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November 15, 2018

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Sides clash at anti-Kavanaugh protest outside Heller’s Las Vegas office

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John Locher / AP

People hold signs during a protest against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh outside the offices of Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., Friday, Sept. 28, 2018, in Las Vegas.

The roughly 50 anti-Brett Kavanaugh demonstrators who gathered Friday afternoon near Sen. Dean Heller’s Las Vegas office and the two dissenting voices could apparently not disagree more — at least politically.

When a speaker cited CNN, a counter protester shouted "Fox News." A “love trumps hate” chant from the group drowned out a “we’re here to support our president” yell.

A Nazi Germany reference incited an angry “what are you talking about!” from Stephen Provost.

But when Sara Weston — a self-described “very proud” Republican — interrupted a speaker, saying she was a sexual assault survivor and a Trump supporter, her “Do you want to hear my story?” piqued Gabrielle d’Ayr’s attention.

“I want this woman to speak … we listen to everybody,” said d’Ayr, who’d earlier shared her own survival story. And for a moment, even if very brief, the crowd quieted and listened.

Civility in politics is disappearing, according to Weston. “They’ve gone left of left of left,” she said about the demonstrators.

“I think that we tend to get involved in this entire masquerade of polarization,” Weston admitted. “Both sides should start to work together.”

Weston said she feels strong in her support for Kavanaugh, who is embroiled in sexual misconduct allegations. And for Heller, who continues to support Kavanaugh's nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court but also backs the Trump administration's Friday decision to order the FBI to reopen the judge's background investigation.

The bulk of the crowd, including d’Ayr, held the opposite opinion.

Holding political-slogan signs, demonstrators — many sexual-assault victims themselves — shared a common message of support for those who step forward. “We believe survivors, we believe women!” they chanted at one point.

Both Kavanaugh and an accuser, Christine Blasey Ford, who alleges the judge groped and tried to rape her when they were teenagers, testified in front of Congress on Thursday.

Saying American political discourse is in shambles would be putting it mildly, d’Ayr said. But “this is really a polarizing issue and it’s a very important issue for survivors (of sexual assault).”

“I don’t agree with just about anything she says,” d’Ayr said about Weston, noting that the UNLV student is a regular at protests who shows up to “agitate.”

But if you’re a survivor, “you should be heard,” d’Ayr said.

D’Ayr said that adults need to take responsibility, evaluate and make informed decisions about politics “so you don’t go with what one person says.”

As much as d’Ayr said she believes Ford’s side of the story — she said she saw the truth in her face — there should be a standard of presumption of innocence on both sides until facts are known.

So, calling Kavanaugh a “rapist” is as bad as calling Ford a “liar,” d’Ayr said.

The demonstration, which came together in about 12 hours, aimed to persuade Heller to withdraw his support for the Supreme Court justice nominee, said Lindsey Harmon, executive director of Nevada Advocates for Planned Parenthood Affiliates.