Thursday, September 6, 2018

"We Dissent" #CancelKavanaugh Action at the Supreme Court #BrettBye # DefendRoe #WomenDisobey

J Scott Applewhite, __AP_Senate_Supreme_Court.
"We Dissent" written on her hands. 
Babs and i with "We Dissent" written on our hands.
No one could see it, but the words got me thrown out.
With three police grabbing me, I screamed: " 'This is about democracy, not the mafia. you were appointed by a criminal. don't do his business."
Babs & Ben on their way to Kavanaugh hearing. We want all of you to help #stopkavanaugh

Just a quiet day in Washington before three police pulled me out of the room with less gentleness than I would have wanted. 

I think the first time I really started thinking about policy and activism was in the fall of 1987 during government class my senior year in high school.  Sue Roman asked that we read the daily papers and pay attention to current events.  When I opened the paper I saw an article about an opening on the highest court.  The nominee, Robert Bork, was supported by President Reagan.  But Teddy Kennedy and the Democrats who were in charge, were concerned that Bork was too right wing.  Reagan already had two appointments on the Court.  This third would tilt the balance of the courts.  Kennedy famously described what was at stake with this nominee:

“Robert Bork's America is a land in which women would be forced into back-alley abortions, blacks would sit at segregated lunch counters, rogue police could break down citizens' doors in midnight raids, and schoolchildren could not be taught about evolution, writers and artists could be censored at the whim of the Government, and the doors of the Federal courts would be shut on the fingers of millions of citizens.”

Bork was eventually rejected after months of hearings.  And a more moderate voice, Anthony Kennedy was appointed.  Over the next three decades, Kennedy was a swing vote on the court, supporting gay rights, reproductive autonomy, marriage equality, and healthcare. 
Over the years, the moderate positions of two of Reagan’s three appointments, of one of Bush’s appointments, helped maintain a vital center in the court.  That’s now disappearing.  GW Bush appointed a hard liner to replace Sandra Day OConnor.  And Trump is doing the same with Kennedy.

And the acrimony on the court remains.  Conservatives were incensed that Bork was rejected by the senate.  And liberals were equally vexed that President Obama’s third nominee for the nation’s highest court was denied even a hearing. 

When Bork’s nomination was rejected he called for a full hearing and senate vote arguing:

“There should be a full debate and a final Senate decision. In deciding on this course, I harbor no illusions. But a crucial principle is at stake. That principle is the way we select the men and women who guard the liberties of all the American people. That should not be done through public campaigns of distortion. If I withdraw now, that campaign would be seen as a success, and it would be mounted against future nominees. For the sake of the Federal judiciary and the American people, that must not happen. The deliberative process must be restored.

And a hearing and a vote he received. Merrick Garland would not enjoy the same treatment. Trump’s appointment to the courts went as far as to praise Merrick Garland, Obama’s rejected nominee, in his opening statements on September 4th, during his nomination hearings.

Mitch McConnell and the republicans have done away with the filibuster which used to moderate court appointments.  

So democrats and opposition groups have little choice but to disrupt the proceedings.  The first day of the Kavanaugh hearings, 70 activists, many priests, clergy, and healthcare activists, were arrested.  And the democrats attempted to slow down the hearings, protesting over 42000 pages of documents they only received the night before the hearings. The next day, the disruptions continued during the second day of the hearings.

Soon after the Kavanaugh hearings were scheduled, the Center for Popular Democracy Action worked with other advocacy groups, including the Women's March, Ultraviolet and NARAL, to urge supporters to flood the capital, Epps-Addison said.
"Once we knew the hearings were going to happen, we started putting out a call through our networks, and regular folks who know the impact this will have on their lives started raising their hands and saying, 'I’m coming,'" Epps-Addison said. "We’ve had people carpooling and caravanning to get here."
Rachel O'Leary Carmona, chief operating officer of the Women's March, confirmed that her group had coordinated a plan to disrupt the hearings. That included offering lodging to traveling  protesters and "jail and bail support" if necessary.
"Folks realize we’re at an inflection point as a country," she said. "The disruptions will continue all week, and the escalated tactics, as it pertains to this hearing, are not an isolated incident."
My friend Paul works with Housing Works and the Center for Popular Democracy.  When I saw him in August in DC, he told me about the plans for the battle over the hearings:

Here's what the fight for the ACA taught us last year: WHEN WE UNITE, WE WIN! Republicans are pushing hard to confirm Brett Kavanaugh fast -- even before his records from his time in the Bush administration are released -- because they know that he's dangerously right-wing and out of step with the American people. Confirmation hearings begin September 4, and we're going to stand up and fight for health care, reproductive justice, for marriage equality, for workplace and environmental laws, against dark money in politics, and for a fairer, more equitable Court that reflects modern law and the will of country. JOIN FOR ANY OR ALL DAYS. BRING YOUR SQUAD AND SAVE OUR COURT! #BrettBye # DefendRoe #WomenDisobey

After word about the first day’s hearings got out, our president did his best to confirm his reputation as a fan of authoritarian thinking, declaring that protests should be illegal. 

“I don’t know why they don’t take care of a situation like that,” Trump said. “I think it’s embarrassing for the country to allow protesters. You don’t even know what side the protesters are on…In the old days, we used to throw them out. Today, I guess they just keep screaming.”
The theme would continue all day, with Bob Woodward and even members of his own staff suggesting the president is more of a supporter of autocratic leaders than democratic traditions. He is in the midst of a constitutional crisis which is eroding our democratic institutions.  And this is certainly not a time for him to nominating people to the country’s highest courts.  

While many of my friends took the bus to DC on Monday, I had policy class on Tuesday night.  So I stayed in town and left for DC the next day at 3 AM to get in line for the 930 AM hearings.

My friend Barbara joined me, coming straight from a trip abroad.

Driving through the night, we chatted and listened to old Wings CD’s, Silly Love Songs, getting ready.

Arriving in DC, Babs and I walked over to the Senate Office Building where activists were lined up at First and C.

“Good,” texted Jennifer Flynn, when I told her I was coming.  Paul, Michael and all the Center for Popular Democracy folks were there.  The first wave of activists to go inside was upfront.

Babs and I talked about things we’d say if got into the hearings:

“This is a sham!” ? 

“You have like five seconds to scream what you have to say,” noted Sarah, of the Women’s March Wisconsin.

She was drawing, “We Dissent” on peoples’ hands.  “Vote No!”

The day before she had been one of the 70 people arrested inside, declaring:

“Senators, I demand you vote no.  You don’t have what you need to make up your decision.  Do your job.  This hearing is a sham.”  She paused. “Or something like that.”

How about: “No Garland No Peace!” 

That’s good, she followed.

But it’s a little esoteric.

Standing in line we talked about Kennedy, who was appointed when I was in high school.

“My grandkids are going to have less rights than I do,” noted a young woman standing in line with us.

I don’t see women going back.  I just don’t.

“Whenever you hear someone talking about what we should do if it got to… tell em it has gotten to that.  Kids are being deported.  US citizens are losing their rights, being departed.”

Standing there, Michael Kink walked up to us.

“The majority do not want Kavanaugh,” he explained. “He’s at a 38% approval rating.  He could not run for office with that.

I asked him why he was here.  Obviously because of his support for women.  But he conceded: “I’m from Chicago.  Its very familiar.  You see mob bosses caught up in the law. They try to fix their cases. This is the corrupt mob boss trying to influence his own trial, like the Gambino crime family.  That’s what Trumps doing.  It took Bush three years to get him approved.  He’s not comfortable answering questions.  He’s going to do Trump’s work.”

Standing there, the line started to move.  Those committing civil disobedience formed groups.  And slowly, we made our way inside for the hearing. 

A group of women dressed like the slaves in the Handmaid’s tale lined up in front of the court room, highlighting what kind of dystopian world we could live in if women no longer had control of their bodies. It’s a blurry odd world we live in now. “I don’t want to look at something that determines me so completely,” wrote Margaret Atwood.

Standing in line to go into the hearing reporters were mulling about.  I practice my soundbite.

Christine Ingles was standing by me.  We’ve been through these actions before.  She recalled the actions before the tax overhaul vote last winter. “I saw the Sargent at Arms walking up to us. ‘There are other ways to do this,’ he said to us as we started protesting the vote.  Like what I said.  We’re written letters, lobbied, everything.  We have every right to be there.  This hall is because Dolley Madison wanted us to be able to talk to our senators.”  Our conversation pivoted to Kavanaugh.  “When asked about what’s most important to him, he said: ‘Family, bible and the constitution.’  We’re a secular country.  There is a reason for that.  The Churches of England and France were too powerful.  Pence is putting up people who want religion over the constitution.  This is his dream.  The country’s institutions are being dismembered one by one – the EPA, HUD, and now the courts – one at a time.”

We started to walk into the hearing room.  Looking around Grassley and Kavanaugh were talking. Reporters were everywhere.  And we put our hands up in the air showing the words, ‘we dissent.’ 

Within a few seconds, three police grabbed me declaring, 'you are arrested'. I started to bellow: 'This is about democracy, not the mafia. you were appointed by a criminal. Don’t do his business.' before it was over they had pulled me out of there, coming close to throwing me to the ground.

Out in the hall, I heard others screaming. And more commotion.

“You are gaslighting the American people,” screamed Marie Well, of Nevada.

“I’m a veteran and a healthcare voter,” Eric Gosh declared as he was being pulled out.

“Defeat Kavanaugh, Save democracy,” screamed Melinda, arrested now for the second day in a row.

“Save Roe, vote No!” Sarah Wolf from Berkeley declared, as she was shoved out of the room. (See picture on the top of this blog.)

We spent the next two hours with handcuffs on.

You were good a couple of women pointed out, smiling.

Was I loud enough?


I talked with people from all over the country who had come to make sure their voices were heard, who worried about our tilt to the right.

We talked about what might happen if Roe is overturned. 

The decision will go to the states.  But that’s not Roe, noted Wolf, weary that poorer women would have less access to contraceptives and family planning, with criminalization of poverty increasing and access to healthcare decreasing, especially if the Texas case moves to a newly rightward tilting supreme court.

My friend Barbara was eventually let out of jail.  Senator Durbin was questioning Kavanaugh about his inconsistent answers as we drove home.  Some would call this perjury.  And an anonymous White House staffer posted a letter to the NewYork Times declaring the president “erratic” and “amoral.”  Now this president is nominating judges for lifetime posts.  No wonder the hearings are a bit chaotic.

We’re just a vote or two away from stopping this. 

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