Back in January, Code Pink activist Desiree Fairoz was attending the Senate confirmation hearing for Jeff Sessions‘ position as Attorney General, when she heard Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL) say that Sessions’ record of “treating all Americans equally under the law is clear and well-documented.”
Anyone who knows Sessions’ history when it comes to equal rights would probably laugh upon hearing such a claim, and that’s exactly what Fairoz did.
From HuffPo’s Ryan J. Reilly:
Fairooz was seated in the back of the room, and her laugh did not interrupt Shelby’s introductory speech. But, according to the government, the laugh amounted to willful “disorderly and disruptive conduct” intended to “impede, disrupt, and disturb the orderly conduct” of congressional proceedings. The government also charged her with a separate misdemeanor for allegedly parading, demonstrating or picketing within a Capitol, evidently for her actions after she was being escorted from the room.
Among Sessions’ greatest hits was his opposition to the voting rights act and his denial that LGBT people face discrimination, once saying, “I’m not sure women or people with different sexual orientations face that kind of discrimination. I just don’t see it.” When he was nominated to be a federal judge in the 1980s, alleged racist remarks he made ultimately got him rejected.
It’s this history that prompted Fairoz’s laughter, and it ended up getting her arrested. Video of the arrest was posted to Twitter by Reilly back in January:
Another protester escorted out of Sessions hearing. Her original offense appeared to be simply laughing. pic.twitter.com/p6lWzBVFRW
— Ryan J. Reilly (@ryanjreilly) January 10, 2017
And the case against her is going forward. Prosecutors say that the laugh was willful “disorderly and disruptive conduct” intended to “impede, disrupt, and disturb the orderly conduct” of the hearing.
Fairoz’s lawyers say she can’t be held responsible because her laugh was a knee-jerk reaction to hearing something she felt was absurd. They then reportedly showed video of the proceedings being relatively unaffected by the laugh:
If convicted, Fairoz faces a $500 fine and up to 6 months in prison. She’s also been charged with a misdemeanor for “allegedly parading, demonstrating or picketing within a Capitol, evidently for her actions after she was being escorted from the room,” according to Reilly’s report.
Fairoz’s history of disruptive protest goes back quite a ways, but according to her, this time she wasn’t trying to cause any trouble. As Vox‘s German Lopez points out, it’s important to remember what’s actually happening here:
“The federal government is literally prosecuting someone for laughing. As if that wasn’t bad enough, the Justice Department — which Sessions now leads as attorney general — is doing the prosecuting when the laughter was directed at its leader.”
Just more evidence that Jeff Sessions belongs nowhere near the top law enforcement agency in the country.
News outlets are reporting that Fairoz was convicted on two counts: one for engaging in “disorderly or disruptive conduct” with the intent to disrupt congressional proceedings and a another count for “parading, demonstrating or picketing.”
From The Huffington Post:
Several jurors who spoke with HuffPost after the verdict emphasized that they were focused on Fairooz’s actions after a rookie Capitol Police officer approached Fairooz when she laughed at Sen. Richard Shelby’s (R-Ala.) claim that Sessions had a clear, well-documented and “extensive record of treating all Americans equally under the law.” A group of jurors spoke to HuffPost on the condition of anonymity.
“She did not get convicted for laughing. It was her actions as she was being asked to leave,” the jury foreperson said.
Featured image via Gage Skidmore