All was not quiet on the East Front of the Capitol on Thursday.
As a Supreme Court nominee and his accuser prepared to testify at a Senate Judiciary hearing, hundreds of protesters milled and marched around the Capitol grounds.
“Dr. Blasey taught me regression analysis. I see you, senators,” one sign read.
Another supporter of Christine Blasey Ford — the psychology professor who says Brett Kavanaugh tried to rape her in high school — pointed to the results of a polygraph test. “Lie detectors don’t lie, but apparently judges do,” the sign read.
Senate Buildings Crowded With Protests For and Against Kavanaugh as Blasey Ford Testifies
The earliest action started in front of the Supreme Court around 8 a.m. A sporadic drizzle didn’t stop protesters from turning out for an anti-Kavanaugh march organized by the National Organization for Women. In a nod to the color Anita Hill wore when she testified before an all-male Senate Judiciary panel in 1991, the group donned teal shirts.
“Whose steps? Our steps,” they chanted.
As the group marched toward the Dirksen Senate Office Building, where attendees of the high-stakes hearing were already taking their seats, passing cars honked their horns.
They converged on a rally organized by conservative groups in support of Trump’s pick.
“Saint Michael, defend Kavanaugh in battle,” one sign read.
Another sign, in rainbow letters: “Stop the circus, hold the vote.”
As “God Bless America” played in the background, an argument erupted between a bicyclist and several Kavanaugh supporters.
Penny Young Nance, president and CEO of Concerned Women of America, spoke in favor of Trump’s Supreme Court pick. That doesn’t make her an enemy of #MeToo, she told the crowd. “The #MeToo moment is important,” she said, adding that it was another woman who came to her aid when she was attacked by a stranger while running in Virginia.
Inside the Senate office buildings, anti-Kavanaugh demonstrations swelled. Hundreds filled the atrium of the Hart Building, wearing black and standing with fists raised.
A few women wore the long red robes and white bonnets of “The Handmaid’s Tale.”
A hush fell over the crowd as roughly 20 Holton-Arms alumnae joined in a circle and sang the school’s alma mater song, until Capitol Police quieted them. Officers were stationed around the atrium with zip ties at the ready in case of arrests.
Holton-Arms is the private high school that Ford attended when Kavanaugh was at neighboring Georgetown Prep. Last week thousands of former students from the all-girls school sent a letter in support of Ford and called on fellow alumna Sen. Shelley Moore Capito to sign on.
Kate Chlopak and Maddie McCormick, both seniors at Holton-Arms, used excused absences to come to Capitol Hill and show support for Ford.
“We are extremely proud of her for using her voice and it inspires us to use ours,” Chlopak said. Her mother worked on Capitol Hill years ago and secured a staff pass to watch Ford’s testimony. A group of students took turns using the pass, each watching a portion of the proceedings.
While many of the protesters came on their own, others were organized by left-leaning activist groups including the Women’s March and UltraViolet.
“We don’t want a rapist in the highest possible power,” Women’s March activist Sophie Ellman-Golan said. “We are angry. Rage is powerful.”
Supporters of the nominee, including students from Liberty University, also descended on the atrium. Two layers of Capitol Police separated them from the larger anti-Kavanaugh group. That didn’t stop one woman in a black T-shirt from showing some Concerned Women of America both her middle fingers.
A group photo of the young women from Concerned Women of America … and one response from the anti-Kavanaugh crowd pic.twitter.com/tGWvXw4nuQ
— K Tully-McManus (@ktullymcmanus) September 27, 2018
In the hearing room itself, outside counsel Rachel Mitchell questioned Ford on behalf of the Republican committee members, pressing her on the details of the assault that allegedly occurred at a house party in the early 1980s.
Actress Alyssa Milano was in the audience as a guest of Judiciary ranking member Dianne Feinstein.
Despite the large crowds and police presence, the morning passed without mass arrests of the kind the Capitol saw Monday, when 46 demonstrators were detained outside the office of Republican Sen. Susan Collins, considered a key vote if Kavanaugh’s confirmation reaches the Senate floor.
Linda Sarsour of the Women’s March said Thursday that the group didn’t want to draw attention away from the testimony that was underway in the committee room.
It was Ford’s testimony she wanted to hear, she made clear. “I don’t give a f— what Brett Kavanaugh has to say,” she said, suggesting that civil disobedience and arrests could still be in the cards. “He’s going to lie through his teeth, just like he has been.”
Watch: Anti-Kavanaugh Protesters Swarm Susan Collins’ Office, 46 Arrested