WASHINGTON – Barbara Smith got her start in protesting during the Vietnam War. On Thursday she was back at it, among the first to arrive at a rally here against Brett Kavanaugh's nomination to the Supreme Court.
“It’s unreal that those of us of a certain generation have to do this again,” said Smith, 67, of Richmond, Virginia, as she waved a sign that included photos of her grandchildren. "My job as a grandmother is to do what I can to make sure that they’re going to be safe and that they’ll never have to say ‘Me Too.'"
Smith, who spent 40 years as a therapist working with trauma victims, said she wasn’t surprised when she heard President Donald Trump mocking the California professor who accused Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her at a high school party 36 years ago. Kavanaugh denies the claim.
“Victim shaming has been going on for a very long time,” she said.
The crowd was diverse, with protesters of all races, grandmothers down to children in strollers. The majority of the protesters were women, but there were plenty of men. The crowd chanted “We believe survivors!” and “Whose court? Our court!” as one man pounded a drum in rhythm with the chants.
The rally and march were among dozens of protests planned across the nation in what could be a last gasp push against Kavanaugh's proposed ascension to the nation's highest court. Protesters hope to sway a handful of senators considered swing votes in determining Kavanaugh's fate.
An initial vote of the full Senate is scheduled for Friday, and a final vote could come over the weekend.
Lawmakers received the FBI report on allegations of sexual assault against the federal judge Thursday. Susan Collins, a Maine Republican considered one of those swing votes, sounded an ominous warning to foes of the nomination, saying the FBI report "appears very thorough." Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley said it reflects "no hint of misconduct."
The assertions drew fire from Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., who called the report "very limited" and "incomplete." Many in the #MeToo movement – and foes of Kavanaugh's legal positions on reproductive health care – also were unlikely to be swayed.
Kavanaugh and the professor, Christine Blasey Ford, both testified before Grassley's committee last week.
Sen Elizabeth Warren, a Democrat from Massachusetts and hero of the progressive left, drew a roar from the crowd when she took the microphone on a hot sunny day in the nation's capital.
“I watched that hearing last Thursday and I believe Dr. Ford,” Warren said. “This is about power. I watched 11 men, powerful men, who tried to help another powerful man make it to an even more powerful position.
"I am angry on behalf of women who have been told to shut up and sit down one time too many,”
Protester Jolie Timm, 70, echoed Warren's refrain. Timm said the hardest part of watching the hearing was seeing the women who support Kavanaugh, including his wife, Ashley.
“I looked at the people behind him and it made me cry,” said Timm, 70, of Gold Beach, Oregon. “It’s so sad that people that I relate to can believe in something and someone that is so hurtful.”
Opponents of Kavanaugh remained energized. Planned Parenthood said its youth groups on at least 18 college campuses in at least 12 states were mobilizing resistance events.
“Young people are taking action across the country because they stand with survivors of sexual assault," spokesman Nick Savelli said. "And they know Brett Kavanaugh is in a position to determine the health and constitutional rights of generations to come."
A group called International Women's Strike is urging people across Portland, Ore., to walk out at 4 p.m. In Washington, protesters geared up for a day of action.
In Washington, Smith and Timm were among hundreds gathering at the E. Barrett Prettyman Courthouse in Washington, D.C., where Kavanaugh currently sits as a judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.
"We’re marching from Kavanaugh’s current courthouse to the one he hopes to ascend to," the Women's March tweeted. "We’ll do everything we can to make sure he doesn’t get there."
Angela Trzepkowski, 55, of Middleton, Delaware, was among the first to arrive
“I don’t believe he’s told the truth,” Trzepkowski said. “I believe it’s the good old boy network covering for each other and watching each other’s backs. And I’m ashamed that our country has to go through this because of poor vetting and women’s fear to speak out when assault has happened.”
The protesters plan to march to the Supreme Court and will convene on the steps of the Capitol for a survivor speak-out.
Organized by groups such as the Women's March, Demand Justice and the American Civil Liberties Union, the protest is the latest in a string of demonstrations against Kavanaugh. Last Thursday and Friday, more than a hundred protesters were arrested in and around the Capitol as the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing and markup session took place.
Most of the protesters have been men. On Thursday, Dave Christensen, 60, of Gaithersburg, Maryland, was among men who joined the effort.
“Growing up a man, you don’t see he other side,” he said. “You don’t see that it’s unsafe to walk out by yourself after dark. You don’t see how many people raise their hand when they ask if you’ve been sexually assaulted. It's so sad."