Hundreds of people protesting the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court packed the hallway next to Maine Sen. Susan Collins’ office in Washington on Monday.
U.S. Capitol Police arrested dozens, according to news reports, including about a dozen Maine activists who had made the trip to Capitol Hill.
The protesters wore black “Be A Hero” shirts and sat outside Collins’ office chanting various slogans, including “we will not be silenced,” one day after more accusations of sexual misconduct against Kavanaugh surfaced. The Associated Press reported late Monday that Collins said the woman accusing Kavanaugh of sexual misconduct in college should be interviewed under oath.
Protesters have targeted Collins, a Republican, because she is an undecided vote in a closely divided Senate. If she and another Republican oppose Kavanaugh, his nomination could fail.
Marie Follayttar Smith, of Mainers for Accountable Leadership, said her group of 17 Mainers, including Bowdoin College students, was joined by hundreds of activists to urge Collins to vote “no” on Kavanaugh.
Follayttar Smith said she was not among those arrested.
Kavanaugh is set to testify Thursday at a hearing with Christine Blasey Ford, who accused him of sexual assault while both were in high school in the early 1980s. Kavanaugh denies the allegation.
In a letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee made public on Monday, Ford wrote, “While I am frightened, please know, my fear will not hold me back from testifying and you will be provided with answers to all your questions. I ask for fair and respectful treatment.”
Follayttar Smith, in a phone interview with the Press Herald, said there were more than 300 people packing the hallway, singing songs and chanting in front of Collins’ office. About a dozen Mainers were cited by Capitol Police for blocking the hallway, she said.
“The energy was high, and people were very passionate,” said Follayttar Smith, who also joined a protest in front of the Supreme Court. “To be in the hub of all of this is awe-inspiring and simultaneously petrifying because of the stakes.”
She said Collins’ staff told them the senator was not available to meet with them Monday.
Dozens of protesters also rallied in Portland on Monday, shouting “Kava-NO, Kava-NO” as they walked to Collins’ office to urge her to believe Kavanaugh’s accusers and for there to be a full investigation into sexual misconduct allegations against the Supreme Court nominee, the AP reported. Some told their personal stories of sexual assault and the group delivered signatures of women asking Collins to reject Kavanaugh.
Progressive groups have been protesting Kavanaugh for months, arguing that he would be a potential vote to weaken or overturn abortion rights and undermine the Affordable Care Act. Collins, who is pro-abortion rights, has said she doesn’t believe, based on her conversations with Kavanaugh and his answers to the committee, that he would vote to overturn the landmark 1973 abortion rights case Roe v. Wade.
The pressure has ramped up in recent weeks as the accusations of Kavanaugh’s personal conduct as a teenager and young adult have emerged.
The protests occurred the day after a second woman – Deborah Ramirez – came forward to accuse Kavanaugh of sexual misconduct while Ramirez and Kavanaugh were students at Yale University in the 1980s. The accusations surfaced in a story in The New Yorker on Sunday. Kavanaugh also has denied those accusations.
Collins’ office did not immediately respond to a request from the Press Herald for comment on the emergence of a second accusation against Kavanaugh. In an interview for the Showtime political show, “The Circus,” that was taped Friday night – before the latest allegation became public – Collins said that she’s “very close” to making a decision on Kavanaugh. `
“I’m close, I’m very close, but I’m not all the way there yet. And Professor Ford deserves to be heard,” Collins said on “The Circus.”
Also on Friday, Collins criticized President Trump after he argued in a tweet that Ford should have come forward with her accusations in the 1980s. Collins said she was “appalled” by Trump’s tweet.
Meanwhile, in front of City Hall in Portland on Monday, Collins’ colleague, Sen. Angus King, joined the Protect Our Care national bus tour to speak out against Republican efforts to undermine or repeal the Affordable Care Act.
King, an independent, said he believes Kavanaugh, if he were to be confirmed to the Supreme Court, would vote against the Affordable Care Act in cases that were to come before the court.
In remarks to the media after the event, King said the FBI should be given time to investigate the multiple accusations against Kavanaugh.
“I don’t understand what the rush is,” said King, who issued a detailed statement last week explaining his intent to vote against Kavanaugh’s nomination. “There is no deadline. This is a lifetime appointment.”
Portland was the second stop on the Protect Our Care national bus tour, which is slated to go to 23 states to rally to preserve health care protections that became law under the Affordable Care Act but are under threat by Republicans and Trump. The president has supported repealing the ACA and has signed executive orders designed to undermine the ACA.
Collins was one of three Republicans to vote against repealing the Affordable Care Act in July 2017, preserving a law that has provided health care coverage to about 20 million Americans. The vote to repeal failed by one vote in the Senate.