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Rep. Bobby Rush's Hoodie Moment Recalls His Own Family Tragedy

Rep. Bobby Rush who, like Trayvon Martin's parents, lost a son to gun violence.
Rep. Bobby Rush who, like Trayvon Martin's parents, lost a son to gun violence.

Rep. Bobby Rush made news Wednesday when he raised a hoodie during a House floor speech on the Trayvon Martin tragedy.

The Chicago Democrat was told by Rep. Gregg Harper, the Mississippi Republican presiding over the chamber that he was in violation of the House's rules as Harper repeatedly banged his gavel to get Rush to signal that Rush had gone too far.

The episode has deeper meaning when you recall that Rush also lost a son to gun violence. Huey Rice, 29, was shot to death in 1999 by strangers on a Chicago street.

Rush's hoodie moment gave the sartorial display of solidarity with the dead 17-year old and his family, versions of which have popped up all over the nation and included celebrities like the NBA's Miami Heat, its most august stage yet.

That Rush was violating the rules and brought him in conflict with the presiding officer just drew more attention to his action, which was the point.

The House apparently takes its hat rule very seriously. PolitiFact Florida examined the rule in November 2010 after Rep. Frederica Wilson (D-FL) who had just won election to the House and was known for the fashionable cowboy hats she wore in the Florida legislature indicated she wanted a waiver from the ban against people wearing hats on the House floor when the body was in session. She hasn't received it.

Interestingly, the Senate, which has traditionally been viewed as the more stodgy body, has no such written rule against wearing hats on the floor of that chamber,

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Frank James joined NPR News in April 2009 to launch the blog, "The Two-Way," with co-blogger Mark Memmott.
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