An accusation of sexual misconduct against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh from when he was in high school intensified opposition to his nomination on Friday that coincided with rallies in Portland where progressive activists urged Sen. Susan Collins to vote “no” on his confirmation.

Laura Friel joins a group of students from Bowdoin College at Congress Square in Portland before marching to Sen. Susan Collins’ office on Friday to rally and demand she vote against the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court.

A group of about three dozen Bowdoin College students marched through downtown holding a sign that said “Collins, Stand For Our Futures #VoteNoOnKavanaugh.” Soon after that rally broke up, a second group of similar size, wearing black clothing and veils, converged outside Collins’ Portland office for another rally.

The New Yorker, which previously broke the sexual assault scandal that has engulfed Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein, touching off the #MeToo movement, first published the accusation against Kavanaugh, now 53, and The New York Times followed with a similar account.

The New Yorker story said a letter that has since been referred to the FBI by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-California, detailed allegations that Kavanaugh forcibly held down a woman and attempted to “force himself” on her at a high school party in Maryland in the early 1980s. Feinstein, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, had been in possession of the letter since July, when it was forwarded to her by Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-California.

“In the letter, the woman alleged that, during an encounter at a party, Kavanaugh held her down, and that he attempted to force himself on her. She claimed in the letter that Kavanaugh and a classmate of his, both of whom had been drinking, turned up music that was playing in the room to conceal the sound of her protests, and that Kavanaugh covered her mouth with his hand. She was able to free herself,” The New Yorker story said.

The New York Times published a similar story on Friday, adding that the encounter occurred in a bedroom. According to CNN, Kavanaugh attempted to remove her clothes, Kavanaugh was laughing during the incident, and the woman later received medical treatment related to the event, CNN reported.

Kavanaugh denied the accusation in a statement released by the White House on Friday.

“I categorically and unequivocally deny this allegation. I did not do this back in high school or at any time,” Kavanaugh said.

Collins had an hour-long telephone conversation with Kavanaugh on Friday, CNN reported. Her office did not respond to the Press Herald’s requests for comment on Friday regarding the sexual misconduct allegations.

Jenna Scott of Saco, center, joins fellow Bowdoin students in a rally outside Sen. Susan Collins’ office in Portland on Friday to urge Collins to vote against the confirmation of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.

Collins remains undecided, and she and fellow pro-abortion rights Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska are being targeted by progressives as possible “no” votes on Kavanaugh. Republicans hold a 51-49 majority in the Senate, and it would take all the Democrats and left-leaning independents voting “no” plus two Republican defections to sink Kavanaugh’s nomination.

Maine Sen. Angus King, an independent who caucuses with the Democrats, announced his opposition to Kavanaugh on Wednesday.

Kavanaugh has been a controversial nominee, with progressives arguing that he would likely be a vote to overturn the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion or vote to greatly restrict abortion rights. Collins has said she’s been encouraged by Kavanaugh telling her and the judiciary committee that Roe is “settled law” and “precedent upon precedent,” indicating that he would not overturn abortion rights.

Isabella McCann, a senior at Bowdoin College, said the news about the accusation against Kavanaugh should, if true, be “disqualifying.” McCann said she already had been opposed to Kavanaugh based on Roe and other issues.

“Susan Collins should know better than to vote for Brett Kavanaugh,” McCann said. “The Supreme Court should be representative of the American people. Kavanaugh is far to the right of where the American people are.”

The Supreme Court is currently split 4-4 between conservatives and liberals. Kavanaugh would replace Anthony Kennedy, who on some issues was a centrist and voted with the liberal bloc on some noteworthy cases, including a 2015 decision making same-sex marriage legal.

The Bowdoin College students marched from Congress Square Park to Collins’ Portland office on Middle Street, chanting “shut down Kavanaugh now,” “our life, our choice” and other slogans.

Haley Maurice, a Bowdoin College junior, said that Kavanaugh is “terrifying” because of his potential impact on reproductive rights and because he may rule on health care issues that would weaken or dismantle the Affordable Care Act.

“He should not be representing the American people by being on the Supreme Court,” Maurice said.

About 20 people, mostly women, gathered at the Maine Lobsterman statue near Collins’ Canal Plaza office at Middle and Temple streets in downtown Portland late Friday afternoon, dressed in black and wearing veils, signifying their mourning for what they said would be the loss of reproductive rights for women and a loss of ethics and morality on the Supreme Court if Kavanaugh is confirmed. They carried signs that said “Kava-No!” “We Mourn the Loss of Truth” and “Susan – Maine Women Need You.”

Three activist group from southern Maine organized the rally, including the Democrats of the Kennebunks and Arundel, and the Stand Up Women of the Kennebunks.

Glenn Simpson of Portland flashes a peace sign among nearly 20 protesters, dressed in black while staging a protest outside U.S. Sen. Susan Collins’ Portland office Friday urging her to vote “no” on the nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court.

“We feel that if Kavanaugh is approved for the Supreme Court it will change the lives of our daughters and granddaughters for decades to come,” organizer Penelope Groen of Kennebunkport said. “We are counting on Susan Collins to not let that happen. We need her to be a hero.”

Lorena Porfido of Kennebunk said she thought Kavanaugh came off as “a little squirrelly” during his confirmation hearings, and she worries his Supreme Court would be bad for women, bad for the environment and bad for social justice. “We’re hoping Sen. Collins will be truthful and represent what she said she has said she represented all along,” she said.

A few men joined the protest. Glenn Simpson of Portland also wore black, and said he showed up after seeing it advertised on Facebook because, “it’s important to come out and support this. This is an important decision that’s going to affect us all, possibly beyond our lifetimes,” he said. “We need Susan Collins to not just talk the talk, but walk the walk.”

Richard Izbicki of Cape Porpoise stood out among the other protesters, because we wore light-colored clothing. “I didn’t wear black, but I’m here in support. I admire my friends who are doing this as a show of solidarity,” he said.

As he spoke, a driver tooted a car horn in support, and the protesters hollered back.

In groups of two and three, they crossed the street to register their views with Collins’ office staff. “We gave them our spiel and they took our names and said they would give Collins the information,” said Maryellen Foley, also of Cape Porpoise. “It’s so important to me that Judge Kavanaugh not go to the Supreme Court. I worry about his integrity.”

The Portland rallies were the latest attempts by progressives to lobby Collins. A crowdfunding effort organized by Maine and national advocacy groups had raised $1.3 million as of Friday that ties a Collins vote on Kavanaugh to the release of the money to a Democratic opponent in 2020, when Collins would be up for re-election if she seeks another term. Donors would only be charged if Collins votes “yes” on Kavanaugh.

The campaign raised the funds through small, mostly $20.20 donations, with more than 45,000 pledges so far. Collins has criticized the effort, comparing it to bribery.

Staff Writer Bob Keyes contributed to this report.

Joe Lawlor can be contacted at 791-6376 or at:

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Twitter: joelawlorph

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