NAACP Stages Sit-In to Protest Jeff Sessions' Attorney General Nomination

Image: A photo tweeted by the President and CEO of the NACCP of the sit-in in Mobile, Alabama
A photo tweeted by the President and CEO of the NACCP of the sit-in in Mobile, Alabama, on Jan.3 2017.Cornell Wm. Brooks / Twitter

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By Jon Schuppe and Chandelis R. Duster

The NAACP's national president appeared to be arrested after a sit-in at the Mobile, Alabama, office of U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions to protest his nomination to be the country's next attorney general, according to a Facebook Live stream of the scene.

"The building manager has requested that we leave. And the police have just arrived. We are about to be arrested," Cornell William Brooks said in a tweet Tuesday evening.

Earlier, Brooks posted a photograph of himself with other protesters, pledging to stay at the office until Sessions withdraws his name from consideration "or we're arrested."

The sit-in was part of a larger protest by national and local NAACP chapters, which also included press conferences and demonstrations at other Sessions offices.

The Senate Judiciary Committee is scheduled to begin hearings on Sessions' nomination Jan. 10, with many civil rights groups standing in opposition. The conservative former prosecutor was one of the first members of Congress to endorse Donald Trump. He is one of the incoming administration's loudest voices for stepping up immigration enforcement, and has argued against expanding protections for LGBT people.

He also has a controversial record with black people.

The NAACP cited some of those past criticisms, including his attempts to prosecute charges of voter fraud by black civil rights activists when he was the U.S. attorney in Mobile in the 1980s, and his failed nomination to the federal bench, which was scuttled by allegations of racist remarks.

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"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,” Lizetta McConnell, head of the NAACP's Mobile branch, said in a press release.

Sessions spokeswoman Sarah Flores said in a statement that the senator "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."

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Flores ' statement quoted some of those black leaders, including Larry Thompson, a former deputy attorney general, who told the Washington Post that Sessions "doesn't a racist bone in his body."

The statement also listed what Sessions' office described as bipartisan bills he worked on that benefited black people. The measures included the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010, which reduced, but did not eliminate, the discrepancy in sentencing rules for possession of crack cocaine and powder cocaine.

The statement did not mention the protest itself, which appeared peaceful. At one point, Brooks posted a photo of some pizza someone had sent him and the others.

"The Voting Rights Act was born in Selma. Sen. Sessions was born in Selma. If he wants to honor the legacy of Selma, honor the sacrifices of the Selma marches, honor what so many have given here in Alabama and across the country for the right to vote, he should withdraw his own name," Brooks said Tuesday evening.