U.S. Rep. John Lewis arrested during protest

Now a 45-time repeat offender in the realm of civil disobedience, U.S. Rep. John Lewis was arrested Tuesday at a Capitol protest advocating immigration reform.

The Atlanta Democrat’s brushes with the law began with a 1960 arrest at a lunch counter sit-in in Nashville, and his civil rights movement career grew from there. As a member of Congress, he’s been arrested protesting apartheid at the South African embassy and the Darfur massacre at the Sudanese embassy.

Tuesday, he was among eight House Democrats who were arrested along with about 200 protesters at the culmination of a march up the National Mall, as they locked arms and refused to move from the street. Lewis cracked a slight smile as he was led away in plastic handcuff,s and the crowd erupted in cheers and chants of “Si, se puede,” Spanish for “Yes, we can.”

The long-planned “Camino Americano” rally came amid a federal government shutdown that has driven talk of most other issues to the sidelines — including immigration.

The Democratic-controlled U.S. Senate passed a bill this year to allow a potential 13-year path to citizenship for immigrants living here illegally, while increasing security on the Mexican border and overhauling the country’s visa program. The Republican-led House has shown little appetite for creating a new pathway to citizenship for any undocumented immigrants, which many in the GOP consider to be “amnesty.”

While many monuments have been closed due to the shutdown, the National Park Service granted a permit to the immigration protesters on First Amendment grounds. The rally began on the Mall with musical performances and speeches from politicians, labor leaders and others before the march to the Capitol. Julian Bond, the former NAACP chairman from Atlanta, was among the scheduled speakers.

Lewis, the former head of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, has advocated for a path to citizenship for the estimated 11 million immigrants living in the U.S. illegally, saying the issue is related to the civil rights fights he has waged for more than 50 years.

His 40 arrests during the movement included brutal beatings, but Tuesday’s scene was pre-planned and almost friendly. One U.S. Capitol Police officer shook hands with Lewis and the other members as officers circled to begin the arrests.

The members’ personal effects were taken away in plastic bags before they were loaded into police vans.

The official charge for Lewis’ growing rap sheet: “Crowding, Obstructing, and Incommoding,” under D.C. Code 22-1307.