Demonstrators rallied at City Hall Plaza in Boston Monday to demand that Senators reject Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanuagh’s bid for a seat on the nation’s highest court, citing decades-old sexual assault and misconduct allegations leveled at the appellate judge.
Protesters began converging shortly before 10 a.m. on the plaza, where Arizona Senator Jeff Flake, a key figure in the nomination battle, was slated to appear later in the day as part of the Forbes Under 30 Summit. The rally ended around 11:30 a.m.
Chants of “hey, hey, ho, ho, Kavanaugh has got to go” and “The people united, will never be defeated,” as well as “when I say Kava, you say no” shortly before the speaking portion of the event was slated to begin.
Erin Swauger, an Emerson College senior and one of the student organizers of the rally, told the crowd that she was “honored to be a part of this movement” and “honored to fight for survivors everywhere.” She said demonstrators were raising “a voice against Brett Kavanaugh.”
“He is unhinged, he does not deserve to serve the American people, and he does not deserve a lifetime appointment,” she said.
Her words were echoed by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a Boston University graduate who stunned New York’s political establishment with her recent Democratic primary victory over a powerful incumbent in that state.
Ocasio-Cortez said sexual assault is an “abuse of power” and one of the most “serious, serious” allegations that a public servant can face.
“It is [targeted at] the young, it is the interns, it is the immigrants, it is the trans,” Ocasio-Cortez said.
Noting that Anita Hill and Christine Blasey Ford had to provide their accounts of sexual harassment and assault to mostly male Senate panels, Ocasio-Cortez said, “Can you imagine if Brett Kavanaugh had to sit before of a panel of 11 women of color deciding his fate?”
She also issued a warning to lawmakers nationwide who protect perpetrators: “We will end your career by electing survivors to office.”
Another speaker, Boston City Councilor Ayanna Pressley, a Democratic congressional candidate who’s also a sexual assault survivor, thanked the women who confronted Flake in an elevator in the Senate building on Friday. Pressley also maintained that Kavanaugh is not entitled to a lifetime appointment on the Supreme Court.
Pressley said she’s being advised to avoid coming across as an “angry black woman” on the campaign trail.
“Well, I am angry,” she said. “And I am outraged. Because this is outrageous!”
Olympic figure skater Adam Rippon also spoke and told Flake to “vote no on Kavanaugh” when the full Senate decides on the nomination. Rippon also reminded the crowd to “Go and vote” in the midterms.
As speakers addressed the crowd, some demonstrators held signs that depicted Kavanaugh’s face and the words, “Kava Nope.” Others held placards emblazoned with the words “Kava NO” and “end rape culture,”
Three women have recently accused Kavanaugh of sexual assault and misconduct dating back to his high school and college years, allegations he’s adamantly denied.
Swauger said during an earlier interview Monday that the rally was “a reminder to [Flake] that this is a really big decision.”
She said “there are a lot of survivors, a lot of women, a lot of people across the country that are relying on [Flake’s] vote. So this is to make sure he understands the power and the impact of what he can do.”
Annie Noel, 19, an Emerson sophomore and another student organizer of the protest, said advocates will “continue to press” Flake on his actions.
“[Flake] actually said yesterday that if Kavanaugh was proven to be lying, that he would not vote for him. Kavanaugh did lie,” Noel said. “We want the results that he is promising.”
An emotional Victoria Kichuke, 34, of Belmont, held a sign that said “Liars and Conspiracy Theorists have no place on the SCOTUS.”
“To see someone like [Kavanaugh accuser] Dr. Ford stand up, who was so clearly terrified of what she was about to do, because there was no upside for her - she did it because she is a citizen and she felt this exceptional duty to do her duty as a citizen and it was so powerful and uncomfortable to watch,” Kichuke said. “If she can do something like that I can come and hold a sign and use my voice and my physical presence to do what I can.”
Another demonstrator, Anne Josephson, 66, held a sign that said “Truth Matters.”
“I find it appalling how resistant the Republicans have been to getting to the bottom of this,” Josephson said. “I find it appalling that the Republicans have hidden Judge Kavanaugh’s record. It deprives the Senate of their constitutional responsibility to advise and consent and the restrictions that are currently being placed on this FBI investigation make me very concerned that what the White House is doing is simply turning this into a fig leaf. I just think it’s important to come out and let politicians know how people feel. It’s a genuine concern.”
Flake’s visit to Boston comes after he was thrust into the national spotlight Friday when news cameras captured two sex assault victims tearfully confronting him in an elevator on Capitol Hill before a crucial committee vote on Kavanaugh’s nomination. Those were the same women whom Pressley thanked during Monday’s rally.
Earlier Friday, Flake had issued a statement saying he would back Kavanaugh. But when he voted to move the Kavanaugh nomination out of the Senate Judiciary Committee after the elevator confrontation, he said his full support in the Senate would be contingent upon the completion of a limited FBI investigation into sexual assault allegations against the judge.
Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh was also among the attendees at Monday’s rally. He stood with protesters around 10:20 a.m., high-fiving them and shaking hands.
“Today we’re sending a message to the U.S. Senate: we’re paying attention, and we will stand up for what is right,” Walsh tweeted. “We believe survivors of sexual assault, and we stand alongside them. Brett Kavanaugh and Jeff Flake, listen to the American people. #BelieveSurvivors #StopKavanaugh.”
The location for Flake’s Boston remarks had to be moved from an Emerson theater, amid security concerns due to Flake’s high-profile role in Kavanaugh’s confirmation proceedings.
The protest on the plaza ended with a choir’s stirring rendition of “I Can’t Keep Quiet,” a ballad that has become a popular rallying cry of the #MeToo movement.
Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly described the gender makeup of the Senate panel questioning Christine Blasey Ford.Meghan E. Irons and Michael Levenson of the Globe Staff contributed to this report. Travis Andersen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @TAGlobe.