Americans of all stripes have signaled their support for slain teenager Trayvon Martin as the call for justice in response to his Feb. 26 shooting death in Sanford, Fla., soared in recent days. In that spirit, we’d like to salute Rep. Bobby Rush, who made a memorable sartorial statement on Martin’s behalf in the halls of Congress, as our Truthdigger of the Week.
On Wednesday, the Illinois lawmaker took a moment during an afternoon session of the House of Representatives to honor Martin with a gesture that ultimately got him escorted off the House floor. Rush took off his suit jacket, revealing that he’d worn a commemorative gray hoodie underneath his outerwear, pulled the hood over his head, and announced, “Just because someone wears a hoodie does not make them a hoodlum.”
That’s right. However, astute followers of arcane congressional guidelines might know that in so doing Rush ran up against a particular apparel-related decree:
The no-hat rule for the 112th Congress is contained in Rule 17, Clause 5:
During the session of the House, a Member, Delegate, or Resident Commissioner may not wear a hat or remain by the Clerk’s desk during the call of the roll or the counting of ballots.
That rule was adopted in 1837, according to research done by PolitiFact.
This display of solidarity for Martin rankled Mississippi Republican and Speaker Pro Tempore Gregg Harper, who saw where Rep. Rush was going, struck his gavel and gave the order that Rush be escorted from the podium before he finished talking. What’s more, as New York’s WPIX reported Wednesday, Harper requested that Rush’s comments be struck from the record of that afternoon’s proceedings. This move didn’t sit well with some lawmakers from New York City, who spoke up for Rush that same day.
“That’s crazy,” New York city council member Melissa Mark-Viverito said to PIX11 News, which first broke the news of the Capitol Hill incident to her. “He was sanctioned and escorted out?”
Mark-Viverito, a Democrat who represents Upper Manhattan and part of the Bronx, had organized a city council demonstration in support of Trayvon Martin that took place at roughly the same time as Rep. Rush’s speech. Mark-Viverito was wearing a hoodie as part of the protest she organized with fellow council member Letitia James.
“It’s a shame and its outrageous that he was disciplined,” Council Member James, a Brooklyn Democrat, said about the incident involving Rep. Rush, “And I will stand with him.”
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi also piped up for Rush, and as USA Today noted Thursday, Congressional Black Caucus Chairman Emanuel Cleaver was planning to respectfully request that House Speaker John Boehner make sure the no-headgear rule is, as it were, uniformly enforced. Take a look at Rep. Rush’s moment on the floor in the clip below.