I.V. Weekly Chronicle
Democratic Congressman Bobby Rush was escorted from the House Wednesday after being reprimanded for wearing a hoodie to protest against the shooting of Trayvon Martin.
Rush, a former member of the militant group the Black Panthers, came into the chamber wearing a suit, with a hoodie underneath.
As Rush began to speak, he took off his jacket to reveal the hoodie, which has become a symbol of solidarity with Martin. Pulling up the hood, he said: “Racial profiling has to stop. Just because someone wears a hoodie does not make them a hoodlum.”
As he continued speaking, he took off his normal glasses and replaced them with sunglasses. He was interrupted by the acting Speaker, Gregg Harper, from Mississippi, who said: “The member will suspend.” He added that Rush was in breach of a House regulations on decorum.
Rush, who represents Illinois, continued, quoting from the Bible. Harper, speaking over him, repeated: “The gentleman will suspend.” Looking exasperated, Harper finally said: “The member is no longer recognised.” He then asked the serjeant-at-arms to enforce the prohibition.
After he had left, Harper reiterated that Rush was in breach of the rule on decorum, which meant no hats. “The donning of a hood is not consistent with this rule,” he said.
The Martin case has become one of the most heated race-related issues of recent years. Martin was fatally shot in Sanford, Florida, last month. He had been wearing a hoodie at the time. George Zimmerman, a member of a neighbourhood watch patrol, had called the police to say he had seen someone in a hoodie who looked suspicious. Zimmerman has not been charged.
Martin’s parents were in Congress Tuesday for a hearing of the House judiciary committee on racial profiling.
In an interview with the Washington Post, they praised Rush’s actions. The father, Tracy Martin, said: “I would like to commend Congressman Rush for pleading our case. My question would be why wasn’t Congressman Rush allowed to address racial profiling. This is something that needs to be talked about … This is a country of freedom of speech.”
Trayvon’s mother, Sybrina Fulton, said: “It just shows a lot of people are passionate about his movement of Trayvon Martin.” She added that it also demonstrated that some people just did not get it.
The two met Rush on Tuesday. They told the Post they believed he had been killed because of racial profiling.
Rush co-founded in 1968 the Illinois chapter of the Black Panthers, a group which rejected Martin Luther King’s non-violent approach to civil rights in favour of violence. He was imprisoned for six months in 1972 on a gun charge.
A born-again Christian, he left the Panthers in 1974 and has represented Illinois in Congress since 1993. As a political veteran going back to the 1960s and respected by many African-Americans in Chicago for his role in the Black Panthers, he was contemptous when faced with a challenge for his seat in 2000 by the then little-known Barack Obama.
Rush treated him as upstart who knew little of life in Chicago’s poor, African-American neighbourhoods. Obama countered that Rush belonged to the past and there was a need to work with whites to get things done. Rush crushed him in the primary, one of Obama’s few serious setbacks.
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