By Miriam Raftery
Photo: Screenshot of video on NAACP Facebook page at sit-in in Rep. Sessions’ office in Mobile, Alabama
January 3, 2017 (Washington D.C.) – Over 1,100 law professors from across the nation have sent a letter urging the Senate to reject Donald Trump’s nomination of Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions as Attorney General. In addition, NAACP members in Alabama have been detained after launching a sit-in at Sessions’ office in Mobile, Alabama in protest of racial equality, civil rights and voting rights issues dogging the nominee, who formerly served as U.S. attorney in Mobile.
The letter to Senators is signed by law professors from 170 law schools in 48 states. It will also run as a full-page newspaper ad directed at members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which has confirmation hearings scheduled on January 10th and 11th.
The law professors contend that Sessions “will not fairly enforce our nation’s laws and promote justice and equality in the United States.” They highlight the fact that he was rejected for a nomination to a federal judgeship over 30 years ago over questionable prosecution of civil rights activist for voting fraud, as well as a joking statement praising the Ku Klux Klan.
Others object to his statements opposing legislation to protect rights of women, immigrants, gay, lesbian and transgender individuals.
Sessions has called the NAACP, or National Association for Advancement of Colored People, “un-American” and suggested liberal groups are “communist inspired.”
Hezekiah Johnson with the Birmingham, Alabama NAACP said at the protest outside Sessions’ office in Alabama that the organization’s main concern is centered around “the reality of voter suppression.” Johnson suggests Sessions is biased and will not be impartial on issues of civil rights, voting rights, and equal protection for all.
But Sessions’ former chief counsel, William Smith, an African American, defends Sessions and calls criticisms a “smear campaign,” the Washington Post reports.
Sessions formerly prosecuted a member of the Ku Klux Klan, securing a conviction for murder of an African-American man, his supporters point out. He also has support from Gerald Reynolds, a past chair of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights.
But that’s not enough to satisfy national NAACP president Cornell Williams Brooks, who issued a statement which concludes, “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. 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 says Sessions can’t be trusted to be the chief law enforcement officer of voting rights, adding, “He’s been a threat to desegregation and the Voting Rights Act, and remains a threat to all of our civil rights, including the right to live with the fear of police brutality.”
The NAACP protesters earlier said that they would not stop their occupation of Sessions’ office until his nomination is withdrawn—or until they are arrested.
By tonight, video posted on the NAACP Facebook page shows police arresting peaceful protesters at the sit-in—an image reminiscent of arrests made of peaceful protesters during the long fight for civil rights and voting rights—constitutional protections these Americans believe are worth standing up for – or sitting down for—once again.