Rep. John Lewis (D-Georgia), an icon of the Civil Rights Movement, returned to his protest roots when he led a sit-in on the House floor Wednesday, making an emotional plea for a vote to overhaul the nation’s gun control laws.
“What is the tipping point? Are we blind? Can we see?” Lewis said during a live stream on C-SPAN, before it was abruptly shut off. “How many more mothers, how many more fathers need to shed tears of grief before we do something? We were elected to lead Mr. speaker.”
Rep. John Larson (D-Connecticut) also made a heartfelt speech before over 40 members of the House took their seats on the floor. “Rise up Democrats, rise up Americans. This cannot stand! We will occupy this floor. We will no longer be denied a right to vote!” he said.
Cameras went dark after Rep. Ted Poe (R-Texas) repeatedly banged his gavel to call the House into order, but Democrats held their stance. Eventually, the House was called into recess.
House GOP leaders ordered C-SPAN to shut off the live feed because the House studio is controlled by majority leadership.
The network released a tweet saying they don’t control House cameras:
Participating members are using Twitter to document the sit-in, using the hashtags #NoBillNoBreak, #NOMORESILENCE, and #goodtrouble.
The sit-in was staged after the Senate failed to pass the 60-vote threshold to move the vote on four gun measures forward after the deadliest shooting in the nation’s history at a gay Orlando nightclub.
Many Democratic lawmakers have weighed in on the sit-in, including President Barack Obama and Sen. Chris Murphy (Connecticut), who led a 15-hour filibuster last week ahead of the Senate vote. Murphy is currently on the House floor in solidarity.
Former President Bill Clinton also tweeted in support of the sit-in.
House Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-California) gave a speech from the Capitol steps saying, “Once again we are fighting an uphill fight to bring legislation to the floor. We truly believe that if there was a vote, we would win the vote.”
NBC News writes:
If members do not leave the floor and no compromise is reached, it is largely up to Speaker Paul Ryan to decide whether to use the authority of the House to seek to clear the floor and/or sanction members, or to keep the House in recess and wait out the issue.
The House is scheduled to adjourn on Friday and remain out until July 5.