Claire Gastanaga's Address during Sessions' Richmond Visit
On Wednesday, March 15, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions met with local, state, and federal law enforcement representatives in Richmond on violent crime and public safety. Our Executive Director Claire Guthrie Gastañaga addressed a crowd of protesters, who showed up to oppose the Trump administration's unconstitutional policies, in front of the SunTrust Center, where the meeting took place. You can watch her address here:


"I know that there is nothing we’d all like better than for someone else to be Attorney General of the United States --- someone who is committed to civil rights, voting rights, constitutional and unbiased policing, and humane immigration laws.
Someone who believes that the Justice Department has an important role to play in ensuring that police departments operate in the best interests of the communities they serve, free from the corruption of policing for profit and committed to protecting black and brown lives.
But, that’s not who is now in the office, nor is it likely to be who is in the office over the next four years despite calls for this particular Trump appointee to resign.
So, today, I urge us to focus not on the man who called this meeting but on the people who were invited and chose to attend it. Those people, the head of OUR state police, the head of OUR city police, OUR sheriffs and commonwealth’s attorneys … we must demand and expect those people who serve us directly in our communities, those attending the meeting today and those not attending or not invited, to do four things:

  • REJECT alternate facts, lies, and false narratives about the crime rate, voter fraud, police as victims, and immigrants that are being used by the federal government to build the case for mass surveillance, draconian new laws to suppress the voting rights of millions of Americans, police protectionism, and enforcement only immigration policies that are resulting in people without criminal convictions being taken into custody at churches, schools, hospitals and court houses.
  • REPEL any and all requests by the federal government to volunteer to take on the federal responsibility for immigration enforcement. We must demand that they protect our communities by refusing to break trust with people living in communities across the Commonwealth who need to be comfortable turning to police when they are victims of crime and willing to help police when they are witnesses.
  • REPUDIATE decisions made by General Sessions to withdraw federal protection of transgender school children, to end the work of the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division to root out corruption and racism in the nation’s police forces and make us all less safe by accepting the false narrative that police are being victimized by the communities they serve, and to defend the Muslim travel ban.
  • REAFFIRM their commitment to the reforms needed to restore and build trust between people and law enforcement, reforms that will assure civilian oversight, reforms that will professionalize police and the departments in which they serve, reforms that will make us all safer by focusing law enforcement on major crimes, not petty ones like marijuana possession, trespass and loitering.

We must also ask those attending the meeting today to REVEAL to everyone everything that is said by Attorney General Sessions in the secret meeting today. A meeting to discuss safety and security is everyone’s business, and we have a right to know what is said.
We have something that Attorney General Sessions doesn’t have. We have People Power."