Portland, ME — On Thursday night, as Maine Republican Susan Collins weighed her vote on Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation to the Supreme Court, around 60 protestors stood in a plaza across the street from her Portland office. They held signs reading “I believe her.” Tourists cut around the outskirts of the crowd. As one very young activist read a prepared statement calling for Collins to reject the culture of female subjugation, a few passing cars honked.
Ruth Alden, a 36-year-old elementary school teacher, said it felt good to be out with other people after listening to every single minute of last week’s hearings. She hoped Collins would vote to be on the “right side of history,” which is why she attended that protest, organized by a coalition that operates under the name Mainers Against Kavanaugh.
It was one of a handful that have taken place here in the week since Dr. Christine Ford testified in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Collins, a moderate in office since 1996, has been fairly tight-lipped about her plans for the confirmation vote. One of three senators who urged the FBI to investigate Ford’s allegations, she has since called the investigation “very thorough” and, on Friday morning, voted to continue with the confirmation process.
She will announce her final vote on Kavanaugh’s confiration at 3:00 p.m. on Friday. In the week leading up to it, local activists have attempted to put pressure on her office, inspired by the woman who publicly shamed Jeff Flake in DC. On Wednesday night, assault survivors delivered 1,000 letters to her Portland office, for the third time this week. An aide was escorted from the office by a cop. A free bus was chartered from Portland to Washington, DC, the same night. Still, the people left in Portland on Thursday didn’t all feel particularly optimistic that Collins was listening as they waved signs and marched through the Old Port. She was, after all, more than 500 miles away.
Erica Kitch, a former lawyer, stood with a bundle of signs in the plaza. She said she wrote to Collins nearly every day, and had been calling the senator’s office constantly since the Kavanaguh hearing. “Collins says she listens,” Kitch said, “but she don’t really.” Every time she’s managed to get to a “real human” on the phone at the senator’s office, she said, they didn’t even ask her name or where she lives. She doesn’t think they care.
Bonnie Smith, a 59-year-old teacher, said the FBI investigation was a farce from the beginning: “Have you ever gotten into a car accident?” she asked. “Your insurance company and the police can’t even investigate that in a week.” Still, she told me she was trying to “stay hopeful” and wants Collins to “do the right thing.”
The group marched slowly a few blocks to the court house, where they dropped a banner over the steps. Protestors blocked the street; a man in a yellow vest stood at the intersection and attempted to steer traffic in other directions. As promised, the protestors held an open mic under the banner.
A middle-aged woman, shaking and barely audible even through her bull horn, spoke of her sexual assault as a young woman. A police SUV crawled up and stalled a block away. Another, louder, protester recounted her first relationship, reading from a paper she had prepared beforehand: “He said if I truly loved him I would have sex with him,” she said. “I closed my eyes.” As she spoke about her realization, years later, that not all sex was supposed to be coercive, the cop turned his siren on and drove slowly through the crowd.
According to organizers, the police said they’d arrest anyone standing in the street, which was, at 7:00 p.m. on a Thursday, entirely empty. Over the noise of the siren, the protestor continued to read from her statement: “They tell us, ‘She’s making a scene for attention!’” she yelled.