‘HANDS UP, DON’T SHOOT!’: Congressional Staff Protest Deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner

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The scene on the steps of the U.S. Capitol was like many across the country: People of color raised their hands in the now familiar “hands up, don’t shoot” gesture to protest the death of an unarmed black teenager by a white police officer.

Only this protest in Washington involved congressional aides who briefly walked off their jobs Thursday — angered by the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., and Eric Garner in New York, and the decision by grand juries in both communities not to indict the police involved.

“Forgive us when we have failed to lift our voices for those who couldn’t speak or breathe for themselves,” said Senate Chaplain Barry Black, as he led the group of about 200 staffers and a few members of Congress in prayer.

The word “breathe” is a reference to Garner, who died after police placed a chokehold as he was arrested for selling cigarettes. Black is known for his relevant prayers, particularly during last year’s government shutdown.

Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., who joined the protest on the Capitol steps, said the action was meant to show how “incredibly frustrated” they are by the Brown and Garner deaths and “the mistrust” the protesters have in the criminal justice system.

“These congressional staffers put in incredibly long hours, nights and weekends to pass legislation to help people live better lives, so I fully support them,” said Cummings, who is pictured above in the front row bundled in a heavy coat and wearing the Under Armour cap.

This article continues on usatoday.com

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