Capitol police arrested four protesters last week after they staged a sit-in in front of Sen. John McCain’s Russell Senate Office Building office.
After being refused an audience with the Arizona Republican on Wednesday, the defendants “exited the office, sat down in a circle, with their backs to each other in the middle of a public hallway, and refused to leave,” according to a Capitol Police report.
Demonstrations inside Congressional offices are illegal, and since the protesters did not heed a verbal police warning to disperse, they were handcuffed and transported to police headquarters around 7 p.m.
The group — made up of Hispanic men and women between the ages of 19 and 27, none of whom were from Arizona — was protesting illegal immigration. They hoped to convince McCain to support the DREAM Act, a bill that, if enacted, would offer children of unauthorized workers a chance to earn citizenship by attending college or joining the military.
The protesters said they were children of illegal immigrants and shared their views with a senior legislative aide in the early afternoon, McCain spokesperson Brooke Buchanan said. After the exchange, the protesters moved to sit in the hallway until being arrested.
Buchanan said they were “very polite and quiet.”
“We did not call to have them arrested,” she told Roll Call. “It’s just a matter of office security.”
Andrea Ortega, a Fontana, Calif., resident and recent UCLA graduate who helped organize the protest, told the San Bernardino Sun newspaper that the defendants “did this knowing the risk.”
“They just want to serve their country and maybe die for their country,” she said. “[The protest] is not just for undocumented students; it’s a boost to the economy as a whole.”
The defendants will appear in court in the upcoming weeks, a Capitol Police employee said.
Terri Henderson, 6, center, whose mother is El Salvador, attends a rally with members of Congress at Union Station's Columbus Circle to announce the Restore Opportunity, Strengthen, and Improve the Economy (ROSIE) Act on July 29, 2014. The legislation provides incentives for government contractors to pay a living wage and other benefits that would help low-income workers.