Woman who laughed at Jeff Sessions hearing convicted for being 'disorderly'

Jamiles Lartey in New York
Desiree Fairooz confronts Condoleeza Rice in 2007. Fairooz has been convicted after laughing during a confirmation hearing for Jeff Sessions as attorney general. Photograph: Larry Downing/Reuters

A jury in Washington has convicted a woman who was arrested after laughing during a confirmation hearing for the attorney general, Jeff Sessions.

Desiree Fairooz, an activist with the leftwing NGO Code Pink, was found guilty of engaging in “disorderly or disruptive conduct” with the intent to disrupt congressional proceedings, as well as “parading, demonstrating or picketing”.

The charges stem from the hearing on 10 January, when Sessions’ then colleague, fellow Alabama Republicansenator Richard Shelby, said Sessions’ record of “treating all Americans equally under the law is clear and well-documented”.

Fairooz laughed out loud twice at this claim, and according to the charges filed by the prosecutor, “grew loud and more disruptive” as an officer attempted to remove her from the room.

“Her disruptive behavior included yelling that Senator Sessions’ ‘voting record was evil’ and waving a sign that read: ‘Support civil rights, stop [S]essions’.”

Two men who dressed up in KKK outfits and pretended to be Sessions supporters at the hearing were also convicted on charges related to the hearing. Fairooz and the two men are due back in court to be sentenced in June. The misdemeanor convictions the three face could carry jail time, but it is considered unlikely.

The idea that a US citizen could be removed from a hearing and charged with a crime after laughing was ironic given that, in response to an April gaffe about the state of Hawaii, Sessions lamented: “Nobody has a sense of humour any more.”

The arrest was also curious because the gallery had laughed at other points during the hearing, when Sessions cracked a joke.

A spokesperson for the jury that convicted Fairooz, who spoke to the Huffington Post on condition of anonymity, said: “She did not get convicted for laughing. It was her actions as she was being asked to leave.”

After the arrest, Fairooz said in a statement on Code Pink’s website that she felt it was her “responsibility as a citizen to dissent at the confirmation hearing of Senator Jeff Sessions, a man who professes anti-immigrant, anti-LGBT policies, who has voted against several civil rights measures and who jokes about the white supremacist terrorist group the Ku Klux Klan”.

Sessions was rejected as a federal judge in the 1980s because of concerns about his views on race crystallized in a letter from Coretta Scott King that was widely revisited during the hearing process.

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