At some point during Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh’s testimony last week, Marion Stanford grabbed a piece of wooden paneling, some paint and the $5 brushes she had purchased awhile back.
She brought the items back to her living room, where she had been glued to the television watching the drama unfold in the Senate that day. She had heard Christine Blasey Ford tell senators that Kavanaugh, President Trump’s nominee to the Supreme Court, was the boy who sexually assaulted her 36 years ago, when they were both in high school. And as she listened to Kavanaugh’s forceful denial and defense of himself, Stanford began to paint.
She drew an elephant, the Republican symbol, in red, white and blue — with its trunk climbing up the skirt of a little blond girl in pink. Her eyes are wide open, and so is her mouth. The word “HELP!” is right next to her face. On the opposite side of the paneling, she painted the words, “YOUR VOTE MATTERS” in the same shade of pink.
“The message is if you recognize this, if you understand this pain, if you are part of this movement, your vote matters,” Stanford said, referring to the #MeToo movement.
Stanford placed the sign outside her home in the Central Texas town of Hamilton, right below another sign supporting Beto O’Rourke, the Democrat trying to unseat Sen. Ted Cruz.
A few days later, on Tuesday night, a police officer showed up at her house. Stanford said the officer told her there had been complaints about her sign, which some saw as a graphic depiction of child abuse. Earlier a woman knocked on Stanford’s door and told her she found the sign “disgusting.”
“It is pornography, and you can’t display it,” Stanford recalled the police officer saying. She was given a few choices, she said: Take the sign down, refuse and get arrested, or let police confiscate it. She said she chose the last option.
City officials denied threatening arrest.
“It’s a political sign, and a citizen here placed a yard sign that featured a political animal taking an inappropriate position with a young child,” Pete Kampfer, Hamilton’s city manager, told the Dallas Morning News. “A police member visited the owner’s home, and the owner asked the officer to take the sign.”
The Washington Post was unable to reach the Hamilton Police Department for comment Saturday.
Earlier that Tuesday, the sign caught the attention of Sid Miller, the Texas agriculture commissioner. Miller, who was reportedly on President Trump’s shortlist for U.S. agriculture secretary, posted pictures of the sign on his Facebook page and claimed that the girl depicted was one of Kavanaugh’s young daughters.
“The Democrat sleaze knows NO bounds,” Miller, who’s again running for agriculture commissioner, wrote in a post that was later shared more than a thousand times.
Miller’s campaign did not respond to a call and email seeking comment Saturday.
Stanford said the girl does not depict Kavanaugh’s daughter and portraying child abuse wasn’t her intention. She said the yard sign was based on an editorial cartoon that Washington Post cartoonist Ann Telnaes drew last year, when then-Senate candidate Roy Moore was accused of making sexual advances to minors.
“I knew what the symbolism was. I know what my motivations were,” she said.
Stanford, a self-described independent who frequently leans liberal, said she found Ford to be credible.
“I stand with those women. I stand with the women who want change, who have a voice and are making their voice heard,” Stanford said, again invoking the #MeToo movement. “And the whole community is not going to stop me.”
Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court was in peril a few weeks ago, after Ford accused him of sexually assaulting her in the 1980s, when the two were in high school in Maryland. Two other women accused Kavanaugh of sexual misconduct, and the judge has unequivocally denied any wrongdoing.
On Saturday, after a bitter and partisan battle, the Senate confirmed Kavanaugh in a narrow 50-to-48 vote, cementing a conservative majority on the nation’s highest court. Hundreds of protesters — many chanting “We believe survivors!” “Vote then out!” and “Shame, shame, shame” — converged on the Capitol in Washington as the Senate prepared to vote.
Kavanaugh’s confirmation was all but assured Friday after Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine), Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) and Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.), said they would vote yea. One Republican, Sen. Lisa Murkowski, of Alaska, broke with her party.
Disclosure: Sid Miller has been a financial supporter of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the Tribune’s journalism. Find a complete list of them here.