Nancy Pelosi tweets: “Sit or stand but we cannot be silent for victims of gun violence - we need to take action.”
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Representative John Lewis of Georgia overtook the floor of the House of Representatives Wednesday morning, quite literally, to stage a sit-in over Congressional inaction on gun violence.
Senator Lewis said in part,
“What will finally make congress do what is right, what is just, what the people of this country have been demanding, and what is long overdue. We have lost hundreds and thousands of innocent people to gun violence—tiny little childen, babies, students and teachers, mother and fathers, sisters and brothers, daughters and sons, friends and neighbors. And what has this body done, Mr. Speaker? Nothing. Not one thing. We have turned deaf ears to the blood of the innocent and the concern of our nation...
“We were elected to lead, Mr. Speaker. We must be headlights, not taillights. We cannot continue to stick our heads in the sand and ignore the reality of mass gun violence in our nation. Deadly mass shootings are becoming more and more frequent. Mr. Speaker, this is a fact. It is not an opinion. We must removed the blinders. The time for silence and patience is gone.”
The Senate voted earlier this week on four measures meant to address gun violence, but none obtained enough votes to pass through to the next stage, with Democrats and Republicans mostly voting along party lines.
Representative Lewis, 76, is best known for being a vocal part of the Civil Rights movement under Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. At 25 years old he played a prominent role in the famed march from Selma to Montgomery.
Check out a few photos from the sit-in below.
I'm on the House floor with @repjohnlewis & Dems staging a sit-in to demand action on commonsense gun legislation https://t.co/byIivby5gG— Rep. John Yarmuth (@Rep. John Yarmuth) 1466609695.0
Not going anywhere. #NOMORESILENCE #WheresTheBill https://t.co/OAoVUNoqak— Cicilline Press Office (@Cicilline Press Office) 1466611324.0
After the worst mass shooting in US history, Congress still refuses to act. We'll be here until that changes. https://t.co/kKcTbKFSuY— Rep. Scott Peters (@Rep. Scott Peters) 1466610761.0
Proud to sit with @RepJoeCourtney and others demanding action. #GoodTrouble #NoBillNoBreak https://t.co/SNMWlQ0ZfZ— Rep. John Yarmuth (@Rep. John Yarmuth) 1466610259.0
Joined the #sitin on the House Flr to urge R leadrshp to #DoSomething on gun violence. #NoBillNoBreak #goodtrouble https://t.co/nu1Wdbu7ee— Governor John Carney (@Governor John Carney) 1466613509.0
John Lewis knows a thing or two about sit-ins. We will not give up the House Floor until we get a vote. #GoodTrouble https://t.co/X269SIhyRp— Janice Hahn (@Janice Hahn) 1466610065.0
UPDATE: 6/22/16 at 11:03 PM PST—The sit-in at the House of Representatives has continued to grow.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi has joined the demonstration in addition to some Republican colleagues, and some representatives are speaking from the floor.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi now on House floor at Democrats gun violence sit-in.— Craig Caplan (@Craig Caplan) 1466615123.0
We are united! Democrats sit-in for an end to gun violence! #NoBillNoBreak https://t.co/l2WtTmUToS— Brenda Lawrence (@Brenda Lawrence) 1466614262.0
The sit-in is not being televised, however, and it’s being reported that House Speaker Paul Ryan personally pulled the plug on the cameras. The network C-SPAN, where you would normally be watching something like this, is saying it does not in fact have control over the cameras in the House chambers.
C-SPAN has no control over the U.S. House TV cameras.— CSPAN (@CSPAN) 1466610240.0
In his opening remarks, Representative Lewis directly addressed Speaker Ryan repeatedly, and it seems like Republicans are at this point intentionally preventing the demonstration from being broadcast.
The house is in recess and the schedule is controlled by GOP. As long as they are in recess the cameras will stay off. #NoBillNoBreak— Steven Dial (@Steven Dial) 1466616171.0
House leadership is blocking people from watching our sit-in from the gallery. #NoBillNoBreak— Janice Hahn (@Janice Hahn) 1466615626.0
But unless Speaker Ryan and the GOP figure out how to turn off the internet and Twitter, images of the Democrats’ protest are going to keep pouring out. Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton has also endorsed the action by Lewis and his colleagues.
This is what real leadership looks like. https://t.co/4Nh6QpqSxL— Hillary Clinton (@Hillary Clinton) 1466611277.0
UPDATE: 6/22/16 at 12:26 PM PST—In the absence of cameras, C-SPAN is now broadcasting the sit-in through a Periscope feed.
NBC News’ Alex Moe has been live-tweeting from inside the House and says that GOP representatives are planning on waiting out the Democrats.
A House Republican leadership aide tells @NBCNews on the next steps as House Democrats continue sit-on on guns: "We're waiting it out"— Alex Moe (@Alex Moe) 1466619880.0
Trying to outlast a man like John Lewis, who literally marched for freedom alongside Martin Luther King Jr. and continued to protest for civil rights despite being beaten down by Alabama state troopers, seems like a poor choice. Republicans are starting to speak out, predictably labeling the whole event as grandstanding, and some Democrats, like former Democratic National Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz, are starting to display some hostility.
Calling this a sit-in is a disgrace to Woolworth's. They sat-in for rights. Dems are "sitting-in" to strip them away https://t.co/uBT0cPqsjT— Rep. Mark Walker (@Rep. Mark Walker) 1466620965.0
Strong words from Rep Wasserman-Schultz: If GOP cowards who actually run this chamber would turn on mics we could be heard a little louder— Alex Moe (@Alex Moe) 1466623904.0
Wasserman Schultz has reportedly broken down while reading a speech with quotes from her colleague and friend, former Arizona Representative Gabby Giffords, who survived an assassination attempt in 2011 that has made it difficult for her to speak and forced her to resign from Congress shortly after.
Grateful to the leaders on the House floor who are demanding a vote on gun violence prevention. Americans deserve a vote. #NoBillNoBreak— Gabrielle Giffords (@Gabrielle Giffords) 1466613341.0
Giffords wrote an op-ed for the Washington Post earlier this week about the need for tighter gun control restrictions. In it, she talked about her own experience as a victim of gun violence as well as the recent assassination of British Labour Party MP Jo Cox, who was gunned down by a man who opposed her stance on the UK’s upcoming referendum on whether or not to leave the European Union.
“I have said before, and I will say again: We all know there is no single solution to our gun violence problem, just as we know Britain’s stronger laws cannot prevent every tragedy,” wrote Giffords. “But we can prevent so many tragedies and save many lives. We must change our gun laws to protect the living as we recommit ourselves to addressing the hatefulness that exists in our country.”
Follow the events on Twitter by searching #NoBillNoBreak, #GoodTrouble and #HoldTheFloor