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Lawmaker wearing hoodie removed from House floor

By Deirdre Walsh, CNN Senior Congressional Producer
updated 10:12 PM EDT, Wed March 28, 2012
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Rush is a former Black Panther and was active in civil rights in the 1960s
  • Wearing a hoodie doesn't make someone a hoodlum, Rush says
  • The lawmaker was speaking about the Trayvon Martin case

The killing of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin has sparked a national dialogue on race; now CNN wants to hear from you. At 8 p.m. ET Thursday at CNN studios in New York, Soledad O'Brien is hosting a town hall meeting called "Beyond Trayvon: Race and Justice in America." The special will air at 8 p.m. ET Friday on CNN.

Washington (CNN) -- A congressman was removed from the House floor Wednesday after giving a speech about Trayvon Martin while wearing a hoodie.

Rep. Bobby Rush, D-Illinois, told House members, "racial profiling has to stop."

Rush, a former Black Panther who was active in the civil rights movement in the 1960s, then took off his suit jacket, pulled a gray hoodie on over his head and put on sunglasses.

"Just because someone wears a hoodie does not make them a hoodlum," he said.

Evolution of the hoodie

Rep. Rush: A hoodie is just clothing

The congressman spoke during the morning session, when members are allowed to address any issue. He applauded young people across the country who are wearing hoodies to make a statement about Martin, the teen who was wearing a hooded sweatshirt when he was killed by a neighborhood watch volunteer in Sanford, Florida.

As soon as Rush removed his jacket and put the hood on his head, Rep. Greg Harper, R-Mississippi, who was presiding over the House floor, began to gavel Rush down, saying he was out of order.

Rush ignored him, and with the hoodie still pulled over his head, continued to speak, citing the Bible.

Harper continued to bang the gavel. "The gentleman will suspend. The member is no longer recognized," he said. "The chair must remind members that clause 5 of rule 17 prohibits the wearing of hats in the chamber when the House is in session."

A floor clerk approached Rush as he finished his remarks and led him away from the podium.

Afterward, Rush told CNN he was wearing a tie, suggesting he was appropriately dressed for the House floor. He said the purpose of putting on the hoodie was to send a message to young people, "to stand their ground, stand up and don't stand down."

As for violating the House rule on wearing hats, Rush pointed to his hooded shirt and argued, "this is not a hat, this is a hoodie."

"I don't mind being out of order if it means standing up for truth and justice," Rush said.

He said the public debate over Martin's death was a continuation of the movement in which he participated during the 1960's. "This is just another part of the struggle. I've never left those days. Those days are deep down in my soul."

What the witnesses say in Martin case

Noting that he was standing in the Capitol, Rush added, "Many people have given their lives so I can be here and once I got here I can't forget whose shoulders I'm standing on."

The Illinois lawmaker said he understood that those on the floor who ruled him out of order and the staffer who moved him off the floor were doing their jobs, and said he was able to finish his speech.

"A lot of it was theatrical, but I wanted the message to go forward," he said.

Rush said he and Rep. Jackie Speier, D-California, were organizing a gathering of House members wearing hoodies on the East Front of the Capitol later this week.

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