Protests

Laughing at Jeff Sessions may put this protester in prison for a year

A woman who says she simply laughed during the confirmation hearing of Attorney General Jeff Sessions now faces a possible year in prison.

Desiree Fairooz, 61, was convicted Wednesday of disorderly conduct and parading or demonstrating on Capitol grounds. Also convicted of two separate offenses were her fellow Code Pink protesters Tighe Barry and Lenny Bianchi, who were dressed in Ku Klux Klan white hoods and robes at the hearing. All three activists pleaded not guilty and rejected plea deals, demanding a trial.

“I’m so disgusted with so many different aspects of our current government,” Fairooz told the New York Times.

She said that her laughter was the result of a statement made by Alabama Republican Sen. Richard Shelby as he introduced Sessions to the Senate Judiciary Committee toward the start of the Jan. 10 hearing. “Jeff’s extensive record of treating all Americans equally under the law,” Shelby said, “is clear and well-documented.”

“I just couldn’t hold it,” Fairooz told the Times. “It was spontaneous. It was an immediate rejection of what I considered an outright lie or pure ignorance.”

Sessions has faced several allegations of racism and was denied a federal judgeship in 1989 after lawmakers heard testimony that he had once used a racial slur.

“It was such an appalling statement for Senator Shelby to make… that she just reflexively let out a noise,” Ariel Gold, the campaign director for Code Pink, told NBC News. “I was sitting about two people away, and I would say the noise was quieter than a cough.”

She was immediately removed from the hearing.

Fairooz says she’s a long-time member of Code Pink, an anti-war social justice group founded in 2002 in response to the Iraq War. She told the Times that her lawyer will seek to set the verdict aside.

“[Fairooz] has been arrested while demonstrating in the past,” Gold told NBC. “But [her laugh] was not demonstrating. Generally, when Code Pink demonstrates, it’s very hard to miss.”

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