I Was Arrested for Protesting Brett Kavanaugh's Senate Confirmation Hearing

Heidi Sieck, the first member of the public allowed to enter the hearing room, says protesting Brett Kavanaugh's Supreme Court nomination was worth getting arrested.

by Heidi Sieck; as told to Marie Solis
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Sep 5 2018, 8:41pm

Heidi Sieck/Twitter

Less than an hour into Tuesday's hearings to confirm Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, some 22 people were arrested for disorderly conduct; by day's end, the number of arrests rose to 70.

Among them was Heidi Sieck, the cofounder of #VOTEPROCHOICE, a political action committee that endorses and campaigns for candidates who support abortion rights. Sieck, like other protesters, attended the Senate confirmation hearings to call on senators to vote against Kavanaugh because she believes he's too great a threat to abortion rights in the United States.

On Wednesday—just before heading to another protest at Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley's office—Sieck told Broadly why she believes protesting Kavanaugh's nomination was worth getting arrested. And why she'll do it again.

We started standing in line to get into Brett Kavanaugh's confirmation hearings at 9 PM on Monday. People from across the country and many organizations camped outside the Hart Senate Office Building in a coalition led by the Center for Popular Democracy and Women's March. We are organizing in collective action because we knew we had to do whatever we could to protest this nomination—and to make sure Kavanaugh's confirmation did not happen.

I had the privilege of getting the very first ticket to walk into the hearing the next morning, along with some of the top Women's March organizers; Jennifer Epps-Addison, from the Center for Popular Democracy; actress Piper Perabo; and a leading activists from across the country. We were the first group of the "general public" to be allowed in. We were a group of all women of all manner of diversity. It felt very profound to be there together.

The Capitol police had the hearing very structured and locked down: We went to the hearing room in groups of 23, and we would only be allowed to stay in there for 15 minutes; then they would rotate us out and bring another group in. We were seated in the back rows, closest to the door were a dozen or so Capitol Police were already station.

They knew we were coming.

Our demands were that the senators vote no on Kavanaugh and do whatever it takes to stop the hearings, and that it be acknowledged that the hearings are a travesty of justice. We also shared why this mattered so much to personally. As the co-founder of #VOTEPROCHOICE and a long time reproductive rights activist, my biggest concern is reproductive freedom: It is very clear, based on his past decisions, that Kavanaugh believes that government has a place in making people's reproductive choices for them. Meanwhile, according to nonpartisan research firm PerryUndem, 72 percent of Americans support Roe v. Wade and access to abortion. Kavanaugh on the Supreme Court is a direct and serious threat to our reproductive freedom

Chairman Chuck Grassley hit the gavel around 9:35 AM and tried to give his opening statements. Senator Kamala Harris immediately interrupted him, and then so did Senator Amy Klobuchar, followed by Senator Mazie Hirano and Senator Rich Blumenthal and others.

At that point, we started our protests and were arrested almost immediately, so the details got a little fuzzy.

I was the fourth to get arrested right after Perabo. When I was grabbed by Capitol police I was in the middle of saying: "I demand senators vote no on this confirmation. I demand senators do whatever it takes to prevent this hearing. I stand up for the reproductive freedoms of our daughters and the people of America."

Initially, Capitol police were quite aggressive, and some people ended up with bruises on their arms from being dragged and thrown to the ground. We were put in handcuffs and taken in a police vehicle to a holding center in southwest DC colloquially called "the barn." That's where we were processed for disorderly conduct; I paid a $35 fine, and was released a few hours later, sometime around 12:30 PM, by which point there were about 40 to 50 other people coming in who'd also been arrested.

We put our bodies on the line.

I will personally do whatever it takes to prevent Kavanaugh's confirmation—an arrest, a misdemeanor, a fine, and a record of disobedience is worth it, and nothing compared to what people with less privilege than I have deal with every single day. The impact Kavanaugh could have on the fabric of American life is indescribable. We will continue to unravel as a country. For me, civil disobedience and protest is a minuscule price to pay for the impact this man would have on the Supreme Court.

There was one powerful visual moment that has stuck with me from yesterday: When we first walked into the hearing room, all of the senators were already in place, the press was in place, and then Kavanaugh walked into the room. All eyes were on him. Grassley and Kavanaugh were sitting facing each other—old white men who represent power and patriarchy who are absolutely determined to coalesce and maintain their power, no matter the cost. That's why it was so powerful to see, moments later, the women of the Senate speaking up. Harris, a woman of color, was the first one to step up and say no, we won't stand for this. Our voices were heard and represented in that moment.

These conservative, regressive Republican politicians have the numbers, the power, and the majority to win this battle. We have to fight like hell. The stakes have never been higher.