— CSPAN (@cspan) June 22, 2016
Some 40 House Democrats staged a protest in a call for legislative action on gun control during the chamber’s session Wednesday.
Led by civil rights era Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., the protesters stood at the podium while he spoke, then followed his lead as the lawmaker literally sat on the carpeted floor of the House.
“Now is the time for us to find a way to dramatize it, to make it real,” Lewis said before he sat. “We have to occupy the floor of the House until there is action.”
Speaker Paul Ryan ordered the cameras be shut off and called a break for lunch. He later issued a statement, saying the House “cannot operate without members following the rules of the institution.”
— John Lewis (@repjohnlewis) June 22, 2016
Since the House was not officially in session, C-Span’s cameras were’t rolling, but during that time the Democrats chanted, “No bill, no break,” NBC News reported. The disruption was reportedly an unusual one for the legislative chamber, but Lewis said it had to be done.
“Sometimes you have to do something out of the ordinary, sometimes you have to make a way out of no way,” Lewis said. “There comes a time when you have to say something, when you have to make a little noise, when you have to move your feet. This is the time. Now is the time to get in the way. The time to act is now. We will be silent no more.”
— Elizabeth Esty (@RepEsty) June 22, 2016
Legislators took to social media to skirt the effective media blackout, using the hashtags #EnoughisEnough, #holdthefloor, #goodtrouble and #NoBillNoBreak, the latter of which was trending on Twitter Wednesday.
Rep. Sean Maloney, D-N.Y, posted a 20-second video briefly outlining the purpose of the sit-in.
“We can’t even get a vote, a basic thing, like ‘No Fly, No Buy,’ like ‘universal’ background checks, and they won’t even bring it up so we can talk about it and debate it,” said Maloney. “Let them state their positions. We should be using this House of Representatives to answer the needs of the American people.”
— Sean Patrick Maloney (@RepSeanMaloney) June 22, 2016
The “No Fly, No Buy” measure was a bi-partisan compromise bill introduced Tuesday and sought to keep individuals on the federal government’s no-fly list from being able to purchase firearms.
Wednesday’s act of civil disobedience in the House comes just a week after Sen. Christopher Murphy, D-Conn., stood for close to 15 hours in filibuster, where he demanded votes on gun control measures. Murphy and two other senators appeared on the House floor Wednesday to show their support, CQ Roll Call reported.
At issue is House Resolution 2578, a fiscal 2017 Commerce, Justice, Science appropriations bill with measures to prohibit funding for several gun control initiatives.
The Democrats have pledged to remain on the floor until a vote is forced, something that could persist until the end of the day. If no compromise can be made, it will be Ryan’s choice in how to proceed, NBC reported. He can order the floor cleared, call to sanction the members or keep the House in session and wait until the end of the day, though Lewis vowed the Democrats would not leave “anytime soon.”
John Lewis staging a sit-in Nashville in the 1960s v John Lewis staging a sit-in in Washington in 2016 pic.twitter.com/w2EoTG7fWj
— georgia (@normanisreyes) June 22, 2016