| Arizona |

Protesters Outside Senator Flake's Office Call Him Cowardly, Disingenuous

"Flake didn't do enough," said Yolanda Fortune, left. The woman on the right, a survivor of sexual assault who asked to remain unnamed, said, "We want to be believed."EXPAND
"Flake didn't do enough," said Yolanda Fortune, left. The woman on the right, a survivor of sexual assault who asked to remain unnamed, said, "We want to be believed."
Elizabeth Whitman/Phoenix New Times

More than 100 people gathered outside the office of Arizona Senator Jeff Flake in Phoenix on Friday afternoon, protesting Flake’s refusal to vote against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh and calling for an investigation into Kavanaugh. They also rallied in support of Christine Blasey Ford, who has accused Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her when they were in high school.

As passing cars honked and beeped, men and women raised professionally printed and homemade signs with messages like, “Believe Women,” “Kava-NAAH!” and “VOTE NO FFFFF**FLAKE.” They lined up on the sidewalk in 100-degree heat, tilting their posters and banners outward toward passing cars as news reporters milled about.

Flake, a key swing vote in the Senate, voted in committee Friday morning to move forward with confirming Kavanaugh, but he asked for a one-week delay on the full Senate vote to allow the FBI to investigate. Hours later, President Trump asked the FBI to open a probe, albeit one that is “supplemental and “limited in scope,” into the allegations against Kavanaugh.

A number of people at the rally interpreted Flake's move as calculated and insincere.

“He’s being a people pleaser,” Kira Dotson said, clutching a neon green index card that read, “Believe survivors!! Investigate now!!!” One of the women she attended the rally with, Laura Williams, described Flake as cowardly.

“Flake didn’t do enough,” said Yolanda Fortune, who said she watched every minute of Thursday’s testimony by Ford and Kavanaugh. “He should vote no.” Although she was “proud” that Flake had called for an investigation, for her that was insufficient. “He’s not torn enough.”

Fortune, like others at the rally, is a survivor of sexual assault — “numerous times,” she said, and she said that she had felt Ford’s pain during the hearings on Thursday.

“I really have never talked about it, except for a few people … And I’m a very strong woman,” Fortune said. She joined the rally because, she said, “this is the limit of my power, of what I can do.”

Standing near Fortune was a woman, her eyes visibly puffy from behind her sunglasses. She carried a poster. “Believe,” it read. “#Survior [sic].” The woman asked not to give her name, then quietly shared her story. “Forty years ago, I had an incident happen, and I was basically drugged and molested by a dentist,” she said. In the last five years, she's found strength in sharing her story with her husband and friends.

But in the past two days, she felt as though she were enduring PTSD. “When I heard the attacks from the other side, from someone who’s going to be a Supreme Court justice, it’s sickening,” she said. “That’s why I’m here. We want to be believed.”

She said she hoped the FBI would conduct a full investigation (this was before Trump asked the FBI to take “less than one week” to investigate).

The rally brought also out Clucky the Flaky Chicken, a.k.a. Melody Steele. Steele, who is 17, said Clucky hadn’t made a public appearance since the Trump rally in Phoenix in August 2017.

The voice mailbox for the press line at Flake’s office was full on Friday afternoon. His office did not respond to a subsequent, emailed request for comment about the rally.

Periodically, the protesters started chants, including “My body my choice.” One woman with a megaphone shouted into it, “Investigate now!”

One man lifted a posterboard high over his head. “Flake You Suck” it said in black bubble letters. The man, Chris Hanlon, an associate professor of English at Arizona State University, said he learned about the rally on Twitter and came out because he was sick of the patriarchy and misogyny in the United States.

Yesterday, Hanlon recounted, he watched Ford bravely tell her testimony, only for Kavanaugh to behave like “an angry belligerent man showing none of the temperament necessary to sit on the Supreme Court.” Hanlon continued, “If Senator Flake thinks he doesn’t have sufficient information to confirm Judge Kavanaugh, then he should vote no.”

Hanlon said that he saw Flake’s request for an FBI investigation as disingenuous. “He wants to pretend he has some moral fiber,” he said.

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