UPDATE, September 24, 5:33 p.m.: U.S. Capitol Police charged 128 people in response “to numerous incidents of unlawful demonstration activities in the Senate Office Buildings” it said in a statement released Monday evening.
Protests over the nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court hit a boiling point on Capitol Hill on Monday after a new sexual assault allegation against the nominee came to light over the weekend.
Over 1,000 protesters, many clad in black to show their participation in a national walkout supporting those who have made allegations against Kavanaugh, packed the Hart Senate office building’s atrium. The group then split off into sizable crowds to visit the offices of Sens. Susan Collins (R-ME), Ben Sasse (R-NE), and Jeff Flake (R-AZ), who may play critical roles in the confirmation process.
Police were on hand at the senators’ offices, imploring the crowd to make a path for passersby before ultimately making arrests. Arrests were also reported in the hall outside the offices of Sasse and Flake. A spokesperson for Capitol Hill Police said they would release the total number of arrests by the end of the day. A spokesperson for the Center for Popular Democracy estimated that 119 protesters had been arrested so far today.
On Sunday, the New Yorker’s Jane Mayer and Ronan Farrow reported a second accusation against Kavanaugh from a former Yale classmate of his, Deborah Ramirez. She alleges that Kavanaugh exposed himself and thrust his penis in her face during a dorm room drinking game. “I was embarrassed and ashamed and humiliated,” she told the publication. She has called on the FBI to investigate the incident.
Many in the crowd wore Yale shirts or sweatshirts. “I think that the behavior described by Dr. Ford, to me indicates a larger pattern and it doesn’t surprise me at all. I believe her,” Julia Coppelman, a 26-year-old Yale law student, said before disclosing that she’s a survivor of college sexual assault. “I think a lot of us are here today because a lot of the institutional practices at Yale allow power to be concentrated in the hands of a few people and allows a lot of this behavior to go unchecked. And that’s something that we’re here to stand up against.”
The crowd at the Hart building included many survivors of sexual assault, some of whom described feeling an atmosphere of support that allowed them to begin telling their stories publicly for the first time. “My abuser was a teenager .… I used to occasionally Google him because I was always struggling with ‘should I confront him? Does his wife deserve to know?’” Jackie, an Atlanta-based mother of five girls who asked that her last name be withheld, told Rewire.News. While Jackie told her mother and a few close friends about her assault, today was the first time she had shared her story in public with strangers.
For Jackie, Kavanaugh’s alleged past behavior should disqualify him from the nation’s highest court. “There’s so much misogyny that we’re seeing, and we just can’t have that on that Supreme Court. The standard for the Supreme Court has to be that the judges are above reproach because we all have to have faith in their rulings and the laws of our country. If Kavanaugh is on the Supreme Court, people will lose faith in the institution.”
The protests in Washington, D.C., corresponded with National Walkout Day, a day of protests organized by over 80 advocacy groups in support of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford and Ramirez. After the morning’s disruptions, protesters marched across Capitol Hill to the steps of the Supreme Court for a rally.
Advocates organizing the rally pointed out that young people are watching how the Senate Judiciary Committee and society at large are handling the allegations. “To have an entire party and an administration dismiss any bad behavior, any allegations of assault simply because Brett Kavanaugh was young, speaks volumes to what we value and who we value and whose experiences we value,” Diana Rhodes, director of public policy at Advocates for Youth, told Rewire.News.“It’s incredibly important to have young people speaking out right now and centering the voices of young survivors.”
Nationwide protests in support of Kavanaugh’s alleged victims were coordinated alongside the demonstrations in Washington. UltraViolet, an advocacy group for survivors of sexual assault, held rallies outside the local offices of several key GOP senators in Maine, Iowa, Texas, Arizona, and Nevada. Those who couldn’t take part in a more formal protest were encouraged to take photos and videos expressing their support for the accusers.
Michael Avenatti, who rose to prominence as Stormy Daniels’ attorney, tweeted late Sunday that he represents a third woman with another potential allegation against Kavanaugh. During the course of Monday morning’s protests, news broke that police in Montgomery County, Maryland, have opened an investigation after someone anonymously reported an additional sexual assault allegation against Kavanaugh. It’s unclear if the case the police are investigating is related to Avenatti’s tweets.
Kavanaugh has denied the allegations against him.
President Trump, meanwhile, reaffirmed his support Monday for Kavanaugh while attending the United Nations General Assembly. “He is a fine man with an unblemished past, these are highly unsubstantiated statements from people represented by lawyers,” said Trump, himself a subject of multiple sexual misconduct allegations. “Judge Kavanaugh is an outstanding person. And I am with him all the way.”