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Thursday, March 9, 2017

Did Attorney General Sessions Hear What Civil Rights Groups Said?

Members of civil rights groups met with Attorney General Jeff Sessions at the Department of Justice Tuesday with a list of concerns they say were meant to put Sessions “on notice.”

"The meeting was two-fold", said Wade Henderson, president and CEO, The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights. We met with Sessions "to present the agenda of national civil rights organizations and to discuss with the AG our expectations for his responsibility to the American people to address issues of national concern regarding civil and human rights", he said.


Civil rights groups met with the press after meeting with Attorney General Jeff Sessions Tuesday at the Department of Justice. Pictured are: Marc Morial, National Urban League. From left to right:  Rev. Al Sharpton, National Action Network; Wade Henderson, Sherrilyn Ifill, president and director-counsel of the NAACP’s Legal Defense and Educational Fund (hidden); Kristen Clarke, president & executive director, Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law and Melanie L. Campbell, president and CEO, National Coalition on Black Civic Participation and the Black Women's Roundtable. Photo/CD Brown.
Henderson said the second part of their discussion with Sessions focused on the group’s opposition and disagreement to several initiatives the DOJ has already undertaken on a range of civil and human rights matters.

“And we brought those issues to the attention of the attorney general”, Henderson said.

One of the issues concerning to the group includes President Trump's initial travel ban that affected middle eastern countries that mainly included Syria, Sudan, Somalia, Libya and Yemen and Iraq. Trump’s revised ban now excludes Iraq but reports indicate the ban did nothing to keep 'bad apples' out of the country, but rather detained and inconvenienced people just because they had Muslim sounding names.

Rev. Al Sharpton, founder and president of the National Action Network said the group also wants the attorney general to investigate recent cases of police misconduct such as in the cases of Eric Garner and Walter Scott

Garner was ambushed by several police officers as he stood on the streets of New York, allegedly selling lose cigarettes. A video of the incident shows one officer putting Garner, who was not confrontational in the video, in a choke hold for seemingly no reason at all. Garner could be repeatedly heard saying he couldn’t breathe. 


“For two-and-a-half years that case has been laying there”, Sharpton said. “There has been a federal investigation. I asked him (Sessions) to move forward, aggressively on that case.”

Sharpton said Sessions had not looked into the case, but said he would now do so.

The group maintains that they also need Sessions to speak out on incidents of hate crimes.

“When we see what is going on in Jewish cemeteries, bomb threats, the targeting of Muslims, the targeting of people because of sexual orientation, he needs to be the voice against hate and he needs to speak out and he needs to prosecute those who are engaged in this activity", said Sharpton.

But did Sessions hear the words that were coming out of the mouths of the group also concerned about the rights of people of color, women, immigrants and other vulnerable groups, and their right to be protected from discrimination and violence?

“To our dismay, the Attorney General offered no commitment to ensure all of the nation’s civil rights laws are enforced”, said Sherrilyn Ifill, president and director-counsel of the NAACP’s Legal Defense and Educational Fund.

Sessions has come under fire for his past record as senator from Alabama where he opposed legal and illegal immigration and amnesty and supported expansion of the border fence with Mexico.  

Since Trump's call to deport "bad people" out of the country, a growing number of Latino families have been separated from their children and family members.

Session’s stance on civil rights also comes into question after it was reported in the 1960's that he made remarks disparaging civil-rights organizations.  
We spoke to a well-known civil rights attorney about Sessions’ track record, prior to Sessions being nominated for attorney general. We were told (under anonymity) by the civil rights attorney that he felt Sessions was not fit for the job. He answered our question on whether Sessions would make a good attorney general by answering with an emphatic, "No!"
Sessions has come under fire as of late for having given false information into whether or not he met with Russian officials during last year’s presidential election, an act he denied – under oath – to Congress. Sessions has recused himself from any investigation, a decision that sparked controversy within the Trump administration.
Both Democrats and Republicans have called for Sessions to resign.
Given Sessions’ record, members of civil rights organizations insist they have put Sessions on notice and that they intend to “stay on the scene – watching – to insure fair and impartial justice for all Americans."

We asked Marc Morial, president and CEO of the National Urban League, given Sessions’ track record if he was optimistic that Sessions would meet their demands.

“I don’t think we can expect optimism or pessimism today", said Morial. "This was a step needed to present our agenda and express our objection to steps that have already been taken."

Video of the presser can be found here.

Other members who met with sessions were Kristen Clarke, president & executive director, Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law and Melanie L. Campbell, president and CEO, National Coalition on Black Civic Participation and the Black Women's Roundtable.

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