A large and diverse group of congressional staffers staged a walkout today on Capitol Hill to show sympathy for the families of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, two black men killed this year by on-duty police officers, and to express unity with other demonstrators protesting the failure of separate grand juries to return indictments against the cops involved the killings.
Staffers emerged from the Capitol just after 3:30 p.m. EST with arms raised, echoing the “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot” gesture that has become a symbol of demonstrations since Brown was shot in Ferguson, Missouri, this summer. Several witnesses said the unarmed teen had his hands raised in surrender when police officer Darren Wilson fired the fatal shot.
The Hill walkout was organized by Congressional Black Associates, the Congressional Hispanic Staff Association and the Asian Pacific American Staff Association, and included a prayer for grieving families led by Senate Chaplain Barry Black.
"We're not trying to cause any type of controversy," one staffer involved told CNN. "We're just trying to highlight this issue, to show solidarity with people who have been affected."
In the weeks since a New York grand jury declined to indict the officer responsible for choking Staten Island resident Garner, demonstrations have continued in hundreds of cities across the U.S. on a daily basis. Protests have included marchers chanting “I can’t breathe” — Garner’s last words — the hands-up gesture, and “die ins,” where demonstrators lie down on the ground, in venues from Grand Central Station, to Macy’s department store, to the campuses of medical schools across the country.