Tensions escalate amid protests over confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to US Supreme Court

Protester Jessica Campbell-Swanson raising a defiant fist while seated on the lap of the Contemplation of Justice statue outside the Supreme Court in Washington on Saturday. Many chanted and waved anti-Kavanaugh placards as police officers pushed the
Protester Jessica Campbell-Swanson raising a defiant fist while seated on the lap of the Contemplation of Justice statue outside the Supreme Court in Washington on Saturday. Many chanted and waved anti-Kavanaugh placards as police officers pushed them back from the doors of the court. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

WASHINGTON • Two of America's hallowed institutions, the US Capitol and the Supreme Court, became a nexus of public rage and frustration as President Donald Trump got his controversial nominee Brett Kavanaugh confirmed onto the high court.

The initial deep anxiety in Washington and nationwide about Mr Kavanaugh, who stands accused of sexual misconduct, turned into surging tensions on Saturday.

Protesters swarmed Washington, and rushed the steps of the Supreme Court to bang loudly on its bronze doors around the time Mr Kavanaugh was set to be sworn in inside.

"This is our court, these are our steps, these are our institutions!" Ms Jessica Campbell-Swanson, 35, proclaimed to Agence France-Presse after raising a defiant fist and then coming down from the lap of the large marble Contemplation of Justice statue in front of the Supreme Court.

Hundreds of her compatriots chanted and waved anti-Kavanaugh placards as dozens of police officers pushed them back from the doors and then stood guard.

Several hundred protesters, most of them women, barged through barricades to lay claim to the front steps of the US Capitol. Dozens were arrested as they and others chanted "Vote them out!" and "No justice, no seat!"

Protesters also disrupted the vote itself in the US Senate multiple times before being dragged from the public galleries, yelling "Coward!" at lawmakers who backed Mr Kavanaugh.

 
 
 

When Vice-President Mike Pence, who presided over the vote, exited the Senate, he was heckled by onlookers outside until he ducked into his limousine.

The confirmation of Mr Kavanaugh has come in the midst of a #MeToo movement that has put sexual assault squarely in the cultural crosshairs.

"I am here because President Trump mocked sexual assault victims," said North Carolina native Kara Harrington, 50, as she held a sign that read "Shame", and stood with her daughter and husband in front of a police cordon on the court steps. "It unleashed something inside me. I was assaulted when I was younger and I didn't tell anybody," she added.

Across the street from the Supreme Court, Mr Chuck Thompson, who was clad in a "Trump 2020" shirt, took in the scene. The 41-year-old and his wife had travelled from Georgia to visit Washington for their 20th wedding anniversary and found the city heaving in protest.

But Mr Thompson scoffed at the idea that Mr Kavanaugh's nomination will help Democrats in next month's mid-term elections. "This whole thing is going to backfire," he said.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 08, 2018, with the headline 'Tensions escalate amid protests over confirmation'. Print Edition | Subscribe