On the 8th of October, supporters of immigration reform and citizenship for current migrants staged a massive rally and concert on the “closed” National Mall. This being a First Amendment activity, the Park Service could not legally interfere. After the rally, they marched on the Capitol and blocked 3ed st in civil disobediance. Eight Congressional Democrats supporting immigration reform were among the arrestees.
UPI’s report listed these members of Congress as among the arrestees:
Rep. John Lewis (D-GA), Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-NY) and Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL),Joe Crowley (D-NY), Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), Luis Gutierrez (D-IL), Keith Ellison (D-MN), and Al Green (D-TX).
Even Fox News admitted this protest took place, estimating over 200 arrests
This is the first time I have ever seen members of Congress arrested in a protest over any US domestic issue. There were a lot of politicians engaging in civil disobediance over apartheid in South Africa, but I don’t remember of any of them were members of Congress.
Dozens of others were arrested on 3ed st, including a lot of people wearing T-shirts representing labor unions. Capitol Police charged arrestees with “crowding, obstructing and incommoding” according to the Washington Post. CROWDING? That’s a new one!
One could argue that with the parks “closed” the entire event was a civil disobediance, but the Park Service chose to honor the pre-existing permit, as the First Amendment, being in the Constitution, trumps the anti-deficiency act, which is merely legislation. Any work necessary to comply with the Constition can surely be deemed “essential” during the shutdown. Permits for commercial events, which are not covered by the First Amendment, have been rescinded.
Right-wing blogs are already whining about the fact that the Mall rally was “allowed” but a good part of it would not doubt have taken place with or without a permit. There is a large body of case law explicitly forbidding using governmental convenience as grounds to forbid protests in the US.
There was one other point here: the civil disobediance took place on part of the route of last week’s car chase, and the arrests were by the US Capitol Police. With members of Congress among those defying the order to clear the street, tney had to learn to do their jobs without drawing their guns.