After a day of heated testimony and questioning in the hearings regarding U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh and his accuser Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, two Latinas made it their business to ensure that the stories of sexual assault survivors no longer fell on deaf ears. In a brazen confrontation addressing Arizona Republican Sen. Jeff Flake over his statements in support for Kavanaugh’s confirmation, the two women admonished him for ignoring the voices of Kavanaugh’s victims and thus the millions of women across the country who have come forward with their personal stories of sexual assault.
In the ultimate curveball of the week, the two women seemed to have influenced the senator’s decision.
The two women confronted Flake soon after a statement he made in support of Kavanaugh was made public.
WATCH — Sexual assault survivors confront Jeff Flake on the elevator moments after he says he will vote to confirm Judge Kavanaugh pic.twitter.com/2d3ABs0s2H
— J.D. Durkin (@jiveDurkey) September 28, 2018
Ana Maria Archila of Queens, NY and Maria Gallagher from Westchester, NY confronted Flake during a break from the hearings as he was attempting to access an elevator. The two women furiously blocked the set of elevator doors from closing as Sen. Flake stood inside, forcing him to listen to their stories of surviving sexual assault and demanding that he answer their questions.
“You’re telling me my assault doesn’t matter. You’re letting people who do these things into power. That’s what you’re telling me when you vote for him,” Gallagher told Flake as he attempted to dodge looking at her as she spoke. “Don’t look away from me,” Gallagher said to Flake as she confronted him from outside of the elevator. You can hear the tears in her voice as she continues. “Look at me and tell me that it doesn’t matter what happened to me, that you will let people like that go into the highest court of the land and tell everyone what they can do to their bodies.”
As an aid to Flake attempted to get the women to leave with “thank yous” and “it’s time to goes,” Archila jumped into address Flake directly herself.
“What you are doing is allowing someone who actually violated a woman to sit on the Supreme Court. This is not tolerable. You have children in your family. Think about them. I have two children,” Archila said to Flake. “I cannot imagine that for the next 50 years they will have to have someone in the Supreme Court who has been accused of violating a young girl. What are you doing, sir?”
A bio about Archila on the Center for Popular Democracy of which she is a Co-Executive Director says that she emigrated from Colombia to the United States when she was 17, and now works to push for for racial and economic justice as well as immigrant rights in New York and across the country. The bio highlights Archila’s work as an advocate for “multi-racial alliance of immigrants, African Americans and white working class communities working to advance an agenda of racial and economic justice.”
Gallagher’s activism and background has yet to be made public, but a representative of the Center for Popular Democracy said that she is not affiliated with the organization but that she is clearly “a passionate person.”
In an interview with ABC News, Archila explained that she “went to Jeff Flake’s office because I think of him as someone who sometimes chooses his conscience over his party… We weren’t really willing to let him go without actually looking at us and forcing him to listen to our stories and making him understand the gravity of the message he was sending to the country.”
After the confrontation Flake requested a one-week delay on their decision so the F.B.I. could investigate the accusations against him.
He refused to look at them or answer.
— Make the Road Action (@MaketheRoadAct) September 28, 2018
After an abrupt closed-door meeting between Republicans on the Judiciary Committee and Republican leader Senator Mitch McConnell, Flake announced he would support the final confirmation of Kavanaugh under the condition that the the F.B.I. was allowed an opportunity to investigate the allegations.