Police handcuffed and removed a group of women early Tuesday from Sen. Joe Manchin’s campaign office, where they had been staging a protest against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh for almost 11 hours.
Nine women were arrested and charged with trespassing after their hourslong occupation of Manchin’s campaign headquarters in Charleston, West Virginia, according to Britt Heurta, a member of Vote With West Virginia Women.
Demonstrators had hoped to meet face to face with Manchin (D-W.V.) to persuade him to vote “no” on Kavanaugh’s confirmation to the highest court in the land after a series of sexual misconduct allegations against him, Huerta said.
Instead, Manchin called the protesters around 11 p.m. Monday, roughly nine hours after the demonstration began, and told them he would not decide how he would vote until the FBI has finished its investigation into the allegations.
“Even before the sexual assault allegations came out and his judicial record was released, it was clear that [Kavanaugh] was anti-women and anti-union and anti–working class,” Huerta, 30, told HuffPost. “If Joe Manchin were to vote ‘yes,’ it would really send a bad message to West Virginia women about their autonomy over their own bodies and their right to make their own decision.”
After their tense phone call with Manchin, 11 remaining protesters decided they would stay in the campaign office until the senator announced his decision on Kavanaugh’s confirmation.
A Facebook Live video recorded by a protester who avoided arrest shows police ordering the demonstrators to vacate the premises or risk arrest.
“At this time, we’re going to ask you to leave,” an officer can be heard saying in the video. “Those who choose not to will be placed under arrest and charged with trespassing.”
Shortly before 1 a.m. Tuesday, police escorted nine protesters to a parking lot who refused to leave the office, recorded their information and set a group court date of Nov. 8, according to Huerta. The demonstrators were then released.
The video, which had over 8,000 views by Tuesday afternoon, showed at least 10 police officers responding to the scene.
Representatives for the Charleston Police Department did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
“We believe survivors, Manchin should believe survivors, and Manchin needs to vote ‘no’ on Kavanaugh,” the woman recording the video can be heard saying. “And thank you to these brave ladies now being arrested for taking a stand and making their voices heard.”
Huerta, one of the nine women arrested, said the police officers treated her group “very kindly,” though the incident caused her to have “even more empathy” for victims of police brutality.
The protesters ― some of whom said they were sexual assault survivors ― were initially told by campaign staffers that they could stay as long as they want and would not be arrested, Huerta said. The campaign even ordered pizzas for the demonstrators for dinner, but that hospitable attitude dissolved around midnight after their call with Manchin, she added.
Representatives for Manchin did not respond to a request for comment, but his campaign released a statement on the arrests Tuesday, reiterating that he would not make clear his decision on Kavanaugh until after the FBI completes its investigation.
“After a long discussion, the campaign asked the 11 protesters to leave the office,” the statement read. “When the protesters would not leave, the police escorted them off the property.”
Caitlin Gaffin, one of the women arrested, said she was “disappointed and disheartened” by the campaign’s decision to call the police on them.
“I’m disappointed that it had to come to this after his staff assured us that there would be no arrests,” she can be heard saying in the Facebook Live video. “We had a call with Manchin ... and I hope that he comes to his senses and votes with West Virginia women and votes ‘no’ on Kavanaugh.”
Three women have publicly accused Kavanaugh, a federal appeals court judge, of sexual misconduct during the 1980s. Christine Blasey Ford alleged that he pinned her down and groped her at a small gathering in suburban Maryland when they both high school students.
Deborah Ramirez said that he drunkenly thrust his penis in her face during a dormitory party when they were freshmen at Yale University, and Julie Swetnick alleged that he was a “mean drunk” who “groped” girls at high school parties.
In a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee last week, Kavanaugh vehemently denied sexually assaulting anyone. The committee voted Friday to send his nomination to the full Senate for a vote, on the condition that the FBI spend up to a week investigating the allegations.
Four senators who have not taken firm positions on Kavanaugh met separately after the hearing: Susan Collins (R-Maine), Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Manchin. The four are seen as swing voters who could decide the outcome of the closely contested confirmation.
The protest at Manchin’s office this week is just one example of women confronting Republican senators before the full Senate vote on Kavanaugh, which is expected to take place this week.
Update: The number of arrested protesters was changed from eight to nine after Vote With West Virginia Women revised its count Tuesday.
Need help? Visit RAINN’s National Sexual Assault Online Hotline or the National Sexual Violence Resource Center’s website.