Protesters Gather Outside Collins' Portland Office Following Ford-Kavanaugh Testimonies

Sep 29, 2018

  Originally published 5:33 p.m.September 28, 2018 

More than 100 protesters took to the street outside Senator Susan Collins' Portland office Friday afternoon, where they demanded a no vote on Judge Brett Kavanaugh's Supreme Court confirmation.

The demonstration follows Thursday’s tumultuous hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Some protesters also filed into Collins' small office to leave personal messages with her staff. The afternoon gathering also turned into an emotional speak-out for survivors of sexual assault, some of whom said they had never shared their stories out loud before.

One woman used a bull horn to give an account of being sexually assaulted in the sixth grade. Another said she was speaking out for the first time about being molested as a child by her neighbor.

"If my parents see this on the news, it will be the first they've ever heard of their sweet neighbor, Mark,” the protester told the crowd. "But I want a record somewhere, because if you don't say anything, everybody says, 'Why didn't you say anything?' I want a record somewhere."

Many protesters carried signs saying "We Believe Christine," a reference to Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, whose sexual assault allegations against Judge Brett Kavanaugh have put his confirmation in doubt.

For some, Dr. Ford's testimony in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee was a trigger to re-live similar traumas and to reexamine events from their own pasts.

Protesters gathering in downtown Portland, Maine outside the office of Senator Susan Collins
Credit Susan Sharon / Maine Public

"You know I had a date rape experience in college that I never would have called date rape at the time because I didn't understand things the same way that I do now, and #metoo has changed that for women,” says April Humphrey of Yarmouth.

She says that she waivers between feeling empowerment from the support women are offering each other and despair over the Kavanaugh confirmation vote.

"It's felt very disempowering to feel like we are all out here bearing our souls, and we don't know if what we are saying is making a difference on Senator Collins or not,” she says. “We have no idea."

Dozens of protesters took their case against Kavanaugh to the eighth floor of Senator Collins' downtown office building, where they were met by Kate Simpson, her state office representative.

Protesters funneling in and out of Senator Collins' Portland office, where there was no room to move and no room in the hall
Credit Susan Sharon / Maine Public

“I, by no means, want anyone to be asked to leave because we are violating a fire code, and it will happen,” Simpson told the crowd. “This is not the first time I've had a large, lovely group in here."

Space was so tight that protesters were unable to stage a planned sit-in. Simpson urged them instead to sign a comment book.

Collins has not yet indicated how she will vote or what she thought of the hearing, but late Friday afternoon she said in a tweet that she supports the Senate Judiciary Committee's request that the FBI conduct a supplemental background investigation of Judge Kavanaugh.

In her tweet Collins called it a "sensible agreement." She also said she is "pleased" that Kavanaugh's friend, Mark Judge, has indicated he will cooperate with investigators. Judge is alleged to have been with Kavanaugh at the time of Ford's sexual assault more 30 years ago.

"We are looking for a justice on the Supreme Court of the United States who is supposed to be impartial and calm and deliberative,” says Janet Lynch, of Pownal.

For Lynch and other protesters, Kavanaugh has already convinced them that he is not the right candidate for the job.

"His performance itself shows a character which is not acceptable for a justice of the Supreme Court of the United States,” she says.

When a confirmation vote does happen, Lynch and others say it will be a litmus test for many things, but especially for the way sexual assault victims are treated.