Demonstrators continued to lobby U.S. Sen. Susan Collins on Monday to urge her to slow down or block Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation as new allegations of sexual misconduct by the judge have emerged.
In Portland on Monday afternoon, approximately 50 rape survivors and their supporters gathered in John E. Menario Plaza, then carried a poster-sized letter to the senator’s Portland office a short walk away.
In Washington, D.C., Capitol Police reportedly arrested dozens of demonstrators outside Collins’ office there earlier in the day. In a statement, the agency said it removed 46 protesters from the Dirksen Senate Office Building — where the Maine senator’s office is — and charged them with obstructing. Another 82 were removed from another Senate office building.
“We don’t want him on the Supreme Court making decisions about women’s lives until the [allegations] against him have been fully investigated,” said Dini Merz, a Portland demonstrator who said she was raped three decades ago in college.
Collins is one of only two Republican senators who has not said she will vote for Kavanaugh, making her a deciding vote on the nomination in a narrowly divided Senate. As such, she has been the target of campaigning by both supporters and opponents of the judge.
Kavanaugh, President Donald Trump’s choice to replace retiring Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, has been accused of sexually assaulting a 15-year-old girl decades ago when he was a teenager.
On Sunday, a second claim of sexual misconduct emerged, as a former Yale University classmate said in a New Yorker report that Kavanaugh thrust his genitals into her face during a party in the early 1980s.
Kavanaugh has denied what he called the “last-minute allegations” and “a smear, plain and simple.”
Trump took to the social media platform Twitter to cast doubt on the first accuser, Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, saying if the alleged sexual assault was “as bad as she says,” she would have reported it to police at the time.
In the hours since the second allegation was reported, attorney Michael Avenatti — who has famously represented porn star Stormy Daniels as she alleged an affair with and subsequent payoff by Trump — reportedly said he is representing a third woman with “credible information” about additional past sexual misconduct by the judge.
In Portland, Merz and other demonstrators spoke out about why victims of sexual assault may be reluctant to come forward, saying Trump’s tweet is an example of the disbelief survivors must endure.
“The fear of being blamed and scrutinized is why many women don’t come forward, and we’re seeing that right now [in the case of Ford],” Merz told the BDN.
Demonstrators in Maine’s largest city held signs reading “I believe Dr. Christine Blasey Ford” and “A sexual predator does not belong on the Supreme Court,” among other things, and they chanted “It’s not too late to investigate.”
Dr. Kimberly Simmons, a sociologist who teaches classes on women and gender studies locally, told the gathered crowd that studies suggest about one out of every four Maine women experiences sexual harassment at her first job and that even more female high school and college students face harassment or assault.
“This is not something that just happened in the ‘80s, it’s happening to 15-year-olds today, and we have to do something to protect them and support them,” she said.
Even before the allegations of sexual misconduct were reported, Kavanaugh faced fierce opposition from progressive groups who considered the judge a threat to tip the Supreme Court to overturning Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 decision that legalized abortion.
Kavanaugh and Ford are both scheduled to testify Thursday before the Senate Judiciary Committee, although the ranking Democrat on the panel, U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, has called for the “immediate postponement” of any further action on the nomination.
On Friday, Collins told reporters in Portland that Trump’s tweet was “completely inappropriate” and said it’s reasonable for the committee to accommodate a testimony by Ford before voting on Kavanaugh’s confirmation.
Follow the Bangor Daily News on Facebook for the latest Maine news.