Thousands of sexual assault victims and allies descended on Washington, D.C., on Thursday to protest Brett Kavanaugh’s potentially imminent confirmation to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Bearing signs reading “Kava-NOPE” and “We believe you, Dr. Ford” — a reference to Christine Blasey Ford, who publicly testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Sept. 27 that Kavanaugh covered her mouth with his hand and tried to remove her clothes while intoxicated during a high school party more than 30 years ago — the protesters were there to compel a handful of still-undecided senators into voting against the nominee’s installation onto the nation’s highest court.
One of the protesters was University of Maine student Taylor Cray, 20, who personally delivered 45 letters from constituents to the office of Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), one of the holdouts, on Thursday morning.
Cray, a self-described feminist who is involved with anti-sexual violence initiatives like the Take Back the Night march on her own campus, said she’d traveled to Washington because the cause resonated with her own lived experiences.
“Dr. Ford’s story really hit me very deeply and very personally — it’s very similar to what happened to me,” Cray said in a phone interview. “This is an incredibly important issue and so many people feel it so close to our hearts. I wish I could tell her how proud I am and how many people stand behind her, and that we believe her and that we believe all survivors.”
While Cray was camped out in the nation’s capital helping to amplify the voices of sexual assault survivors, students back home at her university were mobilizing as well, coordinating calls to Collins’ office at a phone bank and staging a walkout on the campus.
Meanwhile, women across the country took to the streets. In New York, women took to the streets in droves, demanding justice for those whose lives had been upended by rape and other forms of sexual assault. In Boston, women lined the steps of City Hall, imploring Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake, a Republican, to vote “no” on Kavanaugh’s confirmation. On Thursday night, students at West Virginia University are set to take part in a vigil to honor the victims of sexual violence.
On the ground in Washington, Cray said the crowd was energized but cautious — equal parts agony and hope.
“It’s invigorating,” she said. “People are tense, they’re feeling a lot. It’s like a wave — you come out here and you feel the frustration, and the hope. There’s no way not to feel it.”
On the floor of the Senate’s Hart office building, comedian and activist Amy Schumer was caught on video in a showdown with a police officer. “Do you want to be arrested?” the officer asks, to which Schumer responds, “Yep!”
Elsewhere in the Senate building, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) dismissed women survivors shouting him down as he boarded an elevator with the wave of his hand.
“Grow up,” he can be heard telling the protesters in a video of the exchange.
Despite the forcefulness with which women and allies have taken to protesting Kavanaugh’s confirmation, the odds are long that their voices will help to move the needle before the Senate is scheduled to invoke cloture on the nomination at 11 a.m. Friday, setting up a potential final vote for Saturday.
When asked what the road ahead would look like for survivors and activists should Kavanaugh be confirmed, Cray did not hesitate.
“We keep fighting,” she said. “We keep supporting each other and we keep telling our stories. We get louder, we get prouder, we show that we didn’t want this, we didn’t stand for this. If Kavanaugh is confirmed, it will show a lot about whether senators listen to their constituents.
“I just hope that all survivors know that their feelings are valid. No matter what their story is, they can tell it, and there are people who will believe them.”