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IU students, other Hoosiers arrested outside Donnelly's office protesting Kavanaugh hearings


IU sophomore Annie King and graduate student Tracey Hutchings-Goetz sit on the floor of Sen. Joe Donnelly, D-Indiana's office in Washington on Tuesday. The group of Hoosiers were protesting the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. Courtesy Photo

IU sophomore Annie King spent part of her birthday in handcuffs. 

The environmental management major, who turned 19 on Tuesday, was one of a handful of Hoosiers arrested outside of the Washington office of Sen. Joe Donnelly, D-Indiana, while protesting the Supreme Court nomination of Brett Kavanaugh. Donnelly voted to confirm President Trump's first nominee, Neil Gorsuch, but hasn't said whether he'll vote in favor of confirming Kavanaugh. 

The group was made up of activists from groups including Hoosier Action, Campus Action for Democracy and Women's March–Indiana. Not every activist was arrested during the demonstration, but all were present during the sit-in, including a legal observer who studies law at IU.

"We don’t support anything that he stands for, and we think he would be a detriment to the nation, mostly when it comes to his desire to gut the ACA," King said in an interview from Washington. "And we believe that would have severe implications on hundreds of thousands of Americans who would lose coverage."

The group, which included King and three graduate and professional-level IU students in addition to other Hoosiers, initially entered the senator's office and asked to speak with him. King said Donnelly's staff told them he wouldn't be in until the early evening and offered to have a representative from his office speak with them instead.

This wasn't sufficient for the group because Donnelly was the one who ultimately had the vote, King said.

Donnelly's office confirmed the general details of Tuesday's events to the Indiana Daily Student but declined to provide an additional statement.

Protesters utilized a tool known in activist circles as the "people's mic." One person would deliver a sentence of their testimony and the group would repeat it in unison. 

Though the Hoosier activists acknowledged there were numerous reasons they opposed Kavanaugh's confirmation, they decided to focus on health care. 

"If Kavanaugh is confirmed, then based on the people he was chosen by, the ACA would be under threat," said Wesley Cammenga, a graduate student in the School of Public and Environmental Affairs. 

Cammenga said if Donnelly voted to confirm Kavanaugh, the senator would be betraying his constituents covered under the Affordable Care Act and its subsidiaries. 

The group arrived in the early afternoon. King said initially they were in Donnelly's office but moved to the hallway when they realized they'd be charged with trespassing after hours. 

"Some cops told us, 'if you continue, if you don't stand up after your fourth warning, we’re going to be forced to arrest you,'" King said.

They were arrested on charges of crowding, obstructing and incommoding, but paid a small fee in exchange for charges being dropped.

"They sang 'Happy Birthday' to me as I got out of the paddy wagon," King said.

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