Protesters gather in Washington, DC

USA TODAY

Published 11:47 AM EDT Oct 5, 2018

Protesters gather in Washington, DC

WASHINGTON – Protesters against Brett Kavanaugh's nomination to the Supreme Court persisted Friday in keeping up public pressure to denounce the embattled judge, a day after arrests that included comedian Amy Schumer and model Emily Ratajkowski.

Bitterly divided senators on Friday morning voted 51-49 to advance Kavanaugh's nomination, setting up a final vote as soon as this weekend. Attention remained tightly focused on a small number of senators considered key: Republicans Jeff Flake of Arizona, Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, and Democrat Joe Manchin of West Virginia. Murkowski on Friday morning was the only one of those four to vote against the procedural move setting up the final vote.

About a dozen protesters gathered in Collins' office during the morning cloture vote, hoping to get her to "no." Collins plans to announce her Kavanaugh decision this afternoon. 

“We’re just really trying to keep up a presence here,” said Tatiana Seryan, 41, who is from New York City but has protested in Washington, D.C. for more than a month. “I’m hoping she’ll do the right thing. I think the next step will be left to the American people and the rage that they feel.” 

Collins’ yes on cloture hasn’t necessarily damaged the hopes of protesters: Former Sen. John McCain voted in favor of cloture on last year’s Affordable Care Act repeal but ultimately voted against the bill.

Protester Indriani Demers, 68, of Portland, Maine, said Collins has already lost her vote, but wanted to pressure her senator. 

“I have to come here because I have to convince her,” Demers said in an interview. “I have a daughter. I don’t want her to feel uncomfortable in reporting or be blamed for a rape that a man has done.”

Democratic Sen. Kamala Harris urged voters to keep the pressure on. "There are now 30 hours until a final vote on Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court. Don’t stop calling your senators and telling them to vote NO. Keep up the fight," she said on Twitter.

While protesters from Maine, Alaska, Arizona and West Virginia wait for the final outcome, some visitors from North Dakota were thrilled their senator, Heidi Heitkamp — who faces a competitive re-election race — announced that she would vote no to confirm Kavanaugh.

More: GOP releases summary of FBI report on Kavanaugh: 'No corroboration of the allegations'

Friday morning outside the Capitol, a group of protesters unfurled an enormous banner reading “#StopKavanaugh.” President Donald Trump said the protesters were being paid to be there, citing as evidence signs that looked too professional.

“I think we’ve regressed,” said Michelle Garvin, 62, of Crescent City, California. “And when I watch that, it’s like, maybe I’m going to come here and nothing will change, but they’ve got to know that people still care.”

Garvin remembers watching the Anita Hill hearings in 1991, and she’s not sure if the country has progressed since then. But Garvin felt obligated to protest on behalf of her kids and grandchildren. Hill in 1991 accused her then-boss, Clarence Thomas, of sexual harassment during his confirmation hearings to the Supreme Court. 

“I brought them into this world,” Garvin said of her family. “If I didn’t do anything I wouldn’t even be able to look them in the eyes.”

A few dozen protesters on Friday had also gathered in the Hart Senate Office Building, where more than 300 protesters were arrested Thursday. Police patrolled the atrium armed with the plastic handcuffs they typically use in mass arrests.

More: Brett Kavanaugh says he regrets 'sharp' tone during Senate hearing, promises to be 'impartial'

Schumer and Ratajkowski were unapologetic about their arrests. Ratajkowski said via Twitter that she felt Senate advancement of Kavanaugh's nomination signaled the women don't matter.

“I was arrested protesting the Supreme Court nomination of Brett Kavanaugh, a man who has been accused by multiple women of sexual assault,” the model posted Thursday, along with a picture of her marching with a group of women in front of the Capitol. She carried a sign that said "Respect Female Existence or Expect Our Resistance."

Kari Kerr, 47, and Laura Frisch, 44, both traveled from Grand Forks, North Dakota, to lobby Heitkamp, and were thrilled when she later announced her opposition.

“We knew that she was facing a very hard battle for her seat,” Kerr said Friday. “Her decision to say no... it wasn’t taken lightly.” Both plan to vote for Heitkamp in November.

While much of the attention has focused on the three Republicans, Democrat Manchin could also prove critical: He hails from a state President Donald Trump won in 2016, and faces a tough re-election bid in the midterms. If two of the undecided Republican senators were to vote against Kavanaugh, but Manchin voted for him, that would also result in a tie and give the deciding vote to Vice President Mike Pence.

Montana Republican Sen. Steve Daines will attend his daughter's wedding Saturday, which makes getting enough votes harder for Republicans. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., could decide to delay the vote past Saturday if he believes he needs Daines' vote.

Friday morning's vote officially gave the Senate 30 hours to debate the nomination. 

The 30 hours is divided equally between Republicans and Democrats, although it could take less time if either party decides not to use all of its allotted time. After that debate, the full Senate would then vote to either confirm or reject Kavanaugh.

Not all protesters in the Capitol were demonstrating against Kavanaugh, however. One group of women in the Dirksen Senate Office Building wore matching “Women for Kavanaugh” shirts to show their support.

“This process has been weaponized,” said Elizabeth Schultz of Fairfax, Virginia. “Somebody can come out of the blue and destroy a man, his wife, his daughters. Where is the care for those girls? For his wife?”

In a tweet, the president said that George Soros "and others" were funding the protests.

"The very rude elevator screamers are paid professionals only looking to make Senators look bad. Don’t fall for it! Also, look at all of the professionally made identical signs. Paid for by Soros and others," Trump tweeted. "These are not signs made in the basement from love! #Troublemakers."

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