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Yale Law students sit out class, travel to Supreme Court to protest Kavanaugh

Supporters of the two accusers of Supreme Court nominee Brett M. Kavanaugh conducted walkouts, marches and silent protests on Sept. 24. (Video: Monica Akhtar/The Washington Post)

Yale Law School students protested Monday in Washington and Connecticut, opposing the nomination of Brett M. Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court.

More than 100 students traveled Monday to Washington to protest at the Supreme Court and to meet with senators, while others staged a sit-in at the law school. In Washington, students held umbrellas and signs aloft outside the Supreme Court in the rain, while on campus in New Haven, they filled the hallway of the law school.

More than 30 professors canceled classes Monday. On Friday, most faculty members signed a letter urging the Senate Judiciary Committee to treat seriously allegations of a sexual assault.

'This is an extraordinary moment': Yale Law faculty call on Senate Judiciary Committee to treat allegations seriously in Kavanaugh nomination

Kavanaugh, a graduate of the university and the law school, was accused by a professor in California, Christine Blasey Ford, of assaulting her when they were at a high school party. Ford said Kavanaugh pinned her to a bed and covered her mouth when she screamed.

On Sunday, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the top Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, called for a delay in nomination hearings after another woman accused Kavanaugh of sexual misconduct. The New Yorker reported that a classmate of Kavanaugh’s at Yale in the 1980s, Deborah Ramirez, said Kavanaugh exposed himself at a party when they were first-year students. Ramirez acknowledged gaps in her memory because she had been drinking at the party.

Kavanaugh has adamantly denied both accusations.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) joined the students in New Haven and, later, in Washington.

Catherine McCarthy, a third-year law student, said it was moving to see the main hallway of the school filled with people wearing black and sitting silently Monday morning; she had never seen it so quiet.

About 300 students participated in the protests on campus, and 115 others traveled to Washington to demonstrate, said John Gonzalez, a second-year law student who said the protests included the majority of the student body of about 600. He had just marched from meetings with senators back to the Supreme Court to continue demonstrating outside with other organizations.

Gonzalez said two Yale Law students were arrested in the morning and charged with refusing to comply with rules governing protests on Capitol grounds.

A spokeswoman for the U.S. Capitol Police, Eva Malecki, did not immediately confirm the arrests of the students.

On Monday evening, Malecki said in a written statement 128 people were charged with unlawfully demonstrating in Senate office buildings. Forty-six people were removed from the Dirksen Senate Office Building on Monday morning, and shortly after noon, 82 people were removed from the rotunda of the Russell Senate Office Building and charged with crowding, obstructing or incommoding. It is unlawful to demonstrate inside any of the Capitol buildings.

“This is an institution that has a role to play and a moral obligation when its own community members and members of the legal community are not being treated with respect,” McCarthy said. “Today is really about the larger national conversation, and how Yale Law School, as an elite legal institution, is involved and implicated in this conversation.”

Students had been told the school must remain nonpartisan, she said, “but sexual violence is not a partisan issue.”

She and others said they were reminded of the 1991 confirmation hearings for another Yale Law School graduate, Clarence Thomas, amid allegations he had sexually harassed an employee.

“The Senate’s treatment of our own alumna Anita Hill more than two decades ago sent a crystal-clear message to women and to all people who have experienced sexual violence: We don’t care about you,” said Dana Bolger, a third-year law student at Yale who was formerly co-director of Know Your IX, which advocates against sexual violence in schools. Title IX is a law that prohibits sex discrimination at schools that receive federal funding. “We demand that the Senate not repeat this same shameful mistake again. We state unequivocally that we believe and stand with Professor Blasey Ford and Debbie Ramirez.”

On Monday, Heather Gerken, dean of Yale’s law school, wrote to the campus that the allegations against Kavanaugh “are rightly causing deep concern at Yale Law School and across the country,” and that many professors and students are taking action, including the 50 faculty members who signed the letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee, and students gathered in Washington and on campus. “Students have worked with the Law School administration and faculty so that the community can come together as a whole to discuss this important moment in our country’s history,” Gerken wrote.

“As dean, I cannot take a position on the nomination, but I am so proud of the work our community is doing to engage with these issues, and I stand with them in supporting the importance of fair process, the rule of law, and the integrity of the legal system.”