This post has been updated.
The hoodie protests have arrived on the floor of the United States Congress.
Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Ill.) was chided and escorted from the House floor Wednesday morning for wearing a gray hoodie and sunglasses while delivering a rousing speech about the need for a full investigation into the shooting death of Florida teen Trayvon Martin.
“I applaud the young people, all across the land who are making a statement about hoodies, about the real hoodlums in this nation, specifically those who tread on our law wearing official or quasi-official cloaks,” Rush said on the House floor.
“Racial profiling has got to stop,” he said. “Just because someone wears a hoodie does not make them a hoodlum.”
As he spoke those words, he removed his suit jacket and lifted the hood over his head. Rep. Gregg Harper (R-Miss.), presiding over the floor as Rush delivered his remarks, began to gavel almost immediately. Shouting over Rush, who began to recite Bible verses, Harper said that Rush was out of order for wearing the hood. A long prohibition has barred House members from wearing hats on the floor. Rush was then escorted from the House floor.
Martin was wearing a hooded sweatshirt when he was shot and killed by neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman, and the clothing item has become a symbol of support for Martin and his family. Zimmerman has said he acted in self-defense when he shot the unarmed 17-year-old, but the lack of charges in the case has sparked nationwide protests.
House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) has reminded House members of rules governing appropriate floor attire in the past.
Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Ca.) declined to criticize House leadership for ruling the sweatshirt display out of order—she noted that House rules have changed over time, recalling that when she first arrived, rules forbade women from wearing pantsuits on the House floor. She said she is more concerned about Republican policies on Medicare and the middle class than the clothing debate.
“I’m more concerned about actions taken, words spoken and the impact on the American people,” she said.
And veteran Rep. John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.), a founding member of the Congressional Black Caucus, said it is the duty of the House Speaker to make rules regarding chamber decorum.
“If the Speaker had allowed it, I would have considered it appropriate. If the Speaker does not allow it, I agree with the Speaker that it’s not appropriate. And, of course, when our colleague walked down into the well, he didn’t know whether it would be appropriate or inappropriate himself,” Conyers said of Rush’s action.
“I do believe the Speaker has the authority and the duty to caution members about proper apparel. And he did,” Conyers said.
Lawmakers in New York wore hoodies on the floor of the state Senate in Albany earlier this week and the Miami Heat basketball team was photographed in the garment.
But this is the first time a lawmaker has worn the item on either floor of the U.S. Congress, where strict rules govern decorum and clothing.
Rush’s speech came during the time daily morning time reserved for House members to give short speeches on any given topic.
Martin’s parents attended a forum on racial profiling on the Hill on Tuesday.