‘Lay our trauma bare’: Students, survivors protest Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s potential US Supreme Court confirmation

Maya Valluru/Staff

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As U.S. senators evaluated the FBI report that investigated sexual misconduct allegations against Judge Brett Kavanaugh, UC Berkeley students held a rally and march Thursday to protest his potential confirmation to the Supreme Court.

The rally began with speakers from various student groups, set to a drum circle. A crowd then marched up to Delta Kappa Epsilon, or DKE, which is unaffiliated with the campus — the same fraternity that Kavanaugh was in while at Yale University.

A red banner stretched across the steps of Sproul Hall, with white letters that said “Cancel Kavanaugh! Believe Survivors,” and students held signs with imperatives including “Believe women” and “Defend abortion.”

Speakers during the rally included members of socialist organizations, the UC Student-Workers Union, and Students United for Reproductive Justice, or SURJ. Some speakers shared their own experiences with sexual violence and harassment.

“I have watched myself and survivors across the country have to lay our trauma bare for others to understand,” said Kel O’Hara, founder and student leader of Berkeley Law’s Survivor Advocacy Project, at the rally. “You want to define me by my assault? Define me by what I’ve done with it. The man who hurt me doesn’t define me. … My power defines me.”

The message — to believe women and support survivors — was echoed throughout the rally. The speeches were punctuated by chants, such as “I believe, and always will, Dr. Ford and Anita Hill.”

Members of the Berkeley College Republicans were also in attendance, counterprotesting on the outskirts of the rally. One counterprotester held up a sign that said, “Think Kavanaugh should be on SCOTUS? #METOO,” and another, campus sophomore Zephan Wood, held a sign that said, “Innocent until proven guilty.” Wood said he’d be “happy to listen” if a trial produced evidence.

Campus senior Noël Jones, a member of SURJ, spoke about the threat that she said Kavanaugh’s confirmation would pose to reproductive rights.

“I’m a survivor of sexual assault, of rape. Why don’t we show the same bravery that Christine Blasey Ford and other survivors are doing?” Jones said at the rally. “This is when we get more strong and more loud.”

The crowd of about 100 people marched up Bancroft Way to DKE, walking in the street against the flow of traffic. When they arrived at DKE, speakers stood on the brick wall and spoke to the crowd.

Other community members have also joined the nationwide response to Kavanaugh’s potential confirmation to the Supreme Court. Berkeley High School students posted a video titled “Stop Kavanaugh.” in which students share why they believe he should not be confirmed.

In response to the Kavanaugh hearings, Berkeley Unified School District Superintendent Donald Evans sent a letter to middle and high school families that reiterated the district’s commitment to protecting students from sexual harassment.

“We imagine a world where we’re not called to the Senate to discuss how the actions of a man disqualifies him,” O’Hara said at the rally. “We’re called to talk about how our experience qualifies us.”

Madeleine Gregory covers city government. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @mgregory_dc.

A previous correction for this article incorrectly stated that the fraternity Delta Kappa Epsilon is affiliated with the UC Berkeley campus. In fact, it is not affiliated with the campus.