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Immigration Rights Activists Joined by Lawmakers as 200 Arrested in DC

Civil disobedience outside Capitol Building results in mass arrest as anger boils over ignored issue

- Jon Queally, staff writer

U.S. Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) is arrested outside the Capitol in Washington during a demonstration calling for the House to take up immigration overhaul legislation. (Drew Angerer / Getty Images / October 8, 2013)Thousands of people rallied and about 200 were arrested outside the Capitol Building in Washington, DC on Tuesday, demanding meaningful and immediate legislative action to correct the abysmal treatment of immigrants in the U.S. and the continued stalemate that meets the issue in Congress.

Among those arrested were 8 members of Congress, all Democrats, who joined immigrant rights advocates, labor activists, and community members who held signs at the rally that said "Unite" and "Keep families together — immigration reform now."

As The Los Angeles Times reports:

Demonstrators marched to the Capitol after a rally and concert on the National Mall. Many stood or sat in the street in what organizers called a campaign of civil disobedience.

Democratic Reps. Charles B. Rangel and Joseph Crowley of New York, Raul M. Grijalva of Arizona, John Lewis of Georgia and Luis V. Gutierrez and Jan Schakowsky of Illinois were among those loaded into police vans. U.S. Capitol Police said they would be charged with "crowding, obstructing and incommoding," which is a misdemeanor.

"My colleagues and I are not afraid to get arrested for what we believe is important to move America forward," Rangel said in a video posted to his Twitter account.

Maria Elena Durazo, head of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, also was arrested. "We strongly believe we could get the majority between Democrats and some Republicans to pass immigration reform," she said beforehand.

Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Il). said that his participation and civil disobedience follows from the belief that all people residing in the U.S., with or without the proper documents, deserve protection from injustice and have the right to feel secure in their homes, at their jobs, and in their communities.

"Those of us who have the piece of paper and peace of mind that ensures our return home tonight to our families must fight for those who do not have that piece of paper or that peace of mind," Gutierrez said before being arrested with the others.

"I am joining these religious leaders, our union brothers and sisters, our friends from all walks of life who have both the legal piece of paper and the peace of mind that comes with being a citizen or being a permanent resident," he continued, adding that he didn't mind risking arrest in order to "sacrifice the very freedom that 30,000 people in detention right now do not have."

And The Huffington Post adds:

Some of the arrestees on Tuesday have participated in similar actions before. Gutierrez was arrested in 2011 for protesting deportations at the White House, and advocate Frank Sharry from the group America's Voice was arrested during a protest near the Capitol in August.

But others were acting in civil disobedience for the first time. Jason Kimelman-Block, the rabbi-in-residence for Bend the Arc: A Jewish Partnership for Justice, said he'd never done anything like the protest before, but that it was important to him to join in this time.

"My grandfather was a prisoner of war and my father was a prison administrator, and the idea of doing that is not something I was raised to do -- but I am doing it," Kimelman-Block said before the protest. "The purpose of it is to show how important this issue is. We're going to do whatever we can to get the issue of immigration reform back on the agenda."

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