Civil rights icon John Lewis is the last living organizer of the historic 1963 March On Washington. The Georgia Congressman took to his protest roots by leading a Congressional sit-in. A group of roughly 60 legislators sat down cross-legged in the middle of the House floor Wednesday, some remained standing, pushing for gun control votes. The protest came days after four gun control measures failed to pass in the U.S. Senate.
“We can no longer wait,” Lewis said from the House floor. “We can no longer be patient. So today, we come to the well of the House to dramatize the need for action. Not next month, not next year, but now—today. Sometimes you have to do something out of the ordinary. Sometimes you have to make a way out of no way. “We have been too quiet for too long,” he added. “There comes a time when you have to say something. You have to make a little noise. You have to move your feet. This is the time.”
No Bill, No Break
Members took turns at the podium, chanting “No bill, no break” after each speech and using the trending hashtag #NoBillNoBreak on Twitter to publicize their efforts. The originators of the sit-in also signed and sent a letter to House Speaker Paul Ryan urging him “to keep the House in session until we have robust debate and votes on expanding background checks and banning the sale of firearms to suspected terrorists. Until then,” the letter read, “we are resolved and committed to speaking out for victims, survivors, and families at home who deserve a vote.”
However, House Republicans tried to shut it down in the middle of the night by swiftly adjourning for a recess that will last through July 5, but the Democrats’ daylong sit-in protest was still going Thursday.
Gun Control Debate Heats Up
Democratic lawmakers’ frustrations on gun control inaction boiled over in the aftermath of the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history when a gunman murdered 49 people at an LGBT Orlando nightclub. According to Lewis, the American people want gun control, noting some polls are saying more than 90% or 95% want action.
Wade Henderson, president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights commended Lewis and Democratic leadership for demanding action to prevent gun violence. “Today’s extraordinary sit-in on the House Floor demonstrates to the country that the movement to protect people from gun violence has strong advocates in Congress who understand the gravity of this issue. The communities represented by the Leadership Conference coalition, including people of color, the LGBT community, people of faith, and women, know intimately what’s stake,” he said.
Recent mass shootings in Orlando, Charleston, and Oak Creek have shown what happens when a gun becomes an instrument of hate, he added.