It’s sort of a coordinated dance, but the performers are an organized group of protesters and a dozen or so uniformed Capitol Police officers. And the stage is this week’s Senate confirmation hearings for Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.
One by one, the protesters, many wearing T-shirts that say “I am what’s at stake,” interrupt the proceedings by shouting slogans like “You’re making a mockery of democracy!” or “Senators: Do your jobs and stop this hearing!” The police then warn that he or she will be arrested for any further disruptions. Minutes later, the person shouts again and is hustled out a side door.
Then another person repeats the process.
Eventually, the back two rows of the hearing room, which are reserved for the public, are empty, and another 20 or so visitors are escorted in from a line outside. They wait for their turn to shout and be arrested.
Overall, 70 people were arrested Tuesday and charged with disorderly conduct on the first day of the Kavanaugh confirmation hearings. The second day of hearings on Wednesday was marked by the same sort of shout-and-arrest pattern.
In his opening statement to the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee, Judge Kavanaugh cited the Youngstown Sheet & Tube v. Sawyer case, a 1952 U.S. Supreme Court decision that limited the power of the president.
In that case, President Harry Truman tried to seize Sheet & Tube as private property, but the court rejected it writing he didn’t have that authority under the Constitution or given to him by Congress.
Judge Kavanaugh is testifying as the Senate decides whether to confirm him to the Supreme Court.
“It’s resisting public pressure, political pressure ... treating everyone equally under the law,” he said citing his views on an independent court.
He specifically cited Justice Tom Clark, who voted with the 6-3 majority to curb Truman’s efforts. Clark was a Truman appointee.
Later, when Truman was asked about his biggest mistake as president, he said, “Putting Tom Clark on the Supreme Court of the United States.”
The Capitol Police can’t close the room to the public and can’t keep out people who look like they might disrupt the hearing. So there’s no choice but to let everybody in and wait for them to misbehave before removing them.
The protesters are part of a nationwide campaign to disrupt the confirmation process.