By: Melanie Eversley, USA Today
Cornell Brooks and Jeff Sessions
NAACP president and CEO Cornell Williams Brooks and 10 other activists spent about three hours in jail Monday after staging a repeat sit-in outside of the Mobile, Ala., office of U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions, the Republican who is President Trump’s pick for attorney general.
The group, charged with criminal trespass, is due back in court in Mobile on March 6, Brooks told USA TODAY. Monday’s protest came about four weeks after Brooks and other NAACP officials staged a similar sit-in at Sessions’ office in an attempt to compel the senator to remove himself from the attorney general nomination process. The civil rights organization opposes the conservative Republican for his opposition to the Voting Rights Act and for other stances that the NAACP believes work against its human rights mission.
“I think it’s clear that this administration is picking a fight with the American citizenry and the citizenry is making it clear that we’re not backing down; we’re not relenting,” Brooks said.
Brooks and five other NAACP officials were to appear in court in Mobile on misdemeanor criminal trespass charges for the Jan. 3 sit-in outside of Sessions’ office. But upon learning that the prosecutor did not want to proceed, they went back to Sessions’ office to protest again. Staffers closed the office before they arrived, Brooks said..
The group wanted to head back to Sessions’ office as a matter of taking responsibility for their actions, the NAACP president said. “In the same way that the Senate has a responsibility (to carry out the confirmation process) … we have a responsibility to make our voices heard through civil disobedience,” he said. “We’ve already made phone calls; we’re writing letters. That which is left to us is breaking the law and going to jail.”
Sessions spokeswoman Sarah Isgur Flores acknowledged that the charges were dropped on Sunday. The building manager attempted to block the group on Monday from entering but they were able to enter the building anyway, sitting down in front of the entrance to Sessions’ office.
About one hour into the sit-in , Mobile police arrested Brooks and 10 others, packed the NAACP officials and local protesters into a police van and took them to the police station for booking, said Quincy Bates, an NAACP spokesman.
Sessions’ Mobile office was closed Monday, Isgur Flores said. At about 4:30 p.m. ET, the group had just been booked and was being taken to the Mobile city jail, police department spokeswoman Charlette Solis said. They were released about three hours later, Brooks said.
Isgur Flores responded via e-mail, saying, “We look forward to Senator Sessions nomination being voted out of committee tomorrow and receiving bipartisan support on the floor later this week.” In the past, Isgur Flores has pointed out that Sessions has endorsements and support from black state officials in Alabama.
Sessions has made statements that hint he might rollback advances the Obama administration has made against alleged police misconduct, that he believes the Ku Klux Klan is “OK,” and that he supports broad immigration reform, according to civil rights advocates.