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EDITORIAL: Woman who laughed at Sessions' confirmation should be found innocent



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Desiree Fairooz, a member of the social justice activist group Code Pink, faces a retrial this month for charges of unlawful conduct for disrupting Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ confirmation hearing because of her laughter. She faces up to six months in jail.

Fairooz was detained for laughing after Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Alabama, attested to Sessions’ record of “treating all Americans equally under the law.” The laughter was reported to have lasted three seconds, and Shelby continued his speech without any acknowledgement of the noise. 

The Editorial Board believes these charges are ridiculous and Fairooz should face no punishment for her actions.

As she was being escorted from the hearing, she yelled: “Why am I being taken out of here? This man is evil." 

She was later charged with two counts of unlawful conduct on Capitol grounds: one for disorderly and disruptive conduct for her outburst of laughter and the other for parading or demonstrating on Capitol grounds for her yelling as she was being escorted from the event.

Fairooz later described her outburst as a reflexive reaction that was “an immediate rejection of what I considered an outright lie or pure ignorance.” 

The code of conduct for the District of Columbia prohibits any “loud, threatening or abusive language” on Capitol grounds as well as any “disorderly or disruptive conduct.”

Charging Fairooz for her three seconds of laughter was unjust. A short laugh in the audience that did not interrupt the flow of Shelby should not count as “disruptive conduct.” Reflexive, nondisruptive laughter should not land someone in a courtroom. 

The charge for parading on Capitol grounds, on the other hand, was justifiable. Yelling as she was escorted from the room, Fairooz definitely broke the law. However, it was out of place for the police to detain her in the first place. 

The second, illegal outburst was provoked by the police who escorted her from the event. If they had not forcibly removed her from the room, she would have not caused such a scene. 

Two other Code Pink activists were given the same charge of disruptive conduct at the hearing. Tighe Barry and Lenny Bianchi were arrested after dressing in costumes that resembled those of the Ku Klux Klan and verbally welcoming Sessions as one of their own. 

These two cases are incontestably different in the manner and degree in which they disrupted the hearing, and therefore, by no means was it necessary to detain Fairooz. 

Capitol law enforcement should be able to better discern between an nondisruptive reflex and a measured, intentional interruption at these events. The lawsuit against Fairooz is grounded in illegitimate charges, and she should not be found guilty.

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