More than 100 students and community members gathered in the Diag Thursday evening to stand with survivors and protest the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court. The rally was one of dozens taking place nationwide, all organized by the group Women’s March.
Thursday morning, the White House announced the FBI had concluded an investigation into accusations of sexual assault and misconduct against Kavanaugh. The investigation was launched following testimony by psychologist Christine Blasey Ford, who asserts Kavanaugh assaulted her at a gathering in the summer of 1982. Ford is one of three women to publicly accuse Kavanaugh of sexual assault or misconduct.
Kavanagh has vehemently denied these accusations, claiming they are a partisan attack on his nomination.
At marches across the country, survivors and allies cried out for justice. Lindsey Brown, a sophomore at Eastern Michigan University, came to Ann Arbor to be a part of the rally.
“I think when we look back we are going to see a clear divide of who was on the right side of history and who was on the side of history that didn’t want to listen to survivors and the people who have been systematically oppressed,” Brown said.
Rally organizers LSA sophomore Michael Briggs, a member of Progressives at the University, and Washtenaw County Commissioner Michelle Deatrick, an organizer of Women’s March Ann Arbor, opened by addressing the trauma of the past week.
“It’s been an emotional, difficult, and in many ways traumatizing week,” Briggs wrote in an email. “This underscores the need for the community (Ann Arbor and the University) to come together to show our emotional support for each other and to organize. We’re proud that the event connected community members to supportive resources, such as SAPAC (Sexual Assault and Prevention Awareness Center), and to multiple organizations that provide ways to protest and resist.”
As a survivor, LSA sophomore Morgan McCaul said this has been an immensely challenging time. She spoke to the crowd at Thursday’s rally, stressing the importance of believing survivors such as Ford, Deborah Ramirez, Julie Swetnick and Anita Hill. McCaul has been an outspoken advocate for survivors’ rights since her powerful impact statement at Larry Nassar’s trial in January.
“We live in a world that systematically oppresses victims who speak up, and we have a responsibility to change that,” McCaul said. “It is time to end victim shaming. It is time to uplift survivors’ voices. It is time to start by believing.”
McCaul was followed by Krystle Rose DuPree, a veteran and sexual assault survivor.
“We are the backbone that can’t be broken,” DuPree said. “The sound that shall not be silenced. We have survived and we are empowered. Our black bodies matter and the amount of someone’s bank account does not determine their worth.”
Alethea Phillips, an indigenous peoples activist, built upon DuPree’s discussion of race and assault, speaking on the varying ways sexual violence manifests itself in different communities. Phillips is a member of the Omaha Tribe of Nebraska and an advocate for missing and murdered indigenous women. One in three Native American women is sexually assaulted in their lifetime — the highest of any ethnic group in the United States.
“I want you all to understand that when we talk about survivors, we mean to talk about survivors everywhere,” Phillips said.
Ypsilanti Township Trustee Monica Ross-Williams and LSA sophomore Dylan Gilbert were also featured speakers. Gilbert, an award-winning slam poet, shared some of her work with the crowded.
Heidi Sproull, an area psychotherapist, educator and survivor, closed out the rally breaking two wooden blocks with the words “Kavanaugh Nomination,” written across them.
In Washington, D.C., protesters were arrested Thursday afternoon for occupying the Hart Senate Office Building. Ann Arbor organizers instructed marchers to remain peaceful following the route outlined by event leaders.
Marchers took to the sidewalk of State Street, chanting in unison, “What do we want? Respect. When do we want it? Now!”
As the group made their way back to the Diag, LSA sophomore Anna Tropiano and Engineering sophomore Emily Bachwich took to the steps of Harlan Hatcher Graduate Library standing arm-in-arm.
Tropiano said she has run into men on campus who think Kavanaugh’s academic achieves make him worthy of “a pass.”
“I came here today to show my support for Dr. Ford and for all survivors and to show that empathy toward them should be our first instinct rather than worrying about a man’s reputation,” Tropiano said.
Engineering freshman Lucas Crumb and Eastern Michigan sophomore Hunter Mellinger came to the rally to stand in solidarity with women and survivors.
“I think it’s important for everyone to stand for women’s rights, no matter if you’re a man, woman or other,” Mellinger said. “This is an important cause that needs to recognized.”
The full Senate is voting on a procedural motion on Kavanaugh’s nomination Friday morning. According to organizers, this rally served a moment to come together before Friday’s events.
“Tonight was a symbolic act of solidarity for Dr. Ford and survivors of all walks of life; I was honored to participate and grateful to the Women’s March and Progressives at Michigan for making space for our stories,” McCaul said.