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Protest, rally mark local reaction to Kavanaugh hearings

September 29, 2018

Debate and protests over the controversial confirmation hearing of Judge Brett Kavanaugh continued Friday in the Twin Cities, ranging from a street gathering of about 75 people in Minneapolis to 450 attendees of a sex abuse conference in St. Paul.

Drivers of cars, semi-trucks and buses honked their horns around noon as protesters held signs and chanted in front of Sen. Amy Klobuchars office on Washington Avenue in downtown Minneapolis.

Slogans on the signs included No SCOTUS for sexual predators (referring to the Supreme Court of the United States) and July 1, 1982, Timmys House, a reference to the place Kavanaugh is alleged to have assaulted Christine Blasey Ford.

Diana Schansberg wanted to add her voice of disapproval to Kavanaughs potential confirmation for the Supreme Court. She called the Senate confirmation hearings a sham.

What is Kavanuagh covering up? she said.

Lee Johansen said that he had never seen anything so disgusting as the televised hearings, and added that he was disappointed in Republican senators for not taking a stand against Kavanaugh.

I didnt think Kavanaugh was the right choice before the allegations became public, he said.

Mark Osler, a former Yale Law School classmate of Kavanaughs and a University of St. Thomas law professor who backed his nomination in an August letter to lawmakers, wasnt at the protest. But he said Thursdays hearing reaffirmed his belief that the FBI must conduct an investigation, which President Donald Trump ordered later in the day.

Osler called for such an investigation earlier this week, along with two others among 23 of Kavanaughs Yale Law classmates who signed the August letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Osler said he found Ford credible, while Kavanaughs testimony made him question the judges impartiality and temperament.

The raw anger he displayed and the way he treated our senator, Amy Klobuchar, was disturbing, he said.

Osler said he worried that Kavanaughs confirmation would place the Supreme Court as an institution under a cloud, even though Kavanaugh would be a junior member working with fellow justices.

Injured people with power are sometimes dangerous, he said.

But Lyman Johnson, another St. Thomas law professor who signed a separate letter in August backing the nomination, said he continued to support Kavanaugh. He said he was disappointed to see two Republican senators, Jeff Flake of Arizona and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, say Friday they would not vote for Kavanaughs confirmation on the Senate floor without an FBI investigation announcements that were instrumental in Trumps decision to order a follow-up investigation.

The Judiciary Committee investigates, and it already did so, including at the hearing Thursday, he said.

Triumph of the truth

While people showed their support for Ford in Minneapolis, her story was a hot topic at a child sex abuse conference in St. Paul.

The conference, part of the Zero Abuse Project started by the law firm of Jeff Anderson and Associates, included breakout sessions about how advocates, attorneys, teachers and social workers can deal with a survivors trauma, the role of faith leaders in the healing process and trauma in the welfare system.

Anderson, a nationally-recognized attorney in the sex abuse field who recently helped survivors reach a $210 million abuse settlement with the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, talked about the family of a boy molested by a priest that started the lawsuit 35 years ago. When family members informed the archdiocese, they received a check for $1,500.

Survivors sharing stories is triumph of the truth, he said.

Anderson asked people in the room to come up on stage to stand in support of Ford. Dozens filed up.

Every time somebody stands up, we know another person is protected, he said.

One of those standing was Joelle Casteix, an author and advocate who was abused as a child. She said no victim would want to be grilled like Ford was during the hearing, that it might scare others from coming forward.

Nancy Wiltgen, a university teacher, was more optimistic. Despite all Ford went through, Wiltgen said, she showed grace under pressure and should inspire victims to seek help or tell their stories.

At least one local sex abuse advocacy group wasnt sure if Fords action had created an uptick in calls. But Colleen Schmitt, director of programs and the 24-hour crisis line for Minneapolis-based Cornerstone, said that call volume has been up the entire year.

In general, more people are aware that help is out there and a listening ear, she said.

dchanen@startribune.com 612-673-4465 mila.koumpilova@startribune.com 612-673-4781

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