By Bill Parry
An Astoria woman was thrust into the national spotlight last Friday when she confronted U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) on an elevator in the Capitol Building after he announced he would vote to confirm controversial Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.
Astoria resident Ana Maria Archila, the co-executive director of the Center for Popular Democracy, and fellow New Yorker Maria Gallagher, identified themselves as sexual assault survivors and demanded Flake explain his decision to back Kavanaugh, who stands accused of sexually assaulting Dr. Christine Blasey Ford when she was 15.
“What you are doing is allowing someone who actually violated a woman to sit on the Supreme Court. This is not tolerable,” Archila told Flake during the incident, which was broadcast live on CNN. “You have children in your family. Think about them. I have two children. I cannot imagine that for the next 50 years they have to have someone in the Supreme Court who has been accused of violating a young girl. What are you doing, sir?”
Flake was clearly uncomfortable and avoided eye contact with the two activists. Soon after, Flake told the Senate Judiciary Committee he would vote to advance the Kavanaugh nomination but he called for a one week delay in the floor vote to allow an FBI probe into the allegations against Kavanaugh.
“Our words, and the words of thousands of women who have shared their stories, moved him,” Archila said in a public statement issued last Friday by the Center for Popular Democracy. “For the past two weeks, I have stood with thousands of incredible survivors, along with countless other organizations to fight this nomination. When Flake announced his intention to vote yes to confirm Kavanaugh, it sent a dangerous message to the country that a man can sexually assault multiple women and he is still fit to serve on the highest court in the land.”
Having emigrated from Colombia to the U.S. at the age of 17, Archila has become one of the nation’s leading advocates for civil rights, access to decent and affordable health care, equity in education funding and resources, and immigrant rights first at the Jackson Heights-based Make the Road New York and now at the Center for Popular Democracy with an agenda that is pro-worker, pro-immigrant, and dedicated to racial and economic justice.
The organization’s portfolio is broad, encompassing climate justice, education fairness, housing, minimum wage and paid sick leave advances, as well as Wall Street accountability.
Archila could not be reached for further comment this week as she was back on Capitol Hill protesting the Kavanaugh nomination.
“We will continue to put our bodies on the line to protect our nation and our values,” she said in her statement. “We plan to stay in the Capitol to sustain constant actions and occupations throughout the weekend and in to next week to lift up the voices and experiences of our communities.”
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparr