On the 98th Women’s Equality Day — commemorating women’s suffrage and the 1920 adoption of the 19th amendment — thousands nationwide gathered to protest the nomination of D.C. Circuit Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court.
In San Francisco’s Civic Center Plaza, several hundred congregated Sunday to protest what they view as a danger to longstanding legal precedents, such as Roe v. Wade, threatened by Kavanaugh’s nomination.
A stage, erected in the heart of the plaza, became the focal point of the rally, where a string of speakers and musicians led San Francisco’s “national day of action.”
Amy Everitt, state director of NARAL Pro-Choice California, a nonprofit that helped organize the event, addressed the crowd:
“Today is Women’s Equality Day. I think about women’s equality as I think about men’s equality, transgender equality and everything in between. It is the freedom to live our lives the way we want; it’s not complicated. But, core to that freedom and equality is bodily autonomy. If we don’t have the freedom to make decisions about our bodies and our lives, we don’t have freedom.”
“They say we can’t stop Brett Kavanaugh, and I’m here to tell you: yes we can. And the reason we have beaten and will continue to succeed is because of you — everyone who is here today..”
Mayor London Breed, California State Senator Scott Wiener, California assemblymen David Chiu and Phil Ting, Congresswoman Barbara Lee and Eleni Kounalakis — lieutenant governor hopeful and former U.S. ambassador to Hungary in the Barack Obama White House — made brief appearances.
Breed told a group of reporters:
“We want the people who are voting on the Supreme Court nominee to vote no. Because once it gets through, we are stuck with this person for the rest of their life. And I’m really concerned about the kind of policies that would basically get rolled back as a result of this nominee.”
“It is one thing to have a president that continues to lie to the American people, it’s is another to have someone who can use the legal system to just really roll back the clock.”
Dr. Pratima Gupta, a Bay Area obstetrician and gynecologist, serves as a vice chair of the San Francisco Democratic Party. She told the crowd from the stage:
“I practice medicine, politicians should not. I took an oath to do what’s best for my patients and that includes covering them for all healthcare services, including abortion, and advocating for access to healthcare that respects and values their dignity.”
“The nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court is alarming for anyone who cares about fundamental rights like abortion. For too many patients abortion is almost impossible to access. These regulations unfairly target low-income families and people of color.”
Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearings are slated to begin Sept. 4. Senate Democrats, including Judiciary Committee member Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), have focused on documents related to Kavanaugh’s five years in the George W. Bush White House. They question how much of the archived documents will be made available to review.
The National Archives and Records Administration estimated it would take until the end of October, days before the midterm elections, to produce what could amount to more than 900,000 pages of documents.
Kavanaugh’s dissent in a case over a 17-year-old undocumented immigrant’s request for an abortion last year is what many protesters believe offered a clue, among some others, over how he might handle divisive issues on the Supreme Court.
Protestors also pointed to Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe, questioning whether a president under investigation should be able to pick a Supreme Court justice.
Kimberley Rodler, wearing a Statue of Liberty costume, told SFBay:
“We’re over [millions] of people, and nine justices, [Kavanaugh] is not appropriate. Even if we look at who nominated him: Donald Trump, who lies to us every day. Please, we are all traumatized. Anybody in this country is traumatized by the false, vacuous leadership — and is this a person who has the moral ground to lead us, to choose justices who discern the truths about all of our precious lives?
Eighteen people clad in red robes and white hats — reminiscent of The Handmaid’s Tale — marched to a one, two drum beat into the plaza’s center to join other protesters.
The sky — sunny and devoid of clouds — made for a rare, warm San Francisco day. Kids played in the plaza’s playground and raced their bikes. Other people laid in the grass and tanned.
Reverend Yolanda Norton, assistant professor of Old Testament and H. Eugene Farlough Chair of Black Church Studies at San Francisco Theological Seminary, questioned what conservatives call ‘pro-life’ as she addressed the crowd:
“You want to talk about pro-life? Let’s have a real pro-life conversation: let’s talk about living in a nation that is so pro-life that we deem it necessary to [separate] parents from children at borders and locking children in cages. I want to live in a world that supports pro-life in such a way that black people can walk down the street and drive in our cars without fear that our very existence is a crime worthy of martial law and capital punishment.”
“You want to have a real pro-life conversation? I want to have a conversation that decides that prison is not the solution to mental health problems. That education is a right and not a privilege and that no one should be hungry or be denied adequate health care; that is a pro-life conversation.”
State Sen. Wiener addressed the crowd afterward:
“I never thought that I would see the time where it was painful to even watch the news and to have, basically, a criminal organization in the White House. This is out of control. And this president should not be putting more lifetime appointments, more justices on the U.S. Supreme Court.”
“And Brett Kavanaugh, he is not only a right-wing person, he is a political operative and he’s going to bring a horrible agenda to this Supreme Court. We don’t need to go back on a woman’s right to choose.”
Kounalakis urged the crowd to show up and vote during the upcoming November elections:
“… we’re going to keep marching, we’re going to keep protesting, we’re going to ensure that our voice is heard and that our votes are counted. This is it. This is what we got and we’re not going to stop until we stop Kavanaugh.”
The crowd responded:
Afterward, people pressed together and pierced red, “Stop Kavanaugh” signs into the sky and toward a drone that snapped an overhead picture.
For San Francisco resident Louise Itzler, the show of hundreds of protesters was a testament to the continued fight against what she sees as the administration’s continued attempt to roll back progress made in the past:
“We are not going to be silenced; it is the people taking to the streets that is going to change this country and turn it back around because we see that our elected leaders, whose salaries we pay, are not on our side.”