Citing accusations of voter suppression tactics and opinions on voter fraud, six civil rights activists occupied Sen. Jeff Sessions’ office in Mobile, Ala. Members of the NAACP and NAACP Alabama State Conference were protesting Sessions’ record on voting rights and criminal justice reform.
President-elect Donald Trump nominated Sessions for attorney general.
According to reports from The Associated Press, demonstrators refused a request by the building manager to leave when the building closed for the day at 6 p.m. Video footage showed police handcuffing and escorting the six protestors to a police van. NAACP President and CEO Cornell Williams Brooks told officers, “We all are aware of the laws of trespass. We are engaging in a voluntary act of civil disobedience.”
Leading up to the sit-in, Brooks (who was among those arrested) stated the reason behind the mission.
“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,” said Brooks in a statement. “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.”
On Twitter, Brooks screen capped the mug shots of those arrested, including himself, and said the pictures “aren’t pretty,” but showed their “determination.”
“Some of us in Alabama recall Senator Sessions saying he liked the Klan,” said NAACP Mobile Branch President Lizetta McConnell in a statement. “He said it was a joke, but saying something like that while discussing a case where the Klan murdered a young Black man says a lot about a person. We need someone who realizes that an attorney general has to actually care about the people’s rights he’s protecting, and not just doing it because it’s his job.”
Sessions once prosecuted civil rights activists on charges of voter fraud that were eventually dismissed by a jury. At the time, activists called the prosecution an attempt to intimidate Black voters.
But these activists aren’t the only ones who are wary of Sessions. A letter, signed by more than 1,200 law school professors, calls for the Senate to reject Sessions’ nomination.
“Some of us have concerns about his misguided prosecution of three civil rights activists for voter fraud in Alabama in 1985, and his consistent promotion of the myth of voter-impersonation fraud,” read the letter addressed to Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley and California Sen. Dianne Feinstein. “Some of us have concerns about his support for building a wall along our country’s southern border. Some of us have concerns about his robust support for regressive drug policies that have fueled mass incarceration. Some of us have concerns about his questioning of the relationship between fossil fuels and climate change. Some of us have concerns about his repeated opposition to legislative efforts to promote the rights of women and members of the LGBTQ community,” the letter stated.