#DemocraticSitIn: “we’re getting into some good trouble”

“By sitting in, we’re really standing up for the rest of America,” Rep. John Lewis, an iconic civil rights figure, declared Thursday after ending the nearly 26-hour sit-in on the floor of the House of Representatives. Lewis led the charge which began Wednesday, over a week after the mass shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida which left 49 people dead.

“As John Lewis reminds us from his civil rights days, every now and then you have to get in good trouble,” Rep. Jared Huffman told Pete Dominick. “It’s when a cause justifies it, and frankly this has been a long time coming with massacre after massacre met with these empty moments of silence on the floor of Congress and no votes, no hearings, no action.”

“Why now?” Dean Obeidallah asked Rep. Alan Grayson about the decision to hold a sit-in. “I’ll tell you as the Congressman from Orlando, it was because of what happened in Orlando,” Grayson responded. “And I think in this case the fact that we set an awful new record in terms of the number dead, 49 people shot by one person with one weapon in a matter of a few minutes — I think people here, Democrats anyway, have had enough. We’re not going to shut up, we’re not going to sit down, we will be heard and we will be insistent on action.”

Last week, Democratic Senators displayed their own form of action holding a 15-hour filibuster led by Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut. He showed pictures of the victims from the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School and talked about the impact of gun violence on his home state. Murphy was joined by numerous colleagues and their action forced the Republicans to hold votes on four gun control measures — all of them failed.

Unlike the Republicans in the Senate, House leadership took a different approach to countering the demonstration held by their Democratic colleagues. The cameras to the House floor were shut off almost immediately — a move to block the broadcast of the sit-in on C-SPAN. Members of the House quickly started utilizing live streaming apps such as Periscope and Facebook Live to share their speeches to the masses. C-SPAN was able to simulcast the recordings on air.

“Cameras in chamber controlled by house. House is currently in recess subject to call. House cameras are not permitted to show sit-in,” scrolled across the screen of the C-SPAN feeds. Although it is illegal to record video from the House floor, as Huffman put it, “we’re getting into some good trouble.”

At 2:30 am Thursday, Speaker Paul Ryan called on lawmakers to vote on several critical bills that needed to be passed before the 4th of July recess. Following the passage of the legislation, House leadership sent lawmakers home until July 5, beginning the holiday recess earlier than previously scheduled.

Ryan called the sit-in a “publicity stunt” and reinforced his position that the House would not consider gun control legislation that failed in the Senate earlier this week.

“House leadership ought to give us the opportunity to vote on it,” Rep. Ted Deutch explained to Julie Mason.

“It was now time to challenge the House and the House leadership,” Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee told Mark Thompson. “I am not a citizen of the United States of the NRA, I am a citizen of the United States of America.”

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