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Kavanaugh and sexual assault accusations spark protests

September 25, 2018

Women across the nation staged protests, Yale Law School students held sit-ins and opposing sides appeared set on a nasty collision course Monday as the fast-moving debate on sexual assault and Brett Kavanaugh picked up even more speed.

President Donald Trump and the Republican leadership seemed intent on pushing ahead and securing Kavanaugh’s lifetime appointment to the U.S. Supreme Court before the midterm elections in November.

In Washington, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Kavanaugh, 53, was the target of a cynical “smear campaign.”

The president dismissed the growing accusations, including the recollection of a drunken Yale University dorm party where Kavanaugh, a freshman during 1983-84, allegedly exposed himself to a female classmate, Deborah Ramirez, reported in The New Yorker magazine.

“Senate Democrats and their allies are trying to destroy a man’s personal and professional life on the basis of decades-old allegations that are unsubstantiated and uncorroborated,” McConnell said.

Women’s rights advocates charged that Kavanaugh’s alleged sexual assault and harassment incidents scarred the female victims for decades.

A third woman from Kavanaugh’s prep school days, represented by Michael Avenatti, the lawyer for Stormy Daniels, the porn star who was allegedly paid off after an affair with Trump, is expected to emerge in coming days. Avenatti told the Associated Press that she is prepared to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Kavanaugh denied all the claims.

“I will not be intimidated into withdrawing from the process,” Kavanaugh wrote to the Judiciary Committee.

At the United Nations in New York, Trump said he remained in support of his nominee, and questioned the motives of the lawyers representing the accusers whose complaints date back to high school and college.

“I am with him all the way,” Trump said of his nominee.

Law students speak out

The issue spilled into Connecticut when more than 260 Yale law students staged a sit-in in the lobby of the Sterling Law Building in the heart of the historic New Haven campus.

“I think Yale Law School, as an institution and as an administration, has an obligation to speak out on behalf of legal process and the rule of law,” said Catherine McCarthy, a third-year student.

Briana Clark, a second-year student, called for a fuller review of Kavanaugh’s background.

“I’m sitting in because I oppose the unfair and inexcusable process by which Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination has been rushed through the Senate,” said Briana Clark, a second-year student. “I think it shows how imperative it is that we adequately investigate the allegations against him.”

Yale has a long tradition of students and faculty engaging in important current events, Yale Law School Dean Heather Gerken said.

“As dean, I cannot take a position on the nomination,” Gerken said. “But I am so proud of the work our community is doing to engage with these issues.”

The students were joined by U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, who spoke to the students in the lobby.

“There is no way the U.S. Senate can vote on this nomination without a full, fair investigation by the FBI as soon as possible and an opportunity for the sexual assault survivors to be heard,” Blumenthal said. “There must also be a hearing where other witnesses and other evidence can be presented.”

Later in the day, during an event with 115 Yale Law students in Washington, Blumenthal predicted that Kavanaugh’s nomination could be dead and that it “seems to be unraveling in real time.”

Lunchtime protests

Across the nation, women donned black and took to the streets at 1 p.m. Monday to show support for Kavanaugh’s accusers, many holding signs that read “We Believe You” and #believesurvivors.

In Stamford, for instance, the staff at the Center for Sexual Assault Crisis Counseling and Education took to Summer Street for the walkout which was co-hosted by a number of organizations, including the Connecticut Alliance to End Sexual Violence.

Last week, Christine Blasey Ford said Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her during a high school party, a blockbuster charge at a time when Senate Republicans were hoping to schedule a vote on the nominee.

“I can’t understand why Republicans are pressing ahead,” said U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy in Washington. “These allegations are serious. I don’t see why people would not believe Dr. Ford, given all she’s gone through.”

Ned Lamont, the Democratic candidate for governor, seized the moment to demand that his Republican opponent, Bob Stefanowski, announce his positions on health and reproductive issues that he has studiously avoided.

During a conference call with reporters, Lamont, joined by officials from CT NOW, NARAL and the Women’s March, hypothesized that if asked about the issue “my hunch” is that Stefanowski would say “It’s all about the economy, next question.”

Stefanowski, in a statement, said that as the father of three daughters, opposing sexual assault is important.

“Allegations of sexual assault should be taken seriously,” he said. “It is important that all parties come forward and I am hopeful that their stories will be heard in the coming days.”

Ed Stannard, Dan Freedman, Erin Kayata and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

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