Supreme Court Nominations

Protestors holding signs on Clark Street

Protesters hold banners across from the ABA’s headquarters on Clark Street in Chicago. (Photos by Lee Rawles.)

Protesters opposing U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh held a demonstration across from the American Bar Association headquarters in Chicago on Thursday.

The crowd numbered around 30 at 5 p.m., grew to around 100 at its height, and had dispersed by 6:50 p.m. The Chicago District of the International Socialist Organization posted the event on its Facebook page, saying that it was endorsed by the International Women’s Strike, International Socialist Organization, National Lawyers’ Guild, Our Columbia, Columbia Faculty Union, and the DePaul Students for Reproductive Justice.

“We’re not here to protest the ABA,” said Taylor Edwards, a senior at DePaul University, who is affiliated with the ISO and was helping to lead the group in chants. Edwards said the location was chosen because it “resonates with the idea of the legal system.”

“The location is less important than the cause,” Edwards said. “The main message here is that MeToo is not over. And it’s not going to stop at Kavanaugh, either.”

Students Zoe Kirk of the Illinois Institute of Technology and Aneesah Shealey of DePaul said they came to the protest because they opposed Kavanaugh’s nomination and were very concerned about safeguarding reproductive rights.

“I’m extremely frustrated, and especially disgusted by the attitude that he’s entitled to be on the court,” said Kirk.

Protesters hold a bannerThe Chicago chapter of the International Socialist Organization was one of the main organizers of the event.

“As a woman who has survived sexual assault, the fact that a man can ascend simply because of his white male privilege speaks so much to the history of this country,” said Shealey. “To even bring attention and awareness is so important, just to get people thinking about it. Spoken word and speaking your truth is powerful.”

There was some confusion among the crowd, some of whom thought the ABA had the power to disbar Kavanaugh. Kirk said, “People are coming here to get him disbarred, ideally.”

The leaders of the various organizations who’d planned the march were also initially under the misperception that the ABA is involved in lawyer discipline and disbarment, said protest attendee Laura Sabransky. They soon learned that this is not the case, and that the ABA is a voluntary membership organization rather than a lawyer disciplinary agency. But they still felt it was an appropriate venue to hold a protest.

“We’re grateful for the stance the ABA has taken in calling for an FBI investigation,” said Sabransky, referring to the letter sent by ABA President Bob Carlson to the Senate Judiciary Committee on Sept. 27. “Obviously they need to go further.”

Sabransky was a Bernie Sanders-supporting delegate to the Democratic National Convention in 2016, but was not attending the protest as a representative of any organization.

“While they may not be able to disbar him, I think they should use their power to influence the regulatory body that can,” she said.

Sabransky was accompanied by her friend Rochelle Gordon, an attorney and former member of the ABA, who works at the Illinois Education Association as a UniServ director. Gordon criticized the supplementary investigation the FBI conducted over the previous six days, saying that it “hardly met any standard of a real investigation.”

“Frankly, if I had hired an investigator in a litigation manner, this would have failed the most basic test,” said Gordon. “We heard it said that Trump is the client in this context. I believe the American people are the clients of the FBI, because he’s not Trump’s judge, this is not Trump’s personal court. It’s our judge.”

Sabransky praised the leadership of women in organizing the anti-Kavanaugh protests. “It’s the women who are saving this country,” she said. “I’ve been experiencing PTSD for three weeks now. It’s an assault on not only all survivors of sexual assault. Half of all the American population is being assaulted by our government.”

The ABA declined to comment on the protest. On Friday morning, the chair of the ABA Standing Committee on the Federal Judiciary alerted the Senate Judiciary Committee leaders that the group will be reopening its evaluation of Kavanaugh.

Photo from the steps of the ABA building showing protesters across the street
A view of the protest at its beginning, around 5:00 p.m. The crowd later swelled to around 100 protesters.

Updated at 4:12 p.m. to clarify Rochelle Gordon’s job position.