All eyes were already on Arizona Republican Sen. Jeff Flake today—he started the day not having announced whether he’d vote to pass Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination out of the Senate Judiciary Committee, though, of course, he ultimately did—but then Maria Gallagher and Ana Maria Archila locked him in their sights and nailed him to the wall of a Senate elevator.
Gallagher, who is 23, and Archila, a 39-year-old mother of two, were the protesters whose confrontation with Flake instantly went viral. As the two blocked the doors, they forcefully demanded to be heard, speaking emotionally about their own experiences with sexual violence and pleading with Flake, who had just announced he would vote to confirm Kavanaugh, to change his mind.
“I was sexually assaulted and nobody believed me,” Gallagher told Flake, who could only look away in utter shame, unable to meet her eyes. “I didn’t tell anyone, and you’re telling all women that they don’t matter.”
Gallagher later told the Daily Beast that this was the first time she’d ever spoken about being assaulted:
She had never expected to relay the most emotional moment of her life to a United States senator. She had never actually told anyone before. It had just come out, right there, in front of everyone, soon to be broadcast on national TV.
Her mother had called her after seeing it on cable. Even she had not known. Gallagher needed to step outside to go and talk to her about it. “This won’t be an easy conversation,” she said.
Archila, who is a national committee member of the Working Families Party, also told The New York Times that her confrontation with Flake was one of the first times she’d ever spoken about being assaulted as a child. She was inspired to share her story because of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s bravery, she said:
Ms. Archila, who says she was assaulted when she was 5, said she was moved to tell her story after seeing Dr. Blasey’s testimony.
“When the #MeToo movement broke out, I thought about saying it — but I wrote things and deleted it and eventually decided I can’t say, ‘Me too,’” Ms. Archila said. “But when Dr. Blasey did it, I forced myself to think about it again.”
She also told the paper: “I wanted him to feel my rage.”
Flake largely avoided looking these women in the face as they told their stories, and the encounter seemed to leave him shaken, but not enough to grind the wheels of this process to a halt. A couple of hourds later, he voted to pass Kavanaugh’s nomination to the full Senate while calling for the FBI to reopen its investigation and delay the final vote—a maneuver that effectively neuters the Democrats’ central talking point calling for a “full investigation” into Kavanaugh while giving his moderate Republican colleagues cover for when they eventually do cast votes to confirm him. If Flake’s deeper motives prove as dark as they appear, he’s an ever bigger piece of shit than previously thought—and he should know that he’s only seen the start of the righteous rage to come.