With Kavanaugh vote on the horizon, Seattle speaks out

Men and women gathered and listened to stories of assault at a Wednesday vigil. Next up, a walkout.

A woman holds a 'NO' sign in the crowd during the Stop Kavanaugh Vigil at Cal Anderson Park on Capitol Hill in Seattle, Oct. 3, 2018. (Photo by Matt M. McKnight/Crosscut)

As members of the U.S. Senate begin to review the findings of an FBI investigation into the sexual assault allegations against Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh, pressure to block confirmation of the Supreme Court nominee is ramping up, including here in Seattle.

On Wednesday night, approximately 200 women and men of various ages gathered at Cal Anderson Park in Capitol Hill to hold a vigil and express their opposition to Kavanaugh’s nomination.   

Bracing the frigid air, some held signs that implored the public to call members of the U.S. Senate and to “believe Dr. Blasey Ford.”

Then, taking a cue from Christine Blasey Ford, one of two women who have accused Kavanaugh of sexual assault, those gathered at the park stepped up to share their own stories, one by one.  

Theirs were the latest in a series of personal testimonies that have sprung forth since the public learned of Blasey Ford's accusation that Kavanaugh attempted to rape her 36 years ago.

After President Donald Trump publicly questioned why Ford had never gone to authorities about Kavanaugh, women and men began sharing stories of unreported assaults and rapes with the hashtag #WhyIDidntReport. Then, after watching Blasey Ford's testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee last Thursday, Seattle technologist, and Crosscut contributor, Candace Faber took to Twitter to accuse Republican Washington state Sen. Joe Fain of rape. “So okay, let’s do it," she wrote. "@senatorfain, you raped me the night I graduated from Georgetown in 2007 … I’m done being silent.” Fain has denied the allegation. 

The next day, as the Senate Judiciary Committee prepared to send the nomination to the full senate, two women confronted Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) and shared their own stories while demanding that he vote against Kavanaugh, a dramatic scene that some have credited with swaying Flake to call for an FBI investigation prior to the final vote.

The stories continued at the park on Wednesday, where one rape victim referred to her assaulter and said: “The embarrassment I felt for that person. I’m tired of carrying other people’s embarrassment and shame.”

Another woman spoke of discovering that her husband of 10 years had molested their daughter.  

“I feel consumed by an incandescent rage,” said yet another woman. “It’s felt so supremely disempowering,” she said of last week’s senate hearing, where some senators defended Kavanaugh.

“If they can’t believe her, what power do we have?,” she said, referring to Blasey Ford.  

One woman introduced a brief moment of levity, saying “I just want to say I’m so happy to see some men here tonight. I’ve been spending a lot of time feeling like they’re a lost cause.” Laughter followed.

Lauren Hall, a 41-year-old wardrobe stylist, said she had decided to attend the vigil because aside from calling senators, “this is the thing I can do that is within my reach.”

Jill Raynor-Holdcroft, a 46-year-old photo producer, said she saw Kavanaugh as a threat to Roe vs. Wade, the Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion.

As she pointed to her t-shirt that read “1973,” the year the Supreme Court ruled on the landmark case, she said: “I think the current administration is not pro women at all.”

“I think this is just the beginning of a sharp downhill,” she continued.

“He’s a symbol. There’s another one behind him,” she added, referring to Kavanaugh.

The vigil came in the middle of a week of waiting for the country. The day after the testimonies from Blasey Ford, and another from Kavanaugh strenuously denying the allegations, the nomination was voted out of committee and on to the full Senate. But at the request of Sen. Flake — a key Republican swing vote on the nomination — the committee called for the weeklong FBI investigation into the Supreme Court nominee, to be completed before a vote could be scheduled.

Early on Thursday, the White House issued a statement via Twitter, noting the FBI had completed its investigation. “With this additional information, the White House is fully confident the Senate will vote to confirm Judge Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court,” said Raj Shah, deputy White House press secretary, even as others complained the federal agency had failed to interview key witnesses. 

Senators are expected to begin reading the results of the FBI investigation on Thursday. According to the New York Times, the vote confirming Kavanaugh comes down to four senators who remain undecided, three Republicans and one Democrat. 

Those senators will likely have to come to a decision by Saturday, when the Senate is expected to hold a final confirmation vote. Until then, protests against Kavanaugh’s confirmation are likely to continue.

In Seattle, an action has been planned for Thursday afternoon. Organizers, including members of Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women of Washington, and the Real Change Homeless Empowerment Project, are asking the public to walk out of jobs, schools and homes at 4 p.m. and gather at Westlake Park. At 5 p.m. they plan to march to the Federal Building for a rally to oppose Kavanaugh. So far, more than 1,000 people on Facebook have indicated they are interested in the event.

“There’s a real need for Seattle to speak out against Kavanaugh,” said 63-year-old Helen Gilbert, one of the organizers of the protest.

“We feel we can make a difference. We’re not going to be pacified,” she said.

“I don’t think someone like that needs a lifetime seat of power over the women of this country,” Gilbert added.

Even before this week’s events, college faculty had turned Kavanaugh’s nomination into a teaching moment.

Deborah Ahrens, a law professor at Seattle University, said the school had livestreamed Kavanaugh’s testimony and had held a discussion afterward.

Students talked about the difference between the senate hearing and a criminal trial, where, say, DNA evidence may have been introduced. Ahrens said students concluded the hearing wasn’t designed to get to the truth or evidence but was more like a job interview.

Still, Ahrens said, in general, students were unimpressed by Kavanaugh’s behavior, which included refusals to answer questions from Senate Democrats and combative responses.

University of Washington Law Professor William S. Bailey said students he had spoken to had also been “dismayed and appalled this is going on.”

Bailey said he had hoped the Me Too movement, which over the past two years has laid bare accusations of sexual misconduct against powerful men, would have meant a new reality. Instead, he said, “the hearings show that these attitudes of 'blame the victim, not the perpetrator' still have pretty strong legs.”

“We’re supposed to clean our own house,” said Bailey, who serves as a disciplinary hearing officer for the Washington State Bar Association. He pointed out that some who were once in Kavanaugh's corner, including the American Bar Association and the editors of America Magazine, a weekly Jesuit publication, had withdrawn their support of the Supreme Court nominee.

“I want to be proud of my profession, and I believe the public is entitled to be protected,” Bailey said, while referring to codes of conduct for lawyers, which include being patient and courteous.

"Kavanaugh has brought dishonor to my profession. He’s brought dishonor to the judiciary.”

Please support independent local news for all.

We rely on donations from readers like you to sustain Crosscut's in-depth reporting on issues critical to the PNW.


About the Authors & Contributors

Lilly Fowler

Lilly Fowler

Lilly Fowler is formerly a reporter at Crosscut, where she focused on race, immigration and other issues.