Six protesters from the NAACP, including the organization’s national president, were arrested Tuesday night after holding a sit-in at the Mobile, Ala., office of Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), Donald Trump’s attorney general nominee.
Since the president-elect announced his pick in November, Democrats and many civil rights groups have objected to the senator’s nomination, citing racially insensitive comments Sessions made early in his career as evidence that he is not fit to serve as the country’s top law enforcement officer.
Trump, Sessions and most Republicans have repeatedly dismissed those claims, denying that the senator is racially prejudiced.
When protesters from the NAACP arrived in Mobile on Tuesday afternoon, they said on social media that they planned to “occupy” Sessions’s office until he was no longer the nominee — or until they were arrested.
“We are asking the senator to withdraw his name for consideration as attorney general or for the president-elect, Donald Trump, to withdraw the nomination,” NAACP President Cornell William Brooks said, according to CNN. A series of Facebook Live videos posted by the NAACP showed the group quietly sitting on the floor of a small room, dressed in business attire and looking at their phones.
Around 7:30 p.m., about a half-dozen police officers arrived and faced the protesters, standing still. In one video, Brooks was seen standing up and introducing himself to the officers, shaking their hands.
“We are here; we are all well aware of the laws of trespass,” Brooks said. “We are engaging in a voluntary act of civil disobedience. We try to conduct ourselves in a peaceful manner, a nonviolent manner.”
He assured the officers they would leave Sessions’s office as they found it and thanked the staff for their hospitality. “We are in fact going to be arrested,” Brooks said a short while later, as the protesters began handing their IDs to the officers.
Before being led out of the office, the group knelt down to pray.
“Eternal God, we thank you for this opportunity to serve you,” they said. “Thank you for the ability to push this nation closer to its moral center. Thank you for the opportunity in the NAACP for standing up for the voices for those who are marginalized, for those who have been left out, for those who have been cast out on the side.”
The protesters — five men and one woman — face charges of second-degree criminal trespass, according to the Mobile County Sheriff’s Office. They were arrested shortly before 8 p.m. local time and released from jail around 9:30 p.m. Tuesday, a sheriff’s spokeswoman said.
The NAACP identified the arrested protesters as Brooks, Devon Crawford, Stephen A. Green, Joe Keffer, Lizzetta McConnell and Bernard Simelton. Most serve in leadership roles for the organization on the local, state or national level.