By Katie Keller
Hundreds of Palo Alto residents rallied around one of their own in a candlelight vigil, held on Sunday night in a public display of solidarity for Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, the Palo Alto research psychologist who is preparing to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee this Thursday regarding her accusation of sexual assault against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.
The vigil, organized by Orchard City Indivisible, the Enough is Enough Voter Project and other local activist groups, took place on the corner of El Camino and Galvez on the edge of Stanford’s campus.
Palo Alto locals lined the streets, carrying banners and candles and chanting their support for Ford. Cars honked in solidarity, eliciting cheers from the crowd. The local YWCA chapter set up a table where attendees wrote thank-you letters to Ford. Members of the Palo Alto High School band also performed an impromptu set, their snare drums and trombone adding to the clamor of the protesters.
According to organizer Vicky Blaine Mason, an estimated 2,000 to 3,000 people were in attendance. Demonstrators packed all four corners of the intersection of Galvez and El Camino, with traffic guards attempting to hold the crowd back from spilling into the street.
“We were overwhelmed with the turnout and also really impressed with the positive energy that was there,” said Mason. “We really appreciated that people were there to support Dr. Ford in a positive way and calling out to trust survivors and believe women.”
Ford, a professor of clinical psychology at Palo Alto University who teaches in a consortium with the Stanford psychology doctoral program, claimed that Kavanaugh attacked her in 1982, while the two were in high school in Maryland.
In a letter to Senator Dianne Feinstein ’55 (D-CA), Ford detailed her alleged assault, an event that she says made her fear for her life.
Since publicly revealing her sexual assault story, Ford has received harassment and death threats. Together with her family, she has left her private residence and arranged for private security.
Kavanaugh issued a flat denial of Ford’s claim, saying that he would “refute” the “false allegation” before the Senate Judiciary Committee “in any way the committee deems appropriate.”
So far, four witnesses who Ford claims attended the high school party where she was assaulted, including Kavanaugh himself, have denied that the assault occurred. Leland Ingham Keyser — one of the witnesses and Ford’s high school classmate — claims neither to have known Kavanaugh nor to have attended the event. Kavanaugh also plans to hand calendars from 1982 over to the Senate Judiciary Committee, which he says show no evidence of the party that Ford’s letter describes.
The vigil occurred just hours after a fresh set of allegations against Kavanaugh surfaced. As The New Yorker reported, Deborah Ramirez, Kavanaugh’s former college classmate, accused him of exposing himself to her at a party when the two were freshmen at Yale. Kavanaugh denied this second accusation, calling it a “smear, plain and simple.”
In a third allegation, Stormy Daniels’ lawyer Michael Avenatti subsequently wrote that he had “credible information” that Kavanaugh made a habit of targeting women with alcohol and drugs at high school parties in order to sexually assault them. At the time of publication, Kavanaugh has not yet responded to this allegation.
Mike Davis, the chief counsel for the Senate Judiciary Committee, asked Avenatti via email “to advise of this information immediately so that Senate investigators may promptly begin an inquiry.”
Vigil attendee Robin Yeamans J.D. ’69, a local attorney who specializes in domestic violence cases, says that the additional allegations lend crucial credence to Ford.
“I deal with credibility all the time,” she said. “I used to do sex discrimination cases, but the judges would wipe them out. I wouldn’t even take a case unless there were other victims.”
“With these people, you know there are other victims,” Yeamans added. “That’s why [Senate Republicans] wanted to hold the hearings so fast. That’s the one thing they were right about — the truth was going to start coming out of the woodwork.”
Though similar vigils also took place tonight in cities around the country, including Washington, D.C., New York City and Chicago, Palo Alto attendees felt that theirs carried extra symbolism as members of Ford’s local community.
“When we want to support people, we want to support them as close to their home as possible,” said Mason. “This is [Ford’s] community — where she lives and works. We wanted her to feel a sense of strong support all around her.”
Contact Katie Keller at ktkeller ‘at’ stanford.edu.