Moments after Sen. Joe Manchin III announced that he planned to vote yes on Brett M. Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court, he stepped out of his office in the Hart Senate building to address waiting reporters.
But protesters were waiting, too, and they drowned out Manchin’s comments with shouts of “Shame! Shame! Shame!”
“You betrayed us!” the protesters yelled at the West Virginia Democrat, who is up for reelection in a strongly Republican state and became the only member of his party to support Kavanaugh. “Think of your daughters!” “You betrayed America!” “Why are you betraying your party?”
His remarks all but inaudible, Manchin, somber-faced, finally pushed his way through to nearby elevators as Capitol Police officers jumped in to forcibly prevent protesters from following. The senator was trailed by cries of “Shame on you! Shame on you!”
It was a dramatic scene on a day full of them Friday as the Senate pushed President Trump’s nominee to the brink of Supreme Court confirmation. The emotions that have divided the nation over Kavanaugh’s nomination burst out in impassioned displays all around the Capitol, with demonstrators on both sides making themselves heard — though the anti-Kavanaugh contingent was louder and more numerous.
Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) was interrupted by protesters inside the Senate chamber as she began delivering a floor speech announcing her support for Kavanaugh.
Protesters were arrested and led away in handcuffs from outside the office of Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) — which also became the scene of a confrontation between supporters and opponents of Kavanaugh that ended improbably in mutual expressions of goodwill.
And Alaskans brought flowers to the office of Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), the only Republican to announce her opposition to Kavanaugh, though she also came in for criticism from a conservative women’s group that convened a prayer circle in the Hart Senate Office Building atrium and offered blessings for Kavanaugh and his antagonists.
U.S. Capitol Police said they arrested 101 people in the course of Friday for protest-related activities.
Throughout the long day, which began with some suspense about the outcome and ended with Kavanaugh’s nomination all but assured, raw feelings were on display.
As senators arrived at the Capitol to cast procedural votes to move Kavanaugh’s nomination forward, they were met by a man who took off his shirt and shoes and yelled, “Support Judge Kavanaugh, thus says the Lord!”
A few feet away, a woman from Maine held a sign that said, “Maine says KavaNo — Sen. Collins please listen.”
On a stage nearby, women and men took turns telling their stories of sexual assault, while on an adjoining lawn, between the Capitol and the Supreme Court, a line of women held hands to represent a human wall against Kavanaugh and Trump.
“We are out here today from many different locations convening to stand for survivors, myself included, against the danger of having Kavanaugh on the Supreme Court,” said Sarah Sandman, 38, an artist from Brooklyn. Sandman is co-director of a project called Brick X Brick, which organizes women in brick-patterned jumpsuits, dotted with quotations from Trump about women, to form themselves into physical walls.
Later, outside Flake’s office, after Capitol Police made arrests and dispersed protesters following the Senate’s procedural vote, Ritika Iyer, a freshman at George Washington University, and Coco Di Mauro, a mother of three daughters from Herndon, Va., found themselves face-to-face arguing between themselves and with others about Kavanaugh and women.
Di Mauro complained that she’d been told she was an embarrassment to women and should go home.
“That’s not how you treat other women!” Di Mauro said.
“That’s how we’ve been treated as well,” Iyer replied.
But a few minutes later, they agreed to disagree, de-escalating tensions and parting amicably in a demonstration of more comity than was found in the Senate itself Friday.
“I’m very thankful that I was able to have a conversation and learn,” Iyer said. “My dad always told me you can never shut yourself off to the other side, you always have to be willing to listen, and I think especially in this time and day and age it’s so important.”
Friday’s exchanges capped days of tumult at the Capitol that have seen senators hounded relentlessly by protesters opposed to Kavanaugh, forcing many to travel under Capitol Police protection to get to and from the Senate floor to vote.
But as Kavanaugh’s nomination began to seem inevitable, some of the protests took on a deflated feel.
“I live in hope that they will wake up,” said Linda Eversley, 59, a retired New York City public-school teacher who gathered with other opponents in the Hart building. “I will never stop hoping.”
“But we’ve had enough experience to see that our senators don’t care how we feel,” said Eversley’s friend Mary Pannell, 54, a part-time actress. “Look how many protests we’ve had already, and they’re not listening.”
Kavanaugh’s supporters were outnumbered, but they wanted to be heard.
“We have been here all week, and it’s kind of hard to get over the noise,” said Penny Nance, head of Concerned Women for America, who organized dozens of supporters wearing “Women For Kavanaugh” T-shirts to pray in the Hart building’s atrium and then visit key senators’ offices to thank them for their votes.
“Frankly, we don’t think we have been given the proper attention, based on what’s going on,” Nance added. “But to be fair, the other side’s louder and more colorful.”