Here’s What Happens When You’re Arrested at a Confirmation Hearing

Published on February 2, 2017 · Last updated July 28, 2020
U.S. Capitol Police remove a demonstrator on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2017, during the Senate Judiciary Committee's confirmation hearing for Attorney General-designate, Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

During Tuesday’s Senate confirmation hearing for Jeff Sessions, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) praised the longtime Alabama senator as a “logical” selection for attorney general. “Who do you expect [Trump] to pick?” he asked rhetorically, pointing out that Democrats didn’t protest when President John F. Kennedy chose his brother Robert as attorney general.

“Who do you expect him to pick?”

At this point, a woman seated in the public gallery could no longer contain herself. She jumped to her feet. “Certainly not a puppet like the one that’s been selected!” she yelled.

The voice belonged to comedian and cannabis activist Elizabeth Croydon, a prominent member of the DCMJ activist group and a former Congressional candidate. As security guards pulled Croydon from the courtroom, she called out to Sen. Patrick Leahy, thanking him for his record and recognizing her father, Stan Croydon, who served in the Department of Justice.

As it happens, I interviewed her a few weeks ago for a feature on Washington, D.C.’s cannabis culture. (That’s not her in the headline photo above, by the way.) So when I heard her voice, I wondered: What exactly happens to a protester who gets kicked out of a Senate hearing?

I followed her tweets all Tuesday afternoon, and finally reached her by phone on Wednesday. She gave me the whole story. If you’re considering raising a holler at a Senate confirmation hearing, for whatever cause, here’s how it’ll go for you.

After being pulled from the hearing room, U.S. Capitol Police put Croydon in metal handcuffs next to Col. Ann Wright, a 70-year-old former State Department official and retired Army officer, who had earlier got herself kicked out by shouting “I say no to Jeff Sessions! No to hatred! No to racism! No to a ban on refugees!”

Wright and Croydon exchanged pleasantries while sitting together in cuffs; as fellow activists, this was not their first encounter and they’ve both been in regular attendance at the Jeff Sessions confirmation hearings.

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Croydon and Wright were loaded into a police van, where they were both cuffed to the side of the van. According to Croydon, the Capitol Police officers were surprisingly cordial and discussed possibly switching the metal handcuffs for plastic ones to ease discomfort. They even struck up a conversation with Croydon about the benefits of CBD oil as a treatment for cancer.

This wasn’t Croydon’s first time in the paddy wagon. As an experienced activist, she’s been arrested for civil disobedience in the District of Columbia before. She knew it would be a fairly straightforward process.

After being arrested, charged, and taken to a processing center, those who have committed an act of civil disobedience are usually subjected to the “post-and-forfeiture procedure.” That means the protester forfeits their right to a trial by submitting an automatic guilty plea and paying a fine for their release.

In this instance, though, perhaps because of the high-profile nature of the hearing, both Wright and Croydon were charged with disruption of Congress and given a trial date of Feb. 15. They were arrested around 11am, and released by 2:30pm. Croydon was never held in a jail cell, but was forced to sit in cuffs at the Capitol Police Headquarters, just around the corner from the Russell Senate Building, while her personal items were processed. The Capitol Police even removed her shoelaces.

Ann Wright and Elizabeth Croydon after being released by Capitol Police.

Ann Wright and Elizabeth Croydon after being released by Capitol Police.

This is far from over for Croydon as an activist. She told Leafly yesterday that the episode only served to inspire her to push further and work harder. She is already organizing a national march to be held in March, but, she remarked, “I am concerned that the laws for civil disobedience could change by then.”

You may see Croydon’s name on a ballot again soon. “I’ve made up my mind to run for Congress again,” she told Leafly. “My voice is needed, and this is only the beginning.”

Her voice cracked as she talked about the struggle ahead for activists and advocates.

“My actions were to inspire other Americans to act,” she said, “and to resist and to remain vigilant and to know that there are people who are willing to face jail and dire circumstances so that everyone’s citizen rights prevail and are maintained through what I think will be one of the darkest administrations we have ever seen.”

Lead Image: Alex Brandon/AP. Note: The woman pictured in the lead image is not Ann Wright or Elizabeth Croydon.

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Lisa Rough
Lisa Rough
Lisa is a former associate editor at Leafly, where she specialized in legislative cannabis policy and industry topics.
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