UPDATE: Code Pink activist Desiree Fairooz is a free woman after a Washington D.C. judge tossed out her conviction on Friday.
Fairooz was charged and convicted of disorderly and disruptive conduct for laughing during Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ senate confirmation hearing. However, D.C. Chief Judge Robert E. Morin determined that the outburst “would not be sufficient” to make a case against her, The Daily Beast reports.
The judge did, however, order a new trial in the case which is set to begin on Sept. 1, according to HuffPost.
It’s clear that Fairooz doesn’t deserve jail time for a simple chuckle, but in order to successfully discourage future protesters from expressing themselves in the same way, the government can’t just let the issue go without a fight. With any luck, the new case will also be thrown out which would restore a little bit of our faith in democracy and the criminal justice system.
An activist with the women-led grassroots peace and social justice organization Code Pink is facing criminal charges for laughing during Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ confirmation hearing back in January.
That’s right; a simple chuckle resulted in the arrest of 61-year-old Desiree Fairooz. Honestly, Fairooz’s laugh was justified, considering it came after Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Alabama) claimed that Sessions’ record of “treating all Americans equally under the law is clear and well-documented” — that had to have been a joke, right?
What is actually “well-documented” is Sessions’ track record of voting against several civil rights measures, cracking jokes about the Ku Klux Klan, and expressing support for anti-immigrant and anti-LGBT policies.
Apparently, Shelby’s claim wasn’t meant to be a wisecrack because a rookie officer with the U.S. Capitol Police named Katherine Coronado wasted no time detaining Fairooz for her reaction to Shelby’s humorous remarks.
According to HuffPost, Fairooz was seated at the back of the room, and her laugh did not disrupt the hearing, yet it was deemed an example of “disorderly and disruptive conduct” intended to “impede, disrupt, and disturb the orderly conduct” of congressional proceedings.
She was also charged with a misdemeanor for parading, demonstrating, or picketing within a Capitol in relation to actions she displayed upon being escorted out of the hearing.
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
In her defense, Samuel Bogash — an attorney for Fairooz — showed a video in court on Monday of the audience laughing at a point during the hearing when Sessions made a joke about married life. However, one of the assistant U.S. attorneys on the case argued that the collective laughter was appropriate because a deliberate joke was made as opposed to Shelby’s remarks, which were expected to be taken seriously.
The problem here is that humor is totally subjective; it's absurd to try to regulate what an individual happens to find funny just because it wasn’t “supposed” to be.
Code Pink member Ariel Gold testified that she believes Fairooz’s laughter was a genuine reflex and not an intentional disruption. She added that she was both “shocked” and “appalled” by Fairooz’s arrest.
Although Fairooz is an activist and attended the hearing to oppose Sessions’ confirmation, she maintains that in that moment, her actions were not a display of protest.
She was also astonished when she was detained on the day of the hearing.
“Why am I being taken out of here?” she asked while being removed. “... I was going to be quiet, and now you’re going to have me arrested? For what?”
It is clear that the government is making an example out of Fairooz. This is nothing more than a sad ploy to silence protesters and discourage dissent. Fairooz’s laugh obviously wasn’t too much of a distraction because it certainly didn’t stop Sessions from ultimately being confirmed.
Banner photo credit: Wikimedia Commons, Anoko at Dutch Wikipedia