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2018 Midterms

West Virginia Women Arrested after Protesting Kavanaugh at Senator’s Campaign Headquarters

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U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin's campaign headquarters in Charleston, West Virginia, Monday night. Photo: Dave Mistich/West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Following protests in the nation’s capital over the Trump administration’s choice to fill an open seat on the U.S. Supreme Court, a group of West Virginia women have brought the controversy home, joining in on calls against the confirmation of Judge Brett Kavanaugh.

Nine women were arrested early Tuesday morning for trespassing after staging a sit-in at U.S. Senator Joe Manchin’s campaign headquarters in Charleston, West Virginia.

The group demanded that Manchin pledge to vote against Kavanaugh’s nomination based on allegations of sexual abuse voiced against the judge in recent weeks.

Manchin, a moderate Democrat, publicly stated that he has not yet determined how he will vote on Kavanaugh’s confirmation should come before the full Senate, but did say he supported Republican Sen. Jeff Flake’s call for an FBI investigation into the allegations of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford and other women who have accused him of sexual misconduct. President Donald Trump has since ordered a supplemental FBI investigation, but so far has not released the written scope or outline of that inquiry.

Manchin is one of five Senators whose vote could determine Kavanaugh’s fate on the court. He and Democratic Sen. Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota are the only two of the five who face re-election this year.

During the sit-in Monday, the nine women shared their own stories of being targets of sexual violence and the experiences of others, collected through an email account they created.

“What we asked for is a commitment that he vote no, and we’re willing to stay here until we get that—or until we are removed,” Karan Ireland, of Charleston, said just before midnight.

Ireland was one of roughly a dozen women who sat at Manchin’s office for more than 10 hours Monday into early Tuesday. She and eight other women were arrested, cited for trespassing and then released from custody.

“People have been calling for weeks and can’t get through to his office, and we saw that clearly that’s not enough to influence this decision,” said Emily Comer, another protester arrested early Tuesday. “And that’s why we felt compelled to come here today and take this more serious action.”

Monday afternoon, Manchin released a short statement on the sit-in taking place at his campaign office, but again, didn’t indicate how he planned to vote in regards to Kavanaugh.

“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 the written statement released by his campaign.

“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.

Protests similar to Monday’s in Charleston have also taken place over the past week in Washington, D.C., including one near the U.S. Supreme Court that resulted in the arrest of more than 50 individuals for “unlawful demonstration activities” after closing a city street.

Last Friday, the day the Senate Judiciary Committee voted to advance Kavanaugh’s nomination, protestors filled the hallways of the Hart Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill blocking hallways, displaying banners with anti-Kavanaugh messages and confronting Sen. Flake on live television.

Manchin has largely voted in favor of the Trump administration’s nominees sent before the Senate for consent since 2016. According to a New York Times analysis, Manchin has voted no on four of 22 nominees.

Reporting from West Virginia Public Broadcasting supplemented this report.

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