Eight Democratic members of Congress joined with activists on Tuesday to block a street in view of the Capitol, an attempt to reignite immigration reform efforts that have stalled out in the House.
Reps. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL), Civil rights veteran John Lewis (D-GA), Keith Ellison (D-MN), Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ), Joe Crowley (D-NY), Al Green (D-TX), Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) and Charlie Rangel (D-NY) participated in the protest. More than 200 people were arrested in total, including faith leaders, members of advocacy groups and other activists.
The “civil disobedience” was part of the “Camino Americano Rally and March for Immigrant Dignity and Respect” and it was also designed to send a message to House Speaker John Boehner and Republican leaders to bring immigration up for a vote.
“We know the votes are there,” Gutierrez said at the rally. “They know the power of our vote, they know the popularity of immigration reform, they know the hunger and passion in our community, and yet we still have not seen immigration reform signed into law by the President because other Republicans are holding it up.”
Approximately 15,000 people took part in the rally on the National Mall.
Rangel was seen giving a thumbs up as he was being handcuffed.
This wasn’t Lewis’ first, or even his second time arrested. According to his office, it is at least the 45th time. The congressman was arrested more than 40 times alone during the Civil Rights movement, and five times as a member of Congress.
“He was arrested twice at the South African embassy protesting apartheid, twice at the Embassy of the Sudan protesting genocide in Darfur and today he was arrested to demand dignity and respect for immigrants,” Lewis spokewoman Brenda Jones said in a statement.
The arrests mark the third major act of civil disobedience by immigration reform advocates in the past few months. The first one was held Aug. 1 and the last one mid-September. In all three cases, police were prepared to make arrests.
According to U.S. Capitol Police, the members of congress and others arrested, will be charged with “crowding, obstructing, and incommoding.”
Gutierrez pledged in a speech to “lock arms with my colleagues and go to jail today for the father who was deported and cannot see his children, see them grow up, and see them prosper in the United States, the country of their birth.”