It’s hard to believe that this is happening int he U.S., but it’s real: The US Department of Justice is literally prosecuting a woman for laughing at now–Attorney General Jeff Sessions during his Senate confirmation hearing earlier this year.
Code Pink activist Desiree Fairooz was arrested in January after she laughed at a claim from Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL) that Sessions’ history of “treating all Americans equally under the law is clear and well-documented.”
The truth is, Sessions has a long history of opposing the equal treatment of all Americans under the law. He has repeatedly criticized the historic Voting Rights Act.
Sessions voted against hate crime legislation that protected LGBTQ people, arguing, “Today, I’m not sure women or people with different sexual orientations face that kind of discrimination. I just don’t see it.” And his nomination for a position as a federal judge was rejected in the 1980s after he was accused of making racist remarks, including a supposed joke that he thought the Ku Klux Klan “was okay until I found out they smoked pot.”
Given this history, Fairooz laughed at Shelby’s claim.
But federal prosecutors have pushed forward with the case against Fairooz, claiming that “the laugh amounted to willful ‘disorderly and disruptive conduct’ intended to ‘impede, disrupt, and disturb the orderly conduct’ of congressional proceedings.”
In court, they have tried to emphasize that the laugh was extraordinarily disruptive, with a US Capitol Police officer claiming that Fairooz laughed “very loudly” and people in the hearings turned around when they heard it.
Fairooz’s defense, meanwhile, has argued that her laughter was a reflex and not meant to disrupt the hearings. Fairooz was also in the back of the room, and her laughter had no noticeable impact, based on video of the hearings, on Shelby’s introductory speech for Sessions.
Another protester escorted out of Sessions hearing. Her original offense appeared to be simply laughing. pic.twitter.com/p6lWzBVFRW
— Ryan J. Reilly (@ryanjreilly) January 10, 2017
The trial will continue at the Superior Court in DC this week. If convicted, Fairooz faces a fine up to $500 and up to six months’ imprisonment for the laugh-related charge.