Protesters arrested inside Capitol as they demand Paul Ryan denounce GOP’s racism

CREDIT: Kira Lerner/ThinkProgress
CREDIT: Kira Lerner/ThinkProgress

WASHINGTON, DC — House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) was not available for a meeting on Tuesday morning when roughly two dozen millennials arrived at his U.S. Capitol office to demand that he denounce the racism rampant in the Republican Party. So they decided to sit outside.

Holding signs and singing in unison, the young people occupied the hall outside Ryan’s door to demand that the leader of the GOP officially denounce Donald Trump.

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“As a Muslim, I’m sick and tired of the racism of the Republican Party,” said Waleed Shahid, a 25-year-old Muslim from Virginia, as he stood directly outside Ryan’s door.

Ryan officially endorsed Trump in June, the same day that he promised to stand up to the Islamophobia in his party. Later that same week, he called Trump’s comments about a Mexican judge “racist,” but continued to back the nominee.

“Paul Ryan and the Republican Party are responsible for Donald Trump’s racism,” Shahid said from the hallway of the Capitol. “Donald Trump is not an aberration. He is the result of 50 years of racist strategy to divide the American people… and young people will not stand for this.”

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The protesters, all connected with the newly-formed millennial activist group All of US, cheered as they listened to others speak.

“Ain’t nobody gonna walk all over me,” they sang.

A Capitol police officer repeatedly interrupted the protesters, informing them that the demonstration was illegal. After the third interruption, less than ten minutes into the demonstration, more officers arrived to escort them out of the building. Eleven people — three men and eight women — were handcuffed and led into vans.

Protesters are handcuffed and escorted in police vans outside the U.S. Capitol. CREDIT: KIRA LERNER
Protesters are handcuffed and escorted in police vans outside the U.S. Capitol. CREDIT: KIRA LERNER

Others stood across the street, continuing to sing in support. “Paul Ryan, you’re racist. Your party’s all white faces,” they chanted. “Your time is up, you led to Trump, and now it’s time to face it.”

Darius Gordon, an African American activist from Brooklyn, New York, told ThinkProgress that the group organized the demonstration because they are tired of seeing Ryan and other Republican leaders stand by idly as “the monster that they’ve created,” Donald Trump, spreads hateful, racist, and xenophobic messages.

“This is not something that’s new. He’s not a rogue,” Gordon said, noting that leaders in the party have been using racist dog whistles for decades. “What Trump is doing now is projecting that rhetoric even louder.”

Before marching to Ryan’s office, the group met in a park across the street from the Capitol. Shahid, a former field organizer for Bernie Sanders’ campaign, told ThinkProgress he and other members of All of Us were willing to risk arrest in order to stand up to Paul Ryan and the “billionaire tyrant” at the top of his party’s ticket.

“Donald Trump has taken the dog whistle racism of the Republican Party and made it into a bullhorn,” Shahid said. “He’s normalized the hate and fear and racism.”

“I think Paul Ryan, as the leader of the party, has a special responsibility to make a choice,” he continued. “Is he going to stand by the legacy of hate that the GOP has built its strategy on, or is he going to stand for all of us?”