Several members of the NAACP spoke out against Sen. Jeff Sessions’ attorney general nomination Tuesday, calling it “several steps backward” for the country.
NAACP press conferences admonishing Sessions’ nomination were also held in front of the federal courthouse in Montgomery as well as Mobile, Huntsville, Birmingham and Dothan.
Following the Mobile press conference, NAACP national president Cornell Brooks, state president Benard Simelton, Mobile branch president Lizzetta McConnell and Joe Keffer with the Moral Movement Alabama entered Sessions’ office on I-65 Service Road North, and said they wouldn’t leave until Sessions had withdrawn his name from nomination.
“We’re just sitting in his office. We presented some demands to Sen. Sessions and have not heard anything back so we’re going to remain here until we do. We wanted to talk to him and explain our demands directly to him,” Simelton said.
A spokesperson for Sessions declined to confirm whether Sessions has seen the NAACP’s demands, which are as follows:
Simelton said the sit-in was previously planned, as the group members discussed prior to this morning whether occupying Sessions’ office is legal.
“We’re doing what we’re well within our rights to do. It’s a public office, we’re not disturbing the peace. We’re doing work, too. We’re having a great day here,” Simelton said. But he also added that “We’re not going to leave when the staff gets ready to leave, and I’m quite sure they’re not going to leave us up here,” which he thinks could potentially lead to his and the other NAACP members’ arrest.
President-elect Donald Trump selected Sessions as his pick for attorney general on Nov. 18, shortly after he was voted into office. The U.S. Senate must approve Trump’s nomination before Sessions can assume the role. His two-day confirmation hearing is currently scheduled for Jan. 10-11.
“We oppose vehemently Sen. Sessions obtaining the position of Attorney General,” said Lawrence Woffard, NAACP Chapter President of Selma and Dallas counties.
Woffard, along with other NAACP leaders present, pointed to allegations of racist behavior that cost Sessions a federal judgeship nearly 30 years ago.
“There were allegations that Sessions called a black attorney in his office ‘boy’; that he said the Ku Klux Klan was acceptable until he found out some of its members smoked pot; and that he described some prominent civil rights organizations as ‘un-American,'” USA Today reported when Trump announced Sessions’ nomination.
NAACP leaders referenced all three of these allegation while explaining why they didn’t think Sessions is fit to lead the Department of Justice.
They also cited Sessions’ pattern of voting against civil rights legislation, hate crime legislation and said that Sessions called the Voting Rights Act a piece of “intrusive legislation.”
Sessions, a former U.S. attorney and Alabama attorney general, has been a member of the Senate since 1997.
Sarah Isgur Flores, a spokesperson for Sen. Sessions’ confirmation, wrote in an email that the allegations against Sessions are “false portrayals” that will “fail as tired, recycled, hyperbolic charges that have been thoroughly rebuked and discredited.”
“Jeff Sessions has dedicated his career to upholding the rule of law, ensuring public safety and prosecuting government corruption. Many African-American leaders who’ve known him for decades attest to this and have welcomed his nomination to be the next attorney general,” Flores wrote.
The Rev. Mack Rayford, an NAACP leader, said while they cannot control Sessions’ appointment, they still feel compelled to urge for transparency in his selection process.
“Even though we might not be able to change his appointment, we can still say we don’t agree with it,” Rayford said.
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