By Claire Zillman
May 4, 2017

Desiree Fairooz, an activist with the Code Pink: Women for Peace NGO, could go to jail for a year simply because she laughed during U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ confirmation hearing.

Fairooz is one of three activists convicted of charges related to their protest of Sessions’ confirmation. They could face up to 12 months in jail and $2,000 in fines for claims that they attempted to “impede and disrupt” the hearing; jurors convicted Fairooz of disorderly conduct and “parading or demonstrating on Capitol grounds.” The incriminating laugh occurred after Alabama Senator Richard Shelby said that Sessions’ “extensive record of treating all Americans equally under the law is clear and well-documented.”

“I just couldn’t hold it,” she told The New York Times on Wednesday. “It was spontaneous. It was an immediate rejection of what I considered an outright lie or pure ignorance.” While some jurors told HuffPost that it was not her laugh, but her behavior upon being removed from the courtroom that constituted disorderly conduct, Department of Justice prosecutors said the laugh alone was enough to merit a conviction.

The whole ordeal appears to be an all-too-real manifestation of a quote from author Margaret Atwood, who said: “Men are afraid women will laugh at them. Women are afraid men will kill them.” Unfortunately, Atwood’s 1985 novel The Handmaid’s Tale, now a Hulu series, has emerged as a cultural touchstone of the Trump presidency.

Hillary Clinton also referenced the novel during a speech at Planned Parenthood’s 100th anniversary gala Tuesday evening, saying, “We can never let them grind us down.” The Hulu series, she said, “has prompted important conversations about women’s rights and autonomy. In The Handmaid’s Tale, women’s rights are gradually, slowly stripped away. As one character says, ‘We didn’t look up from our phones until it was too late.’”

While Fairooz’s conviction is dispiriting news, she plans to file post-trial motions to fight the verdict and continue protesting the Trump administration.

So long as women’s advocates “keep fighting,” Clinton said, “it is not too late for us.”



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