Bobby Rush dons hoodie on House floor

March 28, 2012 8:30:43 PM PDT
Chicago Congressman Bobby Rush took the House floor Wednesday morning to protest the killing of Florida teenager Trayvon Martin.

Neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman, 28, says he shot Martin in self-defense, but the 17-year-old's girlfriend, who was on the phone with martin during the confrontation, disputes that claim. The slain teen was wearing a hoodie when he was killed.

The story has grown increasingly political.

Rush was making a statement about racial profiling when he took off his jacket and pulled a hoodie over his head.

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

A hoodie violates the dress code on the House floor. The presiding officer slammed the gavel in an attempt to interrupt Rush's speech and warn him about breaking the dress code.

Rush finally left the floor on his own.

Members were then reminded of rules that prohibit the wearing of hats in the chamber when the House is in session.

Rush told ABC 7's Ravi Baichwal Wednesday afternoon he wore the hoodie as a way of showing his support to young people who have been protesting the shooting death of Trayvon Martin. "They are the voice of their generation," he said.

"I wanted to send a message to the young people in our nation," Rush told ABC7. "The murder of Trayvon Martin. His killer has not been brought to justice."

When asked if he was surprised by the reaction he got from the chair, Rush said, "to me decorum wasn't the primary consideration. America stands for more than this, and that's why I took the action that I did this morning on the floor of the House."

The move comes on the heels of similar displays in city council meetings across the country.

"I think that race is always a dynamic and unpredictable force in politics," said Laura Washington, ABC 7 political analyst. "Both sides are trying to play this story to their own benefit."

In fact, conservative websites have criticized news coverage of the case including the use of photos of Martin provided by his family which show him much younger than at the time of the shooting.

"Anytime there's a controversial story, you're always going to upset some people," said Professor Ava Thompson Greenwell, Northwestern University. "The key is if you're upsetting people on both sides of the issue then that generally means you're doing a good job."

On Tuesday the 17-year-old Martin's parents spoke on Capitol Hill at a Democratic-sponsored panel on racial profiling.

On Wednesday, students at Northwestern University led a vigil and march in Martin's memory.

"There seems to be a lot of concern that they never really intended to prosecute and that they never really wanted justice for Trayvon," said Tom Meyer, Northwestern student.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.