Protesters for, against Kavanaugh stage spirited, largely civil rallies

Protesters rally in support of Christine Blasey Ford – and against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh – outside his confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee. (Photo by Vandana Ravikumar/Cronkite News)

A smaller group rallied in support of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, who they said is the victim of a rush to judgment by his opponents, outside his confirmation hearing. (Photo by Vandana Ravikumar/Cronkite News)

Center for Arizona Policy President Cathi Herrod said she feels for victims of sexual assault, but said there is “no evidence” that Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh is guilty of it. (Photo by Imani Stephens/Cronkite News)

WASHINGTON – Senators heard the conflicting stories Thursday of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh and Christine Blasey Ford, one of the women who accused him of assault, but protesters outside the hearing seemed to have already made up their minds.

Hundreds of anti-Kavanaugh protesters and a smaller number of supporters rallied at the Supreme Court and around Capitol Hill for hours of spirited, but mostly civil, debate.

“He’s a perpetrator, he’s a rapist, and they just don’t care,” said Edurne Lopez, a date-rape victim from Washington, D.C., who said her 2012 case was quickly dropped by police. “This is worse than I thought.”

While Lopez joined Kavanaugh protesters outside the Dirksen Senate Office Building, where the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing was held, a smaller group was rallying a block away in support of the judge.

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Most were like Cathi Herrod, president of the Center for Arizona Policy, who said Kavanaugh is qualified for the job, and it will take more than just an accusation to derail his confirmation.

Herrod, invited to speak to the rally of women backing Kavanaugh, acknowledged the terror of sexual assault and said she does not want to downplay Ford’s trauma. But she still has concerns about Ford’s accusation.

Ford said earlier this month that she and Kavanaugh were at a party in high school when he pinned her to a bed, tried to take her clothes off and covered her mouth so others could not hear her scream.

Since Ford came forward, at least two other women have come forward with accusations of assault by a drunken Kavanaugh during his high school and college years.

“As a woman, I think that’s horrific,” Herrod said of Ford’s claim. “I can’t imagine what that must be like.

“But at the same time, we need to know that in the allegations that Judge Kavanaugh was in fact the perpetrator,” she said. “There’s just no evidence to show that.”

-Cronkite News video by Imani Stephens

D.C. native Gail Weiss echoed the claims of many pro-Kavanaugh protesters when she accused Senate Democrats of using Ford’s testimony for political ammunition and not weighing the facts fairly.

She said she hoped Democrats would listen to Thursday’s testimony with an open mind, but did not have high hopes for a party that she said “shoots first and asks questions later.”

“They need to give him an up or down vote, and the Democrat senators, this will reflect whether they go by rule of law or not,” she said. “Whether they go by credentials and proof or whether they’re willing to lynch someone on allegations – that’s up to them.”

But the 100 to 200 supporters of Kavanaugh were easily outnumbered by the supporters of Ford.

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They started early in the morning outside the Supreme Court before winding their way around the Senate offices and the Capitol. There were no speakers, but plenty of chants from the crowd, which grew larger as the day wore on.

“We believe Christine now, we believed Anita then,” they chanted, in reference to Anita Hill, who accused current Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas of sexual harassment during his confirmation hearings.

Kathy Hutchison, a protester from Fairfax, Virginia, said there are parallels between Hill and Ford, but she thinks the outcome could be different this time – as long as protesters advocate for it.

“They were able to do the FBI investigation with very short notice with Anita Hill,” Hutchison said. “They were not willing to do that this time, and I think that’s why our voices need to be heard even more.”

Hutchison said that “if there’s any chance that there’s validity in this accusation, we don’t want him sitting on the highest U.S. court.”

While many protested what they see as a rushed vote on Kavanaugh by Republican Senate leaders, others said they were worried about Kavanaugh’s nomination even before Ford’s allegations came to light.

-Cronkite News video by Ian Solomon

“My biggest concern is that it appears he has minimal regard for women, and he will be sitting in a seat of judgment to decide what happens to women’s bodies,” Hutchison said. “So I’m concerned that he is not an unbiased contributor to the laws and making those decisions on the Supreme Court.”

Many were there to oppose Kavanaugh, but just as many appeared to be there to support Ford and the message they said she brings for victims of sexual assault.

“Why I’m here, aside from Kavanaugh, is to show survivors that they’re not alone,” Lopez said.

Karen Beck and Kat Loughie said they came to the protest from Baltimore to set an example for their daughters.

“We want our daughters to not have to go through situations like Christine did, not only when she was a teenager, but also what she’s going through now with her family, about being believed, about feeling in danger,” Beck said.

Loughie said they feel that Ford is coming forward “for us, and for our daughters. She’s just suffered so much through it, and she’s our hero.”

“‘Not all heroes wear capes,’ as we say,” Beck said.

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