As she stood at the Supreme Court on Thursday, Diane Russell had a message for GOP Sen. Susan Collins, whose vote could determine nominee Brett Kavanaugh’s fate.
“If she turns on women, Maine women will turn on her,” said Russell, a former Maine lawmaker.
Russell was one of 20 women from Maine who traveled to the nation's capital to join hundreds of other energized protesters for a rally that could be a last gasp push against Kavanaugh's proposed ascension to the nation's highest court. The group repeatedly chanted: “Susan Collins, we are your voters, Susan Collins, we are your voters!”
The protesters, who marched from the federal courthouse to the Supreme Court to the Senate, were hoping to sway a handful of lawmakers considered swing votes in determining the fate of Kavanaugh.
A California professor, Christine Blasey Ford, has accused the judge of sexually assaulting her at a high school party 36 years ago, a claim Kavanaugh denies. The drama has captivated – and polarized – the nation since both Ford and Kavanaugh testified a week ago before the Senate Judiciary Committee.
An initial vote of the full Senate on the nomination is scheduled for Friday, and a final vote could come over the weekend. Lawmakers received the FBI report on allegations of sexual assault against the federal judge Thursday. Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley said it reflects "no hint of misconduct."
Protesters at the rally in D.C., one of several across the nation Thursday, were diverse: people of all races and ages, from grandmothers to children in strollers. The majority were women, but there were plenty of men. Many chanted “We believe survivors!” and “Whose court? Our court!” as one man pounded a drum in rhythm with the chants.
Barbara Smith got her start in protesting during the Vietnam War. On Thursday she was back at it, among the first to arrive at the rally in D.C.
“It’s unreal that those of us of a certain generation have to do this again,” said Smith, 67, of Richmond, Virginia, as she waved a sign that included photos of her grandchildren. "My job as a grandmother is to do what I can to make sure that they’re going to be safe and that they’ll never have to say ‘Me Too.'"
Smith, who spent 40 years as a therapist working with trauma victims, said she wasn’t surprised when she heard President Donald Trump mocking Ford. “Victim shaming has been going on for a very long time,” she said.
Sen Elizabeth Warren, a Democrat from Massachusetts and hero of the progressive left, drew a roar from the crowd when she took the microphone on a hot sunny day in the nation's capital.
“I watched that hearing last Thursday and I believe Dr. Ford,” Warren said. “This is about power. I watched 11 men, powerful men, who tried to help another powerful man make it to an even more powerful position. I am angry on behalf of women who have been told to shut up and sit down one time too many.”
Protester Jolie Timm, 70, echoed Warren's refrain. Timm said the hardest part of watching the hearing was seeing the women who support Kavanaugh, including his wife, Ashley.
“I looked at the people behind him and it made me cry,” said Timm, 70, of Gold Beach, Oregon. “It’s so sad that people that I relate to can believe in something and someone that is so hurtful.”
Opponents of Kavanaugh remained energized. Planned Parenthood said its youth groups on at least 18 college campuses in at least 12 states were mobilizing resistance events.
“Young people are taking action across the country because they stand with survivors of sexual assault," spokesman Nick Savelli said. "And they know Brett Kavanaugh is in a position to determine the health and constitutional rights of generations to come."
A group called International Women's Strike is urging people across Portland, Ore., to walk out at 4 p.m. In Washington, protesters geared up for a day of action.
Smith and Timm were among hundreds gathering at the E. Barrett Prettyman Courthouse in Washington, D.C., where Kavanaugh currently sits as a judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.
"We’re marching from Kavanaugh’s current courthouse to the one he hopes to ascend to," the Women's March tweeted. "We’ll do everything we can to make sure he doesn’t get there."
Angela Trzepkowski, 55, of Middleton, Delaware, was among the first to arrive
“I don’t believe he’s told the truth,” Trzepkowski said. “I believe it’s the good old boy network covering for each other and watching each other’s backs. And I’m ashamed that our country has to go through this because of poor vetting and women’s fear to speak out when assault has happened.”
Organized by groups such as the Women's March, Demand Justice and the American Civil Liberties Union, the protest is the latest in a string of demonstrations against Kavanaugh. Last Thursday and Friday, more than a hundred protesters were arrested in and around the Capitol as the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing and markup session took place.
Dave Christensen, 60, of Gaithersburg, Maryland, felt compelled to join the effort.
“Growing up a man, you don’t see the other side,” he said. “You don’t see that it’s unsafe to walk out by yourself after dark. You don’t see how many people raise their hand when they ask if you’ve been sexually assaulted. It's so sad."