Rage and frustration filled the streets of Capitol Hill before and after the U.S. Senate vote Saturday afternoon to confirm Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. Protesters, voicing opposition and promising payback in November, arrived early and stayed late to express their anger with a process they viewed as deeply flawed and a new Supreme Court justice they find not suited for the seat.
Chanting “We believe survivors!” “Vote them out!” and “Shame, shame, shame!” hundreds of demonstrators converged on the Capitol early in the afternoon, where they mixed with tourists and onlookers on the Capitol’s East Front plaza. They had gathered, they said, to express their displeasure with senators who voted to confirm Kavanaugh despite the allegations of sexual assault made against him by Christine Blasey Ford and their belief that he was not truthful in his testimony before the Senate.
“We’ll remember in November,” one sign read. “No Justice, No Seat,” read another.
The crowd grew and a large group of protesters marched up the Rotunda steps on the East Front of the Capitol. There, 150 protesters were arrested and charged with “crowding, obstructing, or incommoding,” according to a statement from the U.S. Capitol Police. Later, police cleared the plaza, and demonstrators moved across the street to the front of the Supreme Court.
On the Supreme Court steps, speakers addressed the crowd through a pop-up public address system, barreling through a roll call of those they blame for Kavanaugh’s ascent, including Senate Judiciary Chairman Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). But the loudest howls of anger from the crowd came at the mention of Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and what a speaker called her “garbage speech full of lies.”
The speakers exhorted the overwhelmingly anti-Kavanaugh crowd to take their anger to midterm voting booths on Nov. 6.
Winnie Wong, senior adviser to the Women’s March, one of several liberal groups that have organized opposition to Kavanaugh, said the protest was the first of several “coordinated disruptions” planned for the day.
The group, she said, offered training in nonviolent protest tactics to as many as 1,300 activists. Many of them, she said, fanned out across the Capitol complex, with some seated in the Senate gallery Saturday afternoon. “There are a number of friendly senators who have provided passes to us,” she said.
“It’s a clear message we are organized and we are not backing down,” Wong said. “A women’s wave is coming.”
When the voting began in the Senate chamber, a protester in the gallery shouted, “I do not consent!” Outbursts continued throughout the voting, causing Vice President Pence, the Senate’s presiding officer, to suspend the voting several times to instruct the sergeant-at-arms of the Senate to restore order in the gallery.
Thirteen people were removed from the Senate galleries and arrested, according to Capitol Police.
Outside, the crowd waited for the result of the voting. A parade of signs painted the recent history of Democratic Party frustration and anger with the Supreme Court nomination process. “Vote Yes on Merrick Garland.” “The Investigation was a Sham” and “Jeff Flake lied to the women in the elevator.”
A few pockets of pro-Kavanaugh supporters were also present. When Kavanaugh’s confirmation was announced, a small group of supporters cheered amid boos.
Chris, who declined to give his last name because he lives in a liberal part of Maryland, said he had to come into the hostile crowd to mark the elevation of a justice he expects to protect the parts of the Constitution he holds most dear, the right to free expression and the right to bear arms.
“I felt the need to come show some support,” said the 33-year-old, who wore a black Sons of Liberty T-shirt.
But Kavanaugh supporters such as Chris were vastly outnumbered. The chants continued. The shouts of “Shame!” grew loudest at 4:30 p.m. when the doors to the Senate opened and Pence came down the steps to his motorcade. He waved once. A few cheers and claps mixed with a chorus of boos. A few Make America Great Again hats were waved amid a sea of raised middle fingers.
Nicole Beck, an attorney for Break the Cycle, a group aiding victims of sexual assault, carried a sign that read, “Add a Tally If You Will Donate to Susan Collins’ Opponent.” By 1:40 p.m., the sign carried 82 ticks.
“As a woman, she has betrayed all of us,” Beck said of her focus on Collins, who gave a 44-minute speech in the Senate on Friday defending Kavanaugh.
Beck called the speech “disgusting” and dismissed the notion that Collins had been a swing vote. “I don’t think she was undecided. I think she was holding out to have the appearance of impartiality.”
Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) came out to address the crowd.
“Unfortunately, democracy failed today,” Blumenthal said. “The United States Senate confirmed a dangerous and deeply flawed nominee only by breaking all the rules.”
Blumenthal urged the crowd to send a message in the November midterms.
After the announcement that Kavanaugh was in the building, protesters took their time climbing the steps of the Supreme Court, to be escorted back down by Capitol Police. “One more!” the crowd chanted each time. “Arrest sexual predators, not protesters.”
Then dozens of protesters pushed past the police line and occupied the Supreme Court steps, chanting, pumping fists, one doing yoga poses. The steps were quickly filled.
Paul Kane contributed to this report.