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When Representative Bobby Rush recently removed his suit coat, hooded his head, and shaded his eyes while speaking before the House, it was obvious that his intent was to make a statement.

But the acting Speaker at the time, Representative Greg Harper, shut him down and had him removed from the chamber. For violating the House’s dress code.

I’m all for requiring respectful dress, but people should be able to see Rush’s dress in that moment for what it was — a visual aid in his speech. This isn’t a representative showing up to vote in his overalls. It’s not a casual or slack appearance. It’s part of a speech. Let the man finish his speech, complete with the props he feels a need to employ, and move on.

I got the sense watching this that Harper was motivated by partisan or (possibly though improbably) racial bigotry when shutting his colleague up. I assume he is an intelligent man, so he must have realized that the dress code didn’t properly apply to this situation. His real intent must have been to silence Rush’s speech. The wag of his head while saying, “The member is no longer recognized,” makes him look a little drunk on power. It looks to me like he just didn’t like the thought of letting Rush say what he wanted to say.

Perhaps some members of Congress need a refresher on freedom of speech.