From hair salons to tailor shops to bars, the riveting testimony Thursday of Christine Blasey Ford and Judge Brett Kavanaugh, the Supreme Court nominee she has accused of sexual assault, transfixed viewers across the city with its raw emotion and sense of history.
From Ford’s anguished allegations of assault to Kavanaugh’s defiant denials of wrongdoing, the high-stakes drama unfolded in one intense scene after another throughout the day.
On Province Street near Boston Common, tailor Richard Papazian quickly repaired a frayed pant leg as Ford spoke on the television in the background. While Ford recounted her painful decision to alert the public about the alleged assault in 1982, Papazian banged the table and murmured under his breath.
“She’s talking so naturally, and it’s not easy,” said Papazian, 57. “She’s out of breath from just telling the story. You can’t take that.”
Papazian said he had been following Kavanaugh’s confirmation process after he heard about the allegations of sexual misconduct against him. The father of a 32-year-old daughter, Papazian said he needed to show Ford whatever support he could.
“I definitely believe her,” he said. “If this happened to my mom or my daughter, I wouldn’t hesitate to support them.”
In the Financial District, minutes after Advantage Hair Salon opened, owner Alexandra Carlis watched from a chair as Ford delivered her opening statement, in which the psychology professor said the alleged assault, at age 15, has affected her life and emotional well-being ever since.
“I don’t think this woman would put her professional life and family in harm’s way unless she believed she was doing what was best for the country,” Carlis said.
She said she was watching the hearing for a simple reason —
all her clients would be talking about it.
At Club Cafe on Columbus Avenue, the lunch crowd was mostly seated at the bar as the Senate hearing played on 12 televisions at once. Swas Balram called Ford heroic, although he said her testimony was painful to watch.
“I feel like she’s reliving trauma,” said Balram, 48, a Wilmington resident who works nearby. “What I don’t understand is what does it take? Why isn’t what she saying valid?”
At The Tam in downtown Boston, bartender Ryan Dalton, 35, said he made sure to get to work on time to watch the hearing. To him, Ford sounded genuine.
Dalton said an inebriated man at the bar called Ford a “liar” and a slur and implied that if the assault did occur, then perhaps she deserved it.
When it was Kavanaugh’s turn, the bartender at Club Cafe announced: “Here we go, round two.”
Seated at the bar, three friends on a layover from Pittsburgh watched the screen carefully as Kavanaugh delivered his opening statement. Lauren Majernik, 28, said Kavanaugh obviously was angry, but that his tears seemed forced.
“It’s more justification,” Majernik said. “He’s trying to look good.”
In a combative opening statement, Kavanaugh denied that he had ever sexually assaulted someone and that “my family and my name have been totally and permanently destroyed by vicious and false accusations.”
“This confirmation process has become a national disgrace,” he said.
Even those who couldn’t find their way to a television did their best to keep up. Walking on the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway in late afternoon, Gregg Baker checked news alerts about the hearing and listened to audio clips from media outlets.
“From what I heard, he doesn’t strike me as believable,” Baker said. “It’s hard for me to say exactly why. He just doesn’t come across as credible or believable to me . . . for a lot of people who engage in this kind of behavior, the approach is deny, deny, deny, deny.
“She came across to me as extraordinarily credible. Something happened to her. I’m a little outraged that the FBI isn’t being allowed to do a full investigation,” Baker said.
Stewart Hennigan sat at Les Zygomates wine bar, watching a stream of the hearing on his phone while Kavanaugh answered questions on a muted television above a largely inattentive gathering.
“It just feels like no one cares,” Hennigan said. “This man could sway the future of the country, and people are just yacking it up.”
Hennigan managed to hear bits and pieces of Ford’s testimony throughout the day, but felt that Kavanaugh’s response was satisfactory at best.
“I mean, he couldn’t say nothing, so he had to defend himself. He wants the job,” he said. “We’ll soon find out if it was enough.”
At nearby South Station, Mary Fleming and Chris Tait sat at the Tavern in the Square bar, sipping IPAs while watching the hearing as masses of midday travelers passed through the concourse.
“They have this poor woman testifying, and it’s just for entertainment,” said Tait, 54. “If they believed her, then we wouldn’t be watching this. Kavanaugh would be out.”
Fleming, 63, covered her mouth as Ford choked back tears during her testimony.
“It’s really disgusting,” she said. “She really has a conscience to be moved to do this.”
Tait and Fleming, who are visiting from England, said they had been following the confirmation process for weeks.
“Christine seems very credible, and she cares what happens to this country,” Fleming said. “You don’t have to be a citizen of this country to respect that.”
In Cambridge, Liz Coffin-Karlin said the confirmation process has highlighted how women often are discredited when they make allegations of sexual misconduct.
Coffin-Karlin, pursuing degrees at the Harvard Kennedy School and Harvard Law School, said she was struck by remarks from Senator Dianne Feinstein, the ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, who stressed that the hearing is a job interview for Kavanaugh, not a trial for Ford.
Coffin-Karlin said she has been a high school teacher and that decisions made by young people should not always define their lives. But at the same time, she said, 17-year-olds choose colleges and make other choices that will influence their lives. More importantly, she said, he never apologized or took responsibility.
For anyone familiar with a college that has a drinking culture, including Harvard, the accusations are not surprising, Coffin-Karlin said.
“To us, in certain ways, the allegations feel more credible,” she said.
At the State House, more than two dozen people, including lawmakers and staff, gathered in the House members lounge, where green leather couches and seats were arranged around a flat-screen television.
Two boxes of coffee and doughnut holes sat largely untouched on a nearby table while the room sat in rapt attention at a viewing organized by the Women’s Legislative Caucus.
Laura Krantz and Matt Stout of the Globe staff and Globe Correspondent Morgan Hughes contributed to this report. Brian MacQuarrie can be reached at email@example.com; Jerome Campbell at firstname.lastname@example.org; and Cristela Guerra at email@example.com.