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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, January 6, 2017 - Volume 45 Issue 01
Six arrested in NAACP sit-in in Jeff Sessions' office
Section One
ALL STORIES
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Six arrested in NAACP sit-in in Jeff Sessions' office

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

Six people - including NAACP President Cornell William Brooks - were arrested in a January 3 sit-in at the Mobile, Alabama, office of Sen. Jeff Sessions.

The NAACP called the demonstration to protest Sessions' nomination as attorney general in the soon-to-be Trump administration. The protesters vowed in continue their sit-in until Sessions withdrew from consideration or they were arrested.

'We are asking the senator to withdraw his name for consideration as attorney general or for the president-elect, Donald Trump, to withdraw the nomination,' NAACP President Cornell William Brooks told CNN.

The NAACP identified the arrested protesters as Brooks, Devon Crawford, Stephen A. Green, Joe Keffer, Lizzetta McConnell, and Bernard Simelton. Most serve in leadership roles for the civil rights organization on the local, state, or national level.

'We are here; we are all well aware of the laws of trespass,' Brooks said to police officers on the scene. 'We are engaging in a voluntary act of civil disobedience. We try to conduct ourselves in a peaceful manner, a nonviolent manner.'

He assured the officers they would leave Sessions' office as they found it and thanked the staff for their hospitality.

'We are in fact going to be arrested,' Brooks said a short while later, as the protesters began handing their IDs to the officers. Before being led out of the office, the group knelt down to pray.

'Eternal God, we thank you for this opportunity to serve you,' they said. 'Thank you for the ability to push this nation closer to its moral center. Thank you for the opportunity in the NAACP for standing up for the voices for those who are marginalized, for those who have been left out, for those who have been cast out on the side.'

The arrestees face charges of second-degree criminal trespass, according to the Mobile County Sheriff's Office. They were arrested shortly before 8 p.m. local time and released from jail around 9:30 p.m., a sheriff's spokeswoman said.

Many civil rights groups have objected to Sessions' nomination to head the Department of Justice, saying that racially inflammatory remarks Sessions made throughout his career disqualify him from serving in a post that requires him to enforce federal civil rights laws.

Sessions is an old foe of the NAACP, which he once described as 'un-American' and 'Communist-inspired.'

That statement came to light during US Senate hearings on Sessions' nomination for a federal judgeship in 1986. Justice Department lawyer J. Gerald Hebert testified that as a US attorney, Sessions had denounced both the NAACP and the ACLU.

Sessions' former deputy US attorney, Thomas Figures, an African-American, sent an open letter to the Senate saying his boss made racist remarks, at times directly to him.

Figures said Sessions told him to be careful about what he said 'to white folks' after Figures got into a heated argument with a white colleague. Figures added that Sessions called him 'boy' on multiple occasions.

Figures also said Sessions had joked about the Ku Klux Klan, saying he thought its members were 'OK' until he learned that they 'smoked marijuana.'

On the same day as the NAACP protest, a group of more than 1,100 law school professors from across the country sent a letter to Congress urging the Senate to reject the nomination of Sessions.

As of January 4, the letter was signed by professors from 176 law schools in 49 states - all except Alaska, which has no law school.

'We are convinced that Jeff Sessions will not fairly enforce our nation's laws and promote justice and equality in the United States,' stated the letter.

'Nothing in Sen. Sessions' public life since 1986 has convinced us that he is a different man than the 39-year-old attorney who was deemed too racially insensitive to be a federal district court judge,' the letter added.

Among other legal scholars, the letter was signed by Laurence H. Tribe of Harvard Law School, Geoffrey R. Stone of the University of Chicago Law School, Pamela S. Karlan of Stanford Law School, and Erwin Chemerinsky of the University of California at Irvine School of Law.

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