WASHINGTON, D.C. — Hundreds of people gathered outside the Supreme Court Monday in solidarity with Dr. Christine Blasey Ford and Deborah Ramirez, two women who have accused Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of sexual assault.
The demonstration, which began at the Hart Senate Office Building, was part of a nationwide walk-out, hosted by dozens of organizations, including the Women’s March, Planned Parenthood Action, Know Your IX, and the Progressive Turnout Project. According to the Facebook event page, nearly 20,000 people across the country participated in the action.
Large group of protesters headed to the Supreme Court to protest Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination pic.twitter.com/F8CZRZqmR2
— Elham Khatami (@ekhatami) September 24, 2018
“I’m here to demand that Congress represent us better,” said Washington, D.C. resident Bethany Zaiman. “I think there’s something to be said for using your body to show solidarity with other people, especially given the kind of undemocratic process that we’ve seen so far around the Brett Kavanaugh hearings and how many women are now coming forward to speak up about what he’s done to them in the past.”
Over the past two weeks, Senate Republicans have tried to expedite Kavanaugh’s nomination, as several senators defended the nominee against what they see as baseless allegations from Ford and Ramirez. The White House has also stood by Kavanaugh, with President Donald Trump telling reporters last week that he “feels so badly” for the nominee, adding that he “is not a man that deserves this.”
“It’s really disappointing to me that we haven’t really learned our lesson from Anita Hill,” D.C. resident Hayley Brundige told ThinkProgress, referring to Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas’ former co-worker, who accused him of sexual harassment during a 1991 nationally televised Senate hearing.
“I still think disappointingly that we don’t really believe women, and we don’t take their accusations seriously, and we treat women as if they are kind of just a step along the way for a man’s story of success,” Brundige added. “It was really hard for [Ford] to come forward and I think that we need to respect the trauma that she went through.”
Ford is expected to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday, after Republicans agreed to postpone the original hearing, which was set to take place on Monday. After Ramirez’s allegations became public Sunday evening, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), the ranking member of the committee, called for another delay to allow for time to investigate the latest accusations. According to The New Yorker, senior Republican staffers found out about Ramirez’s allegation last week, after which time, several Senate Republicans attempted to hasten the vote.
“To hear now that parts of Congress knew about these second allegations last week and were willing to rush it forward is disheartening,” said demonstrator Bibi Roberts.
Women’s March co-president Bob Bland told ThinkProgress that many survivors are unwilling to share their stories in part because people in power do not provide “any visible support.”
“You know, this is an endemic problem in our country and it’s perpetuated every time our leaders send a message to survivors that they are not to be believed, that they are on trial when they tell their stories,” Bland said.
Activists shared Bland’s sentiments, with several telling ThinkProgress that they have lost faith in Congress’ ability to stand up for Ford and Ramirez and to block Kavanaugh’s nomination.
“There are times that I’m a little hopeless in regards to finding out that there are people in power that are still abusing their power,” said 21-year-old Raekwon, a sexual assault victim who asked that his last name be withheld. “But I’m extremely hopeful that all of our voices here today do matter and that we can make a change … It’s our human right to hold our predators and our assailants accountable.”
Demonstrators gathered in the Hart atrium before marching toward the Supreme Court, chanting “I believe Christine Ford, I believe Deborah Ramirez, I still believe Anita Hill, I believe survivors.”
Ford, a clinical psychology professor at Palo Alto University in California, told The Washington Post last week that, at a gathering at a house in Montgomery County in the 1980s, Kavanaugh, then 17 years old, moved her into a room, locked the door, and held her down while attempting to remove her clothes. Ford (who goes by the name “Blasey” professionally) said she tried to scream, but Kavanaugh had covered her mouth.
“I thought he might inadvertently kill me,” she told the Post.
Ford eventually managed to flee, but the memory stuck with her for decades. She did not tell anyone about the alleged incident until 2012, when she disclosed the matter during a therapy session with her husband. The walk-out comes at a critical time, for Ford in particular, who has dealt with death threats and harassment over the past week.
Ramirez was a classmate of Kavanaugh’s at Yale University, when, she alleged, Kavanaugh exposed himself to her at a dorm room party during her freshman year. She told The New Yorker over the weekend that Kavanaugh “thrust his penis in her face, and caused her to touch it without her consent as she pushed him away.”
Kavanaugh has unequivocally denied both allegations.
Protests took place in dozens of cities and schools across the country, including Yale University, where hundreds of students participated in a schoolwide sit-in.
Miryam Segal, a Yale University alumna who participated in the Supreme Court protest, said that she feels hopeful when she sees people speaking out about sexual harassment and assault.
“It was great for me being at the law school now, seeing students push back at what’s going on here, but also pushing back at faculty to get the school to stand up and be on the right side of this,” Segal said. “I think people are more aware now and activists are coming out… and it just feels really different than it felt 20-something years ago.”
Blumenthal speaking to a somber Yale Law School sit-in. pic.twitter.com/gqYsj4YRbl
— Irin Carmon (@irin) September 24, 2018
“It’s awful that it’s still the same in a way that we’re still talking about this, but so many more people are talking,” she added. “And that makes me feel better.”