Latino House members helped bring proceedings in the U.S. House to a halt as Democrats seized the floor in a sit-in protest reminiscent of the ‘60s era civil rights era.
Led by civil rights icon Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., Latino lawmakers aided their colleagues in occupying the floor of the House to demand votes on gun legislation.
It was uncertain what would come of the protest late Tuesday. Republicans moved in to try to break it up with a vote on an unrelated item. Democrats didn’t let up their chants of “No bill, no break” and sang “We Shall Overcome” during the vote.
Earlier in the afternoon, Democrats had pledged they would return to their protests regardless of attempts by GOP leaders to break it up.
Begun a little before noon Tuesday, the protest stretched into the night with lawmakers taking turns at a podium in the House “well.”
Rep. Joaquín Castro, D-Texas, spoke of a time when his hometown of San Antonio was the drive-by capital of Texas, of a 5-year-old girl killed in her sleep by a stray bullet, and a man killed in a road rage incident.
“If you are here representing Americans in Congress, you signed up to take tough votes,” Castro said. “If you believe terrorists should be able to own guns then put your name to that vote. If you believe that we shouldn’t have background checks then put your name to that vote.”
Rep. Tony Cardenas, D-Calif., said his grandson should not have to ask why their friend was shot as he had to when his childhood friend Rudy was shot. The young boy was shot across the street from his home with a rifle, he said.
“I will not relent,” Cardenas. “I will not allow another 20 years to go by so that my grandson would ever, ever say, ‘Grandpa, why, why did my friend die?”
Following the June 12 deaths of 49 people and injury of 53 others by a gunman in an Orlando nightclub, calls have intensified for a vote on a bill that would allow the FBI and attorney general to bar anyone on the “no-fly” list from purchasing guns.
Another bill would expand background checks for gun purchases, already required of gun shops, to online and gun show sales.
Members garnered support for their protest –people gathered outside the Capitol as the Democrats’ sit-in stretched on – with the help of social media. Some posted photos and video on Twitter and Facebook.
The more social media savvy turned to apps such as Periscope and Facebook live to broadcast the sit-in from the House because House cameras and microphones were turned off, the usual practice when House is in recess.