|© AP Photo/Molly Riley In this Nov. 29, 2016 photo, Attorney General nominee Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., is shown while meeting with Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, on Capitol Hill in Washington.|
The NAACP staged a sit-in at Sen. Jeff Sessions office in Mobile, Ala., saying it will stay he withdraws his nomination to be Attorney General or the group is arrested.
The NAACP planned protests at Sessions’ district offices in Huntsville, Mobile, Dothan, Birmingham, and Montgomery.
Cornell William Brooks, president and CEO of the organization, previously called Sessions “among the worst possible nominees to serve amidst some of the worst possible times for civil rights in recent memory.”
“As a matter of conscience and conviction, we can neither be mute nor mumble our opposition to Senator Jefferson Beauregard Sessions becoming Attorney General of the United States,” Brooks said. “Senator Sessions has callously ignored the reality of voter suppression but zealously prosecuted innocent civil rights leaders on trumped-up charges of voter fraud. As an opponent of the vote, he can't be trusted to be the chief law enforcement officer for voting rights.”
An NAACP statement cited accusations from Sessions’ 1986 Senate confirmation hearings over his nomination for a federal judgeship when he was accused of making a number of racially insensitive remarks. At the time, a witness said Sessions called the NAACP “Communist inspired.”
The organization’s press release said Sessions received an F grade from the NAACP every year he was a senator since 1996. It also cited his support for “stop and frisk” programs and giving police forces access to surplus military equipment.
NAACP Stages Sit-In To Protest Attorney General Nominee Jeff Sessions
Several NAACP leaders including president Cornell William Brooks were arrested Tuesday evening after one day of protest, according to the organization. The six protesters were charged with criminal trespass in the second-degree, CNN reported.
The NAACP is staging a sit-in protest at the office of U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions in Mobile, Alabama to speak out against his nomination by President-elect Donald Trump for attorney general.
Several leaders of the civil rights organization have thus far participated in the protest, which kicked off Tuesday morning, including NAACP President Cornell William Brooks, and Alabama state NAACP President Benard Simelton.
Trump offered Sessions the attorney general position in November. The move sparked outrage among many who have denounced Sessions’ history of racism and voter suppression.
Sessions was appointed by Reagan for a federal judgeship in 1986. But Sessions was deemed to be too racist for the role and his nomination was later rejected by the Senate Judiciary Committee following a series of confirmation hearings during which he addressed numerous allegations, including that he once called a black attorney “boy,” joked that he thought the Ku Klux Klan was ‘OK’ ― that is, until he discovered that members smoked marijuana ― and referred to civil rights groups, like the NAACP, as “un-American.”
Sessions was also accused of suppressing black votes in Alabama just one year prior to his nomination by Reagan, which became a case that has since haunted his career. In 1985, during his time as a U.S. Attorney in Mobile, Sessions was accused of targeting black voters after his office pursued charges of voter fraud against several African Americans, including Albert Tuner, a long-time civil rights activist who helped lead the 1965 voting rights march in Selma. Turner’s brother, Robert, told USA Today in November that his brother and other black residents who were charged with voter fraud were only trying to assist poor, illiterate and elderly voters in casting ballots. Meanwhile, anger among black critics flared at the time as they accused Sessions’ office for rigorously pursuing cases of voter fraud among African Americans while failing to do the same among white voters. Sessions and those who worked in his office eventually went to trial, during which they denied the claims, and were later acquitted. The outrage over Sessions’ troubled past, especially among liberal groups like the NAACP, never subdued.
“As a matter of conscience, the NAACP has chosen not to remain silent on this critical matter,” Birmingham NAACP head Hezekiah Johnson said outside Sessions’ office on Tuesday, according to AL.com.
“Our main concern is centered around the reality of voter suppression,” he added. “We have found no evidence of his ability, past or present, to be impartial and unbiased as the chief law enforcement officer of the United States of America, especially in the areas of civil rights, voting rights and equal protection under the law.”
Six NAACP protesters arrested after occupying Sen. Jeff Sessions’ office in Alabama
Six NAACP demonstrators were arrested after occupying the Mobile office of Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions, calling for him to turn down his controversial nomination to become the next U.S. Attorney General.
More than a dozen protesters entered the office around 11:30 a.m. Tuesday, Benard Simelton, president of the Alabama State Conference of the NAACP, told the Daily News from Sessions’ office.
"Our objective is certainly to stop his nomination," Simelton said, "but our objective is also to get out the word to people in power to stop it."
NAACP President Cornell William Brooks was among those sitting in Sessions’ office, and said at 7:30 p.m. that he and his fellow protesters were about to be arrested after the building manager requested that they leave.
"Senator Sessions has callously ignored the reality of voter suppression but zealously prosecuted innocent civil rights leaders on trumped-up charges of voter fraud," Brooks said in a statement ahead of his arrest.
A reporter for Mobile's Lagniappe newspaper confirmed that arrests were occurring and a livestream from the NAACP showed multiple protesters being put in zip tie handcuffs.
The organization said on Twitter that Brooks, Simelton and National Youth & College Director Stephen Green were among those arrested. The remaining three arrested protesters were not immediately identified.
Mobile police did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the arrests.
A spokeswoman for Sessions called the NAACP's concerns "false portrayals."
"Jeff Sessions has dedicated his career to upholding the rule of law, ensuring public safety and prosecuting government corruption," Sarah Flores said in a statement. "Many African-American leaders who've known him for decades attest to this and have welcomed his nomination to be the next Attorney General."
President-elect Donald Trump's move to tap Sessions, 70, drew immediate rebuke over the senator's' history of opposing civil rights causes.
Sessions lost a nomination from President Ronald Reagan to become a federal judge after accusations that he had made racist remarks.
An African-American former colleague said Sessions called civil rights groups, including the NAACP, “un-American” and “communist inspired,” but said he was “OK” with the Ku Klux Klan until he learned that some members smoked marijuana. Sessions denied the damning accusations.
Since then, Sessions has earned a reputation as one of the staunchest conservatives in the Senate. He has opposed Obamacare, marijuana legalization, the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, and all three of President Obama’s Supreme Court nominees.
“It’s not only about how America fares,” Simelton told The News about the protest against Sessions.
“It’s about how other countries will look to us on human and civil rights.”