Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III
USA’s top cop a throwback to the Old South
Lois Danks
volume 38
issue 4
August 2017

More revealing quotes from Jeff Sessions:

“There is a clear nexus between immigration and terrorism.” — U.S. Senate website

“We don’t pay judges to think; we pay judges to rule on the law.” — Senate floor, 2005

“[A] marriage should be between a man and a woman.” — Congressional Record – Senate; July 9, 2004

“The sanctity of life begins at conception.” — “Protecting Traditional Alabama Values”

Photo credit: Zach Gibson / Getty Images

Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III is aptly named after the 19th-century Confederate president Jefferson Davis, and P.G.T. Beauregard, the Southern general who fired the first shot of the Civil War at Fort Sumter. As a U.S. 21st-century Attorney General, Sessions is in a position to drag us back to the Old South where Blacks were lynched, women “knew their place,” segregation ruled, gays stayed in the closet, and sheriffs could lock you up and throw away the key.

In his extremely powerful job as head of the Department of Justice, Sessions is supposed to enforce anti-discrimination laws of the land — laws that he has opposed for decades. With a $27.7 billion budget, this ultra-conservative former senator controls the FBI, the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives (ATF), Federal Bureau of Prisons, Interpol, and the Office of Violence Against Women, among others. He decides what to enforce, what to ignore, what charges federal prosecutors can bring, and what sentences are imposed by federal judges.

Drug war revival. The new “War on Drugs” is one of Sessions’ main tools to resurrect the Old South. He and Trump blatantly lie when they claim “soaring” crime rates, and portray Black inner-city neighborhoods as hotbeds of drug and gang violence. In fact, national crime rates are fifty percent lower than at their peak in 1991!

His new directive to bring back mandatory minimum sentences and take away prosecutorial and judicial discretion will deliver much longer sentences and open wider the pipeline to mass incarceration. Even though whites are far more numerous users of drugs, African Americans are more often charged with drug crimes. The new policies will increase brutal policing in Black and poor communities and leave drug czars relatively untouched.

Additionally, Sessions has increased funding to militarize police, and strongly opposes investigating cops for misconduct, violating civil rights, or using excessive force in places like Ferguson, Mo. Already rejected for a federal judgeship in 1986 due to charges of racism, he has now become the head of the most powerful law enforcement agency in the U.S.

His war on other targets. Immigrants, women, workers, and LGBTQ folks are among our Attorney General’s other favorite prey. In his first few months as top cop, he drastically increased penalties for illegal reentry into the U.S. and ordered officials to charge people with the highest possible penalty. Sessions practically wrote Trump’s immigration policy and he’s hiring hundreds more immigration judges to process deportations faster, and more federal agents to capture more migrants. Since January, immigration arrests have increased 33 percent and arrests of immigrants with no criminal record have doubled.

As for women’s rights, his record as a U.S. senator verifies his reactionary values. Voting against the Lily Ledbetter Act which allows women to file wage-discrimination claims, voting to defund Planned Parenthood, and opposing the Violence Against Women Act are only a few examples. He once said, ” I firmly believe that Roe v. Wade … represent(s) one of the worst, colossally erroneous Supreme Court decisions of all time.”

True to form, Sessions opposed repealing the military policy “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” voted to ban same-sex marriage, and doesn’t believe assaults on LGBTQ people rise to the level of hate crimes.

He believes in climate change but claims it “hasn’t happened yet,” “carbon dioxide is just food for plants,” and promotes oil and gas drilling as a way to create jobs. Even the earth itself is one of his targets!

In 2007 he voted against the Employee Free Choice Act, which would have allowed unions more freedom in organizing, opposed the American Jobs Act, and repeatedly resisted extending long-term unemployment benefits. Not a champion of workers by any stretch of the imagination!

Firm right-wing credentials. Claiming “Good people don’t smoke marijuana,” Sessions favors a national ban on the drug and seizing property from those arrested (civil forfeiture), which intensifies the burden on families and communities. He has already revived the use of private prisons, increasing the huge profits already flowing to his wealthy cronies. Two of his former aides work as lobbyists for GEO group, private prison profiteers and major donors to the Trump campaign.

Sessions has long opposed the Voting Rights Act which, when enforced, gave Blacks in the South somewhat easier access to the polls. As Alabama Attorney General he had a history of overlooking murders of African Americans. He even prosecuted the Marion Three who helped Blacks register and vote. As U.S. Attorney General, he now has the clout to do this on a national level. And being a son of the Old South, he no doubt will.

Sessions was the very first senator to endorse Trump’s presidential run. His confused, useless testimony at the hearing on Russian interference in the 2016 election was a grandiose media distraction from the real human life damage he was doing as attorney general.

Talking to Russians is nothing compared to Sessions’ use of his power as the nation’s top cop to make Black and immigrant lives more miserable, and weaken the enforcement of hate crime and anti-discrimination laws designed to protect the civil rights and liberties of all the afflicted. Instead of running the Justice Department as an independent agency, J.B. Sessions is helping Trump use it as a political tool of the White House.

No toleration of the Old South! A new surge of progressive southern activism in the streets shocks and appalls the likes of the attorney general. Union contracts were won in “right to work” states for hotel employees in Texas, Nestles shipping center laborers in Georgia, and Smithfield immigrant workers in North Carolina. Low-wage waiters continue to picket for $15 an hour minimum wages. Confederate statues and memorials are tumbling down; Black radical Chokwe Antar Lumumba wins the mayoral election in Jackson, Miss.; and Moral Mondays continues to organize across the Southeast.

Don’t let Sessions and Trump turn the clock back! Fight alongside the Free Alabama Movement to stop mass incarceration. Join with the Coalition for Immokalee Workers to defend farmworker organizing and human rights. Unite with Radical Action for Mountain People’s Survival (RAMPS) in Appalachia and the socialist Kentucky Workers’ League. Check out Austin’s Red Guard standing up to violent far-right thugs.

In the South, and the North, East, and West, let’s form more united fronts for the crucial drive towards a better future.