National protests over the shooting and killing of unarmed black teenager Trayvon Martin in central Florida last month have swept the nation, and Wednesday, they landed on the House floor.
Rep. Bobby Rush, D-Ill., didn’t appear out of the ordinary as he began to read from prepared remarks for the sparsely attended session known as morning hour.
Rush called Martin’s death an “American tragedy that too often is repeated in the streets of our nation,” and then derided “the real hoodlums in this nation who wear quasi-official clothes.” Rush then took off his suit jacket, exposing a hooded sweatshirt. He pulled the hood over his head and put on large black sunglasses, a symbol that has been frequently seen on college campuses as the country discusses what happened to Martin.
“Just because you wear a hoodie, doesn’t make you a hoodlum,” Rush said.
House rules prohibit the wearing of hats in the chamber while the House is in session, and the stunt prompted the presiding officer in the chair, Rep. Gregg Harper, R-Miss., to rule Rush out of order for wearing a hood.
Harper brought down the gavel repeatedly as Rush kept speaking, and he directed a clerk to escort the out-of-order congressman from the floor.
Rush refused to stop until he finished his remarks, which included reading scripture from the Bible.
Rush, a former member of the African-American leftist organization known as the Black Panthers in the 1960s, told the NewsHour following the incident that the “Panther” part of him has never left.
“I don’t mind being out of order if it means standing up for freedom and justice and human dignity. This is just another part of the struggle,” Rush said.
The Democrat said that he and other members of Congress are planning to rally again wearing hoodies in or around the Capitol before the House leaves Friday for Easter recess.