Nine women in West Virginia were arrested early Tuesday morning after staging a daylong sit-in at Democratic Senator Joe Manchin’s campaign office. The protesters were demanding Manchin vote “no” on Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, who has been accused of sexual assault and misconduct by three women.
Throughout the day, the protesters—many of whom said they are survivors of sexual assault—broadcast their sit-in on Facebook and shared their stories as well as stories submitted to them from supporters from across the country.
“Today I’m taking my voice back,” said Sarah Starks, a protestor who occupied Manchin’s office throughout the day. “I will not be silent. I cannot accept this reality. I couldn’t stop my roommate from sexually assaulting me. I couldn’t stop my daughter from being born under a man who brags about sexual assault. But I will do everything I can to stop my daughter from growing up under a Supreme Court Justice who has had multiple women bravely come forward to tell their stories of how he sexually assaulted them.”
West Virginia Public Broadcasting reports that Manchin released a brief statement yesterday afternoon that acknowledged the Kavanaugh controversy and gave meager lip service to survivors of sexual violence, but ignored acknowledgement of his constituents staging an act of civil disobedience on his own turf:
“I will continue to listen to all West Virginians on the Supreme Court nomination of Brett Kavanaugh, and, just like all big issues, I will look at the facts and my decision will be based on the facts,” Manchin said in a statement from his campaign just before 4 p.m Monday.
“No man can understand the trauma that women experience from a sexual assault. My heart goes out to the brave survivors who have the courage to come forward and share their story,” he added.
Later that night, Manchin’s campaign released another statement: “After working all day in Washington, Senator Manchin took time tonight to speak with the all of the protesters by phone and listen to their stories and views on Brett Kavanaugh.”
The campaign added that Manchin will decide on Kavanaugh after the FBI investigate the claims made against him.
Police were called soon after their protest began yesterday afternoon, but apparently didn’t take action until past midnight. The women were escorted out of the building at approximately 12:45 a.m., according to a statement from the group behind the protest, Vote With West Virginia Women.
“We do not want anyone arrested and will continue to have civil conversations about Judge Kavanaugh’s confirmation, but it’s now midnight and our staff has the right to be respected also,” the Manchin campaign said in a statement.
When Betsy Forrester, a retired electrician and grandmother, was detained, she made a statement directly to Manchin: “I believe women deserve respect. Senator Manchin, show you agree and vote no to Brett Kavanaugh. If you don’t, I will not have it in my conscience to vote for you this November.”