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House Democrats Will Not Face Ethics Investigation for Civil Disobedience

The Ethics Committee will not conduct further inquiries into the eight House Democrats who were arrested for acts of civil disobedience at an immigration rally earlier this month.

Eight House Democrats were arrested for their part in the immigration rally on Oct. 8. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo.)
Eight House Democrats were arrested for their part in the immigration rally on Oct. 8. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The panel announced its decision to essentially dismiss the matter in a one-page report released Thursday.

“The Committee considered the scope and nature of the conduct of the Members … and determined that review by an investigative subcommittee is not required in this matter,” the report concluded.

The Ethics Committee might have considered moving forward with its probe into the incident based on the fact that the members essentially broke the law and that their conduct reflected poorly on the House.

On Oct. 8, the group of lawmakers participated in an event outside the Capitol designed to pressure House Republican leaders to allow a floor vote on an immigration overhaul measure — specifically, one that promises a pathway to citizenship for the nation’s roughly 11 million undocumented immigrants.

It was the members’ intention to get arrested, along with roughly 200 activists, as they participated in the act of blocking traffic at First Street Northwest.

The arrested members included House Democratic Caucus Vice Chairman Joseph Crowley of New York and Progressive Caucus Co-Chairmen Raúl M. Grijalva of Arizona and Keith Ellison of Minnesota. Also taken into custody was Illinois Democrat Luis V. Gutierrez, a leading voice in his party on immigration, along with fellow Illinoisan Jan Schakowsky. Rep. Charles B. Rangel of New York and Al Green of Texas were arrested, too.

Another activist removed from the scene by Capitol Police was Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., who, as a young civil rights activist, was nearly beaten to death in the Deep South by pro-segregationists.

“Fifty years ago, my hero, John Lewis, was criticized for leading demonstrations and non-violent protests,” Gutierrez told the assembled masses before the act of civil disobedience. “But John Lewis is here with us today and we together with my colleagues are willing to give ourselves to win freedom for those who have none.”

The lawmakers’ stint in jail was a short one, and it was quickly resolved.

“Each of the Representatives forfeited a $50.00 collateral payment, whereupon the charges against them were dropped,” the Ethics Committee report said. “Therefore, the local proceedings related to these arrests are now resolved.”

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