Protests Against Brett Kavanaugh Start at the Supreme Court

It was 8:30 p.m., and hundreds of people were yelling incoherently back and forth at each other in front of the Supreme Court. Most were there to oppose President Donald Trump’s pick to succeed retiring Supreme Court justice Anthony Kennedy, Brett Kavanaugh. (You can read more about Kavanaugh here.) Or at least, they would be against Kavanaugh when he was announced. It didn’t really matter which of the finalists Trump chose for his nominee. None of the judges under consideration were acceptable to the protesters. Prior to the announcement, they spent a good deal of time chanting “the pick’s going down,” into their megaphones.

Their opposition was an echo of the rallies on the night Trump announced his nomination of Neil Gorsuch to replace Antonin Scalia. At that protest, activists brought fill-in-the-blank posters and then hastily wrote in Gorsuch’s name after the announcement. But the demonstrators upped their game this year. Within 30 minutes of Trump’s announcement, participants were holding professionally-printed “Stop Kavanaugh” signs. When I asked two women waving the posters where they had gotten them, they shrugged. “Someone was passing them around,” one answered.

Throughout the night, participants remained gathered at the foot of the Supreme Court steps. Most were waving placards in support of abortion rights, but the posters varied widely in messages and tone, everything from NARA-issued calls to “Protect Roe” to coathangers to a massive cut-out of Cher’s face. One attendee held up a lonely, hand-drawn “Confirm Merrick” sign. Another waved a sign protesting circumcision. Go figure.

Opposite the pro-abortion huddle was a smaller group of anti-abortion activists, some of whom held signs declaring that “I am the pro-life generation.” And there were other, louder, pro-life attendees as well. One, wearing a bright Trump t-shirt and wielding a shofar, divided his time between blasting soft Christian rock through a megaphone fastened to his hip and getting into as many shouting matches with pro-abortion advocates as he could.

As the night went on, activists alternated between popular chants such as “this is what democracy looks like,” and “Hell no, Kavanaugh.” Mildly interested onlookers observed the spectacle, some of them from up close, and others from afar as they walked to more peaceful pastures. One took a few moments to soak in the scene after he picked up his dry-cleaning.

After Trump’s announcement, Several Democratic senators made appearances, including Kirsten Gillibrand, Tina Smith, and Bernie Sanders.

Sanders asked the crowd if they were ready to defend abortion rights. “This is a tough fight, but it is a fight that we can win,” he said. “We have the American people on our side. Now we have to go state by state by state to make sure senators do what their constituents want.”

Senate Democrats hope to convince pro-choice Republicans Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski to oppose Kavanaugh on the grounds that he might overturn Roe v. Wade. But even flipping those two might not be enough, since GOP leaders in the Senate and in the White House will be applying pressure to red-state Democrats from the other side.

Kavanaugh will only need the support of 51 senators and Vice President Mike Pence could cast a tie-breaking vote if necessary. The fact that it was Democrats who created this world by deploying the nuclear option under Obama seemed lost on the protesters.

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