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City Hall protest targets Kavanaugh nomination

Catherine McGloin
City Hall protest targets Kavanaugh nomination
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Banner Photo

Hundreds of protestors, survivors of sexual assault and elected officials stood on the steps of Boston City Hall on Monday morning to urge Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake to reject Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court.

What started as a Facebook event organized by Emerson College students turned into a large protest supported by representatives from Planned Parenthood, the ACLU and NARAL, in the shadow of the ongoing Forbes Under 30 Summit on City Hall Plaza at 10 a.m. on Oct. 1. Local and national political figures lent their voice to cries of “Kava-nope,” including U.S. Sen. Ed Markey; the Democratic nominee for New York’s 14th Congressional District, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez; Massachusetts state Senate President Karen Spilka; Mayor Martin J. Walsh; at-large City Councilor and future congresswoman Ayanna Pressley; and many of her city council colleagues.

“Brett Kavanaugh is not fit to be on the United States Supreme Court,” said Rebecca Hart Holder, executive director of NARAL, a pro-choice nonprofit. “He does not stand for women’s equality, he does not stand for LGBTQ rights, he does not stand for the rights of people of color, he does not stand for labor rights, he does not stand for low-income people, and we are going to keep fighting.”

Holder opened the program of speeches, arranged to coincide with the arrival in Boston of Republican Sen. Flake, who was scheduled to give a presentation at City Hall last Monday. She was not alone in her vehement denial of Kavanaugh’s suitability for a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court.

Markey said Kavanaugh’s behavior during questioning by the Senate Judiciary Committee last week showed his “anger, belligerence, evasiveness … and lack of judicial temperament,” while Carol Rose, executive director of the ACLU of Massachusetts called Kavanaugh “unhinged.”

Kavanaugh accused

Kavanaugh, who was nominated by President Trump in July, was set to begin proceedings for appointment to the highest court in the country when allegations of sexual assault began to surface. A former high school classmate, Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, has said that she was attacked by Kavanaugh and his friend Mark Judge at a party when she was 15 years old. There are now three separate allegations against Kavanaugh, who is currently the subject of a week-long FBI investigation requested by Sen. Flake following emotional testimonies by Kavanaugh and Ford before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

“We are entitled to truth, survivors are entitled to justice … Brett Kavanaugh is not entitled to a lifetime appointment,” said Pressley.

“I am black, I am a woman and I am a survivor, and I am outraged, because this is outrageous,” she continued, emphasizing the experience of sexual assault for women of color.

“What has been coming out of this administration has been a firehose of insult and assault to our civil rights, our protections, our freedoms, our democracy, our humanity,” Pressley told reporters after the protest. “They want to divide us. They want to make us feel small. But we are powerful.”

Pressley said the real disgrace in Kavanaugh’s nomination proceedings is the nation’s tolerance of rape culture. “We have been complicit in our silence,” she said.

One person notably not in attendance at the rally was Governor Charlie Baker. A transgender black woman and survivor of sexual assault stood on stage to tell the audience how she feared for her life on a daily basis, before flatly asking where the governor was and why he was not present to show his support for the #stopkavanaugh campaign.

Abuse of power

Ocasio-Cortez shared her personal history of assault, from being a child in New York who was almost abducted, to an 18-year old student at Boston University, witnessing an inebriated girl flung over a man’s shoulder and carried to a second-floor bedroom.

“Sexual assault is not a crime of passion, it is about the abuse of power,” said Ocasio-Cortez, “and that is precisely why it is one of the most serious allegations anyone who cares to be a public servant can be accused of.”

Many of the speakers expressed support for Ford, praising her courage in publicly sharing her traumatic experience.

“It is always women who are marginalized,” said Ocasio-Cortez. “It is the young, it is the intern, it is the immigrant, it is the trans. They’re always most at risk because society listens to them the least.”

Pressley and Ocasio-Cortez both said grassroots activism has been most effective at fighting the Trump administration agenda.

“It’s really not about people like Ayanna and us getting others to listen,” said Ocasio-Cortez. “The best we can do is advocate for our communities, represent our districts, but ultimately it’s going to be everyday people contacting their representatives that’s going to get them to change their minds.”

Pressley spoke of the bravery of the two survivors who confronted Sen. Flake in an elevator in the U.S. capitol last Friday, after he affirmed his decision to vote for Kavanaugh.

“Years ago, we would have said that’s not the appropriate thing to do. This is a man of power, privilege and prestige walking into an elevator — leave him alone. Those days are over,” said Pressley.

The speakers and the chanting crowd seemed determined not to let the Republican senator leave Boston without hearing their message. “Let’s raise our voices to be heard and say, ‘no more,’” said Democratic gubernatorial nominee, Jay Gonzalez, who spoke during the rally.

“Look me in the eye when I’m talking to you,” said Pressley, appearing to speak directly to Sen. Flake. “Can you hear me now?”

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