MEMPHIS — U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions told a law enforcement crowd in Memphis Thursday his new charging and sentencing policy is a “return to the enforcement of the laws as passed by Congress — plain and simple.”
Sessions said that “unfortunately, even as violent crime has surged and overdose deaths have spiked, federal gun and drug prosecutions have fallen in recent years. We will reverse that trend.”
Speaking to a standing-room crowd of about 100 federal, state and local law enforcement officials at the U.S. District courthouse in Memphis, Sessions expressed appreciation for their efforts and said he will use every lawful tool to take offenders off the street.
“If you are a drug trafficker, we will not look the other way and be willfully blind to your conduct,” he said.
Citing a 43% increase in homicides last year in Memphis, he said “these aren’t just numbers or statistics.”
“We are talking about our fellow Americans, whose safety and lives are at stake,” Sessions said. “They are people like the residents of the Sycamore Lake Apartments, in northeast Memphis.
“Last week, two men were shot and killed there during a drug deal, according to local detectives. Tragically, this is no longer uncommon; since 2014, seven people, including a soon-to-be mother and her unborn baby, were murdered just in that apartment complex.
“I would ask each of us to imagine, for a moment, what life is like for the law-abiding citizens in that community. Imagine what it does to good people and families that must live every day as hostages in their own homes, facing potentially deadly violence just to walk to the bus, or avoiding certain gang-controlled territory just to get to work.”
Attorney General Jeff Sessions says his directive that prosecutors should charge suspects with the most serious crimes is a “key part of President Trump’s promise to keep America safe.” (May 12) AP
More than 100 demonstrators from the Memphis chapters of the NAACP, Black Lives Matter and others who urged officials to boycott Sessions’ speech gathered outside Memphis City Hall before marching to the federal building to protest his visit.
Many held signs that said, “Resign!” “Resist Sessions,” “Sessions is a Hate Crime,”
and “Hate never made a country great.”
Sessions’ recent mandate that federal prosecutors file the most serious charges possible in criminal cases drew the ire of the crowd who viewed it as an assault on communities of color.
“This type of sentencing destroys lives and destroys families,” said Deirdre Malone, president of Memphis branch of the NAACP. “We’re not going back to 50 years of Jim Crow.”
NAACP chairman Deidre Malone speaks to protesters gathered outside Memphis City Hall during a visit by U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Mike Brown/The Commercial Appeal
Holding a Black Lives Matter sign, Karen Spencer-McGee said, “When our mayor can make time for Jeff Sessions and not Jesse Jackson then we have a problem.”
Sessions has addressed law enforcement in other states, including Missouri, Texas, Virginia and New York since being sworn in Feb. 9, often mentioning the violent crime in Memphis, as well as crime in Baltimore, Chicago and Milwaukee.
In Memphis last year, 228 people were killed, breaking a previous record of 213 in 1993. There have been 84 homicides to date this year compared to 91 last year, according to the Memphis Police Department.
Source: USA Today