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#ShePersisted: social media erupts after Mitch McConnell silences Elizabeth Warren

McConnell’s own words became a rallying cry for Warren.

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) thought he was giving a valid reason for the Senate’s decision to silence Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) on Tuesday night. In reality, he inspired a feminist rallying cry for Democrats opposed to President Donald Trump and his attorney general nominee, Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL).

“She was warned. She was given an explanation,” McConnell said. “Nevertheless, she persisted.”

It’s that last part that quickly caught fire on social media, almost immediately trending as #ShePersisted as soon as the words were public.

Here’s the background: Earlier on Tuesday, Warren tried to read a letter by Coretta Scott King, a civil rights activist and wife of Martin Luther King Jr., written in opposition to Sessions’s 1986 nomination to a federal judgeship. (Sessions has a history of opposing civil and voting rights legislation, making him a major threat to civil rights advocates — not just back in 1986 when he was nominated for a judgeship, but today as he’s nominated to head the Justice Department, which enforces civil rights laws.)

McConnell and other Republicans found the letter offensive, arguing that it breached decorum against a fellow senator — since Sessions isn’t just Trump’s attorney general nominee, but a senator as well. So after Republicans warned Warren, McConnell invoked Senate Rule XIX, which prevents any senator from using “any form of words [to] impute to another Senator … any conduct or motive unworthy or unbecoming a Senator.” That effectively prevented Warren from talking any further about the Sessions nomination on the Senate floor.

Many people took this as an act of censorship and tyranny — the Senate majority leader using an arcane rule to silence a senator who is merely voicing a civil rights hero’s and her own disapproval of Trump’s attorney general nominee. So they began blasting his own words in a hashtag — #ShePersisted — by citing other women, from Harriet Tubman to Leia Organa (from Star Wars), who resisted oppression.

Here’s some of how that looked on Twitter: