Nancy Pelosi tweets: “Sit or stand but we cannot be silent for victims of gun violence - we need to take action.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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