blocked or he would be forced to call the police. One of the protesters replied, “Why don’t you go get the senator to come down here to clear things up?” A Capitol Police officer showed up soon after, but after conferring with staff, left the protesters alone and left.
The Center for Popular Democracy said in a statement that members of the Hoosier Action group were arrested at 6:30 p.m., shortly after Donnelly’s office closed for the night. A spokesperson for Capital Police confirmed the arrests to Rewire.News, saying they were detained for “crowding, obstructing, or incommoding.”
Donnelly’s office declined to comment, instead providing his previously released statement on Kavanaugh.
Later Tuesday evening, a group from the Women’s March occupied Sen. Chuck Schumer’s (D-NY) office in an effort to get Senate Democrats on the judiciary committee to do more to stop Kavanaugh’s nomination. “We went to Chuck Schumer’s office to encourage the Senate Judiciary Dems to walk out of the Kavanaugh hearings in protest,” said Women’s March co-founder Breanne Butler, who tweeted that a staffer had threatened the group with arrest if they didn’t vacate the office by 10:00 p.m. “We expect Senate Democrats to show the same resolve and courage that women protesters have shown in this week’s hearings. Until they do, we have no other choice but to disobey.”
The protesters decided to leave the office rather than be arrested. Schumer’s office did not respond to requests for comment.
The office arrests continued Wednesday morning as Ohio residents associated with the Center for Popular Democracy attended a constituent event in Republican Sen. Rob Portman’s office. Using a call and response, the protesters expressed their concern regarding Kavanaugh and issues such as the future of the ACA and Roe v. Wade, while the senator stood by. On health care, Portman contended that Kavanaugh’s views are “well within the mainstream,” a position he reiterated in a brief interview with Rewire.News after the event.
While most who attended the constituent event eventually filed out of Portman’s office in the Russell Senate Office Building, several protesters decided to sit just outside the room and chant dissent to Kavanaugh’s nomination. They were quickly arrested and led away by Capitol Police, which a Capitol Police spokesperson later confirmed.
Portman’s office did not respond to requests for comment on the morning’s arrests.
Roughly 30 activists from Women’s March and Center for Popular Democracy occupied Sen. Chuck Grassley’s (R-IA) office early Thursday morning to meet with the chair of the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee and ask him to postpone the Kavanaugh hearings.
Bob Bland, co-founder of the Women’s March, spoke to Rewire.News as the group chanted, “Grassley, come out! We’ve got some things to talk about,” behind her.
“Our goal isn’t to occupy the office, it is to meet with Senator Chuck Grassley or his chief of staff,” she said. “That’s the only reason that we’re here in the office because we were welcomed … by a staffer who said we could wait to speak with Senator Grassley.”
Capitol Police quickly arrived on the scene and began monitoring the situation.
“We’ve watched them sneak out the back door instead of coming and talking with us, which is a reflection of how Senator Grassley and the Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee feel about the voices of taxpayers and everyday Americans,” said Bland. “They don’t want to hear them and they’ll make us wait indefinitely to be heard.”