Friday, October 5, 2018

We will not silenced! #BelieveSurvivors, #Women Disobey Action against Kavanaugh! October 4th

Demonstrators gather on Capitol Hill in Washington DC on 4 October. Photograph: Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images from The Guardian — withBenjamin Heim ShepardEmily Patton and Lizz Goldstein.

This writer with Ilyse Hogue, of NARAL NARAL Pro-Choice America and my old high school.
We believe survivors #cancelKavanaugh CPD Action Women's March Housing Works Inc.
 — withKen Schles,Erin Maloney and Benjamin Heim Shepard.Image may contain: 8 people, including Jenny Heinz, people smiling, people standing and outdoor
Image may contain: one or more people, beard and outdoor
Image may contain: 4 people, including Lisa Fithian, people standing
Image may contain: 4 people, text
The Rise and Resist Crew by Diane Greene Lent.
I wanted to share my favorite photo that I took from yesterday. Im still in awe at how amazing all of you are. No matter what happens, we have each other.
Like a lot of people, I spent the week obsessing about the Kavanaugh hearings, wondering his inconsistent testimony, the deceptions about his legacy status at Yale, high school drinking age age. On Wednesday morning, I put on a tie my dad used to wear to court.
“Don’t lie. But don’t ever lie under oath,” he said to me over and over again.  “It will catch up with you.”
Would it catch up with Kavanaugh in his nomination fight?
No one was sure.
We certainly were not optimistic about the FBI inquiry.
All we had faith in was our capacity to remind the world that there was a better way.
On Wednesday, I decided to go to DC on Thursday for the next #CancelKavanaugh action by Center for Popular Democracy and Housing Works:

On Friday, October 5, the full Senate may vote on confirming Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. We’re ready to take action when that happens, and in the days leading up to it. Since the summer, we’ve trained over 1000 women in direct action and civil disobedience — all to prepare for outrageous moments like this. Moments when we have no choice but to disobey.
The bus will be leaving Brooklyn at promptly 5:00 am and leave Washington DC at 6:00 pm on Thursday 10/4.

All week, my friends and I talked about the stories we’d been hearing in DC, the narratives from students and friends, reflecting on our histories, and the history of sexual violence.

As my friend Virginia put it:

Virginia Vitzthum I know most of the people on this page already know this, but these actions are so powerful in every sense of the word. 1. (and some people would say this is the only point) they swayed Flake and maybe staffers of other on-the-fence Senators. 2. The rage and pent-up years of silence broken and love among the survivors testifying in the Senate offices is a tsunami. Woman after woman says, "I was 13, I was 12, I was 18, I was 16" and then "Nobody believed me" "I didn't tell because I knew nobody would believe me." Women's truth is becoming just truth, and anyone with a shred of conscience left sees that. Get on the bus and be part of history!

My friend, the photographer Ken Schles has been arrested five times fighting the Kavanaugh nomination. A father, he wondered:
What do I tell my daughter if Brett Kavanaugh is elevated to the Supreme Court? What do we tell the survivors of rape and abuse when the most powerful court in the land has two Justices that have escaped the consequences for their sexual abuse and harassment? What do I tell my daughter if she asks me what kind of country do we live in when it’s led by a serial sex offender? Or why his lies and abuse are cheered on by rich men who pursue wealth and power and privilege when the needs of so many go wanting?
What do we tell the workers when their protections have been stripped? What do we do when the environment is opened to unbridled corporate exploitation—when the seas inundate the shores and the fires burn? What do I tell her when the seas are dying and the dead wash up upon the shore? What do I tell her when her government refuses to protect her?
.What do I tell my daughter when I cannot protect her, what do I tell my daughter then?
.What do I tell my daughter when people in power are uninterested in finding truth or heeding the warnings of scientists in pursuit of money and power? What do I tell my daughter when her government is uninterested in protecting her, her needs, her body or her future ?.
What do I tell my daughter when men control her body?

The conversation was part of my teaching all week.
After class Wednesday, people gathered at Borough Hall in Brooklyn for a speak-out:
Come together Wednesday in community to #stopkavanaugh and support survivors. Kavanaugh has shown that he is hostile to women—from his record against women's health and autonomy to his record against workplace protections to the sexual assault allegations against him to the anger he displayed to female U.S. senators. Kavanaugh has shown that he has no credibility: He has lied repeatedly in confirmation hearings spanning two decades, and he lied again in his testimony regarding Dr. Christine Blasey Ford's credible allegation of sexual assault. Now is the time for all of us to come together and tell our senators to believe women and stop Kavanaugh this week—and to show the country that women, and all of us, will hold Republicans accountable on November 6.
I got up the next morning at 4 AM to catch the bus to DC.
As I was sleeping, Robert Reich observed:
[T]he White House announced that the FBI has completed its investigation into sexual assault allegations against Kavanaugh. But the FBI was instructed to do a limited investigation, and agents were not allowed to interview dozens of people who could provide additional information, including Kavanaugh and Dr. Christine Blasey Ford themselves. The report has now been delivered to the Senate, where Mitch McConnell is only allowing senators to view it in a secure location. He also refuses to release the findings—and what little information they might offer—to the public. Before the investigation was even complete, McConnell began the process for a vote on Kavanaugh. If this isn't a sham investigation, I don't know what is. In less than a week, Trump, McConnell, and Kavanaugh have managed to make a mockery of the Senate, the FBI, and the Supreme Court. Beyond that, this charade is an insult to the women of America.
It's clear that the GOP will stop at nothing to secure Kavanaugh's confirmation, despite the mounting charges of Kavanaugh's sexual abuse and misconduct. You and I both know that we have to win this fight—the fight for the Supreme Court, the outcome of which will affect us and future generations.
I met everyone on Flatbush Avenue in Brooklyn.  Veterans from Housing Works and countless other CPD actions were there. Eileen, who I got arrested with the week before, a few students from Bard College, even a few TV reporters anxious to cover the story. Elaine said this was a line in the sand for her. Its my simple message that democracy requires engaged bodies, petitioning the government for redress of grievances.
On the bus, we hear the FBI investigation did not included key witnesses. 
It was a sham, people start to declare on the internet.
Like most actions, this is a story of clashing narratives, with stories of those who feel women need to be heard intersecting with those who maintain power through silence and silencing.
“It doesn’t matter, the witches will kill Donald Trump,” note some of the college kids riding with us, seemingly referring to the Women’s International Terrorist Conspiracy from Hell, a 1970’s era direct action group that put hexes on politicos.
The Bard students are making signs for the action.  “For my friends,” declares one. “Its for all my friends who can’t be here. All the women I know on campus have dealt  with sexual assault. This affects them all.  I’m here for all of them!”
Several of the students had to call in to tell their profs they were missing class. I told them I could write letters if they were getting any grief. The professor of my Holocaust resistance class is not happy I’m missing class noted one student.  But this is fighting fascism I tell her.  What would be more important, fighting for democracy or sitting in a class talking about it?  The ironies are many.
By 1030 AM, we arrive at Liason Hotel. Eric, who I got arrested with two weeks ago is there.  He tells me the scenario for the day, a march and then a sit in on Constitution Ave. There will be thousands of us.
Walking inside the conference room, Lisa Fithian, the iconic direct-action trainer, is speaking.
Everyone has a role to play, she explains. As Rumi says: Let the beauty we love be what we do. There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground.
She walks us through the plan for arrest on the steps of the Capital building.
We believed Anita Hill, We believe Christina Ford, we chant.
Mitch McConnell, the man who sat on Obama’s nominee Merrick Garland, just called for cloture. There will be two votes. One for cloture on Friday, on Saturday, thirty hours later the real vote.
This is about inviting people to participate in direct action, Lisa explained. People from East to West, South to North have come.  They want to burn us out, for us to be exhausted. But we are none of these things.  We are fighting. We are here to fight and to risk a civil disobedience arrest.  I am grateful you are here.  We are the hope that this country needs. Our goal is to block Kavanaugh.  Another is to record that people opposed this. They did all they could. We were not silenced
In terms of civil disobedience, this is not rocket science. You’ll be fine. Many are coming from across the US.  This may be a moment, but its also a movement. Our first stop is the Constitution Courthouse where Kavanaugh works. From there, we’ll march through the Mall to the Supreme Court and then to the steps of the US Capital, where it is illegal to stand without a permit and they do not give permits. Just being there is an act of civil disobedience. They’ll push back.  We are encouraging lots of people to be there.  We’ll do speak outs. Then we’ll be sitting down. The government maintains its power through our cooperation.  We do not have to cooperate.  Here we reclaim our bodies and our lives. Buy time. Ask the police to ask for consent before they touch your body.  I’m gonna take a stand so I sat down, declared Rosa Parks. Kavanaugh is not just coming for women.  He’s coming for everybody.  He’s going after all of our rights. As long as you participate non-violently, you can expect a post and forfeit and a $50.00 ticket.
Linda Sarsour from Women's March followed, reminding us that this is about love and resistance.  If anyone tries to take us out of that mindset, ignore them.  This is about love. It was useful advise.  Trump supporters tracked her all day, hurling insults about her, questioning treatment of women by Islam.
Walking out of the training, I ran into Lisa again.  This is going to be great, I commented. She agreed. Its imperative to reclaim our humanity, our joy.
Friends from all my activist communities were there. Folks from Greenpeace were taking legal information.  The Woman’s March, coordinating the CD.
Kate and I chatted for a bit.  Michael Kink and I went back and forth about the vote.  At first we agreed, it was looking ok for us. But then he heard that the Senators from Maine and Arizona like the FBI report. Groan I thought.
I started feeling down.
Leaving, many were feeling grim.
Vote them out, we chanted, as we marched.  Vote them out.
Whose courts? Our courts!!!
The sun started seeping energy out of me as we walked and the speeches began.
A few of the speeches at the Supreme Court addressed the issue of sexual assault.
“Lisa Murkowski, I’m a survivor.  You’d better believe survivors.”
“Senator Flake, do you believe rape survivors matter?  Do you believe survivors?”
A Kavanaugh supporter taunted Linda Sarsour as the woman  spoke.
Please stop screaming in my ear, I say to him.
People try to wave me off.
Stop they insist.
The provoking works.
I walk to sit down by my friend LAK.
She’s a little down.
So am I.
The feeling of gloom and the hot sun is a lot to endure.
We’re not going back, people scream.
We’re not going back.
Laurie, Alexis, Jenny, Anne and others from Rise and Resist are grumbling about the speeches, which seem to be draining the energy from the crowd.
At a certain point, Michael Kink, whose been through hundreds of these actions, faints in the sun.
Heidi is voting no, a speaker announces. “No!”
Heidi Heitkamp will vote against Judge Kavanaugh 
Lets move, we’re losing people, Laurie insists.
We need to move, note a couple of women from the bus.
We need to move.
The speakers are preaching to the converted. They have to stop.
We get word that the police have cordoned off the capital.
Go to plan B.
There is no plan B.
Lets go to the Atrium inside the senate office building.
Inside I run into my friend Ilyse Hogue of NARAL, the first person I know who ever said think globally, act locally back in our Vassar days.
Amy Schumer is greeting people.
And Lisa welcomes everyone to express themselves.
People start waving from the atrium.
And we scream back at the moment.
We’re not sure how the vote is going to go.
Few are optimistic.
Still, we insist over and over again:
We believe survivors!
No justice, no peace.
No justice, no peace!
The mood elevates.
Holy rage and joy fills the room, as our voices rise.
Hundreds of us there, screaming with our full throats at the senate and history:
We believed Anita then, we believe Christina now!
This is what democracy looks like.    q
I’m terrified for democracy, for the climate, for a fair impartial judiciary.
But I know I believe survivors.
We all do.
The world is changing in countless ways.
Some 622 of us are arrested.
It’s perhaps the largest civil disobedience I’ve ever taken part in.
I’m going to do this my whole life, declares one of the Bard kids, smiling.
I usually support environmental causes, but this was huge she insists.
The world needs us.
The numbers were smaller than this summer but the anger larger concluded LAK and Kate, during jail support.
The holy rage is there. But so is the love for everyone involved.
We are not going back.

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