African-American civil rights activists staged a sit-in at the Alabama office of U.S. Senator Jeff Sessions on Tuesday to protest his nomination as the nation’s next Attorney General, criticizing his record on voting rights and race relations.
Members of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) vowed to occupy Sessions’ Mobile, Alabama office until the conservative Republican lawmaker either withdrew as a candidate or they were arrested.
Sessions, 70, has a history of controversial positions on race, immigration and criminal justice reform and the NAACP also held demonstrations at his other offices in Alabama.
“Senator Sessions has callously ignored the reality of voter suppression but zealously prosecuted innocent civil rights leaders on trumped-up charges of voter fraud,” NAACP President and CEO Cornell William Brooks said in a news release. “As an opponent of the vote, he can’t be trusted to be the chief law enforcement officer for voting rights.”
Brooks posted a photo on Twitter of protesters in suits occupying the senator’s Mobile office.
A spokeswoman for Sessions called the NAACP’s criticisms “false portrayals … 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,” spokeswoman Sarah Isgur 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 in November named Sessions to lead the Justice Department and the FBI, and his history could see scrutiny during a confirmation process before his fellow senators.
Sessions was a federal prosecutor in 1986 when he became only the second nominee in 50 years to be denied confirmation as a federal judge. This came after allegations that he made racist remarks, including testimony that he had called an African-American prosecutor “boy,” an allegation Sessions denied.
Sessions denied he was a racist and said at his hearing that groups such as the NAACP and the American Civil Liberties Union could be considered “un-American.”
He also acknowledged that he had called the Voting Rights Act of 1965 a “piece of intrusive legislation.”
(Reporting by Letitia Stein; Editing by Andrew Hay)
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