Rep. Gwen Moore’s office is rallying members of Congress to join her in raising a pencil on Tuesday during President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address to honor the victims of the terrorist attack on the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo.
At least 50 Democratic House members have already told Moore’s office they will join her during some of the speech’s applause lines when Obama speaks about freedom of expression and the terror attacks in Paris.
“We in no way want to disrupt the State of the Union. We appreciate the fact that all members of Congress will be here at one time to show support and solidarity,” said Eric Harris, Moore’s press secretary who hatched the idea. “I think it’s fair to say that we’ve never seen this type of political climate before and I think it’s important that we show our support.”
The gesture became an international symbol of defiance at marches and rallies after terrorist attacked Charlie Hebdo, which prominently featured controversial cartoons.
Plans for the unprecedented display on the House floor during the State of the Union address are gathering steam, Harris said, and he expects most members of the Congressional Black Caucus and the Congressional Progressive Caucus will join, though he hopes for a strong bipartisan showing.
Democratic Reps. John Conyers, Barbara Lee, Marcia Fudge, Karen Bass, Charlie Rangel, Keith Ellison, Jim McGovern and Mark Pocan were among the first to join Moore, Harris said.
But the effort has faced some push-back from some who labeled it as a political stunt.
“That is in no way what we are trying to do here,” Harris said.
Harris said he informed the White House and House Democratic leadership of the plans and will give the White House a list of members who plan on participating.
Harris initially floated the idea through an email list of Democratic press secretaries to gauge support, but the idea quickly went public when someone with access to the chain leaked the information to the press.
But Harris said his boss was quickly on board with the plan and thought it would be a touching tribute.
Moore, who broke her two feet and an arm during a bad fall over the holiday recess, will raise a pencil on Tuesday night while sitting in a wheelchair, using her one good arm.