Meet the women who cornered a U.S. senator before he called for a Brett Kavanaugh investigation

Senator Jeff Flake confronted by protesters inside elevator about why he intends to support Brett Kavanaugh
Protestors cornered Senator Jeff Flake in an elevator Friday while the Arizona Republican was en route to a Senate Judiciary committee meeting, asking him why he still supported Brett Kavanaugh for the Supreme Court.

You could be forgiven for waking up on Friday thinking that Brett Kavanaugh‘s nomination for the Supreme Court was ready to face a vote on the Senate floor.

Early Friday, Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake indicated that he would vote to move the nomination there after he spent Thursday night saying he needed time to consider his decision.

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He had hopped in an elevator en route to a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing when two women confronted him before the doors closed.

They spoke of their own experiences with sexual assault, and how he was allowing someone accused of violating a woman on to America’s highest court.

Later, Flake sat in the committee and said he wanted the FBI to investigate allegations of sexual misconduct against Kavanaugh before he voted on confirmation in the Senate.

The committee ultimately voted to recommend him for the Supreme Court appointment — but it also requested an investigation that would be completed “no later than one week from today.”

The women who confronted Flake were Maria Gallagher and Ana Maria Archila, sexual assault survivors who are now being hailed as activists who may be “changing the course of history.”

Archila, a Queens resident, is the co-executive director at the Center for Popular Democracy (CPD), an organization that works toward creating an “inclusive, equitable society” by advocating for “communities of colour, immigrants, working families, youth, women and the LGBTQ community.”

Gallagher, a New York resident, isn’t linked to the CPD directly, but is “just a passionate person,” the Miami Herald reported.

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She had been in Washington for a week demonstrating against Kavanaugh’s nomination.

She learned about Flake’s decision to support the judge only moments before she spotted him on Capitol Hill, The New York Times reported.

“I wanted him to feel my rage,” Archila told the Times.

In an encounter captured by various media, Archila told Flake that she had stood in front of his office on Monday and told her story of being sexually assaulted.

“I told it because I recognized in Dr. (Christine Blasey) Ford’s story that she’s telling the truth,” she said.

“What you are doing is allowing someone who actually violated a woman to sit on the Supreme Court. This is not tolerable.”

READ MORE: How Jeff Flake came to decide to defy Trump and push an FBI investigation into Kavanaugh

Gallagher spoke next.

“You’re telling all women that they don’t matter, that they should just stay quiet because if they tell you what happened to them, you’re going to ignore them,” she said.

“That’s what happened to me, and that’s what you’re telling all women in America, that they don’t matter, they should just keep it to themselves, because if they had told the truth, they’re just going to help that man to power anyway.”

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The encounter was the first time that both Archila and Gallagher’s family learned of their assaults, the Times reported.

Archila’s father contacted her after she told Flake about it.

“It was Dr. Ford’s story that allowed me to tell this secret to my parents,” Archila said.

Ana Maria Archila, right, confronts Republican Senator from Arizona Jeff Flake (L) in an elevator after Flake announced that he vote to confirm Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh in the Russell Senate Office Building in Washington, DC, USA, 28 September 2018.
Ana Maria Archila, right, confronts Republican Senator from Arizona Jeff Flake (L) in an elevator after Flake announced that he vote to confirm Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh in the Russell Senate Office Building in Washington, DC, USA, 28 September 2018. EPA/JIM LO SCALZO via AP

Gallagher’s mother didn’t know about her assault — she called her after she saw the encounter on TV, The Daily Beast reported.

Confirming Kavanaugh as a U.S. Supreme Court judge would be “showing that there is such a culture in our country of treating women like they’re objects and women’s bodies are yours for the taking and if they tell you the truth and tell you what happened to them, it doesn’t matter,” Gallagher said.

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“These people will be promoted anyway.”

Flake said his encounter with Archila and Gallagher was one of a number he’d had leading up to Friday’s vote.

“I’ve heard from a lot of people by phone, email, text, walking around the capitol,” he said.

“It has been remarkable over the past week.”

READ MORE: What does Brett Kavanaugh’s angry testimony say about gender and emotion?

Archila and Gallagher may have become icons in the fight to keep Kavanaugh from being confirmed.

But others have also been credited with swaying the senator’s mind.

Democratic Sen. Chris Coons, a friend of Flake’s, spoke at the committee — the Arizona senator came to talk to him soon after.

The pair then met with other Democratic senators.

When they came back, Flake put a halt to U.S. President Donald Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s plan to “plow right through” and make Kavanaugh a Supreme Court judge.

The FBI has a week to investigate — and as Kavanaugh’s nomination has shown, plenty can happen within that time frame.

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  • With files from Reuters