At last year’s State of the Union, the #MeToo movement figured prominently: The audience included a number of sexual assault victims and more than 50 female lawmakers chose to wear black in solidarity. This year, a few notable guests will represent the movement at a time when cases of sexual harassment and assault have fallen out of the headlines.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) announced Monday on Twitter that she’ll her guest will be Ana Maria Archila, the activist who confronted then-Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) in an elevator during the debate over Brett M. Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court. Kavanaugh faced several allegations of sexual misconduct but denied the claims and was confirmed to the high court in early October.
In September, Archila and another woman blocked the doors of a Capitol Hill elevator to speak with Flake. The women described themselves as survivors of sexual assault and tearfully urged Flake to reconsider his position. The encounter was carried live on CNN and became an iconic moment in the national controversy over Kavanaugh’s nomination.
“She wasn’t planning on leaping into that elevator ahead of the Kavanaugh vote, but after hearing the stories of survivors across the country, she went in,” Ocasio-Cortez tweeted Monday.
Another advocate for sexual assault victims, Amanda Thomashow, will attend as a guest of Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-Mich.). Thomashow reported now-convicted sexual abuser Larry Nassar to Michigan State University in 2014.
Tuesday night will mark Trump’s first address to Congress since Democrats took a majority of seats in the House in November. He is expected to use the opportunity to highlight his policy priorities, such as building a wall along the southern border, ahead of the next government funding deadline on Feb. 15.
Democrats are eager for Trump’s audience to reflect their policy priorities on guns, immigration, transgender troops and climate change.
• Democrats who have launched or are weighing presidential bids are using the speech as a messaging opportunity. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), a newly declared presidential candidate, will bring Navy Lt. Cmdr. Blake Dremann, who is transgender. The Supreme Court recently let Trump’s broad restrictions on transgender people serving in the military take effect, and Gillibrand’s office said she will respond with legislation to protect transgender troops.
• Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), who has launched a 2020 presidential exploratory committee, will bring a Department of Housing and Urban Development employee and labor activist who was furloughed during the 35-day shutdown. The employee, Sajid Shahriar, helped organize rallies for federal workers in Boston calling for the government to reopen, Warren’s office said.
• At least two people with ties to last year’s mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., will attend the speech — Cameron Kasky, a student survivor, and Manny Oliver, whose son Joaquin was killed. Oliver, who became an advocate against gun violence after the shooting, will come as a guest of Parkland’s congressman, Rep. Ted Deutch (D-Fla.).
• Rep. Lucy McBath (D-Ga.) will bring Jeff Binkley, whose daughter Maura was killed last year in a shooting at a yoga studio in Tallahassee. McBath was elected in November after a campaign that focused on strengthening gun laws; her son Jordan was fatally shot in 2012.
• Reps. Donna Shalala (Fla.) and Joe Neguse (Colo.) will bring undocumented students who are protected from deportation under the Obama-era program known as DACA. The Trump administration’s effort to end the program has been thwarted by the courts.
• Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) will bring Linda Clark, a native of Liberia who has lived in the United States since 2000 and faces deportation after Trump ended a program that gave her legal status.