Democrats End Gun Control Sit-In After More Than 24 Hours on House Floor
A photo shot and tweeted from the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives shows Democratic members of the House staging a sit-in. Legislators turned to Twitter's Periscope and Facebook's live video platform to broadcast their "sit-in" after the chamber's cameras shut down and microphones cutoff. C-SPAN communications director Howard Mortman said it was the first time the channel broadcast a live social media feed from the House floor.
"The House controls the cameras and that means they control the camera angles, the audio, video, the whole thing," Mortman said. "We're using social media platforms to show what's happening."Reuters
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By Luke Russert, Alex Moe, Halimah Abdullah and Corky Siemaszko
Civil rights icon and Georgia Rep. John Lewis declared victory Thursday as he and the other Democrats who staged a revolt in the House of Representatives over gun policy reform suspended their nearly 26-hour sit-in in the Capitol.
While they failed to get the Republicans to vote on two controversial gun control bills, Lewis said they got the point across to the American people.
"By sitting in, we're really standing up for the rest of America," Lewis said a little after 1 p.m. "It's not a struggle that lasts for one day, one week, one month, one year."
"We're going to win," he said. "We're going to win big."
The defiant Democrats blended civil rights era nonviolent resistance with modern social media to amplify their cause and used their cell phones to get their message out even after the Republicans cut off the TV cameras recording the unfolding drama on the chamber floor.
When they emerged onto the Capitol steps, the Democrats were greeted with cheers.
"Thank you for all you support," Lewis said. "Don't give up, don't give in. Keep the faith. Keep your eyes on the prize."
Then the assembled Democrats locked arms and started singing "We Shall Overcome."
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It was a deeply symbolic moment. The song was often sung during the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s during nonviolent protests against segregation.
Lewis is the only living member of the "Big Six" leaders of the civil rights movement and was one of the orchestrators of the 1963 March on Washington during which Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his famous "I Have a Dream" speech." While at the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, Lewis helped organize the grassroots black voter registration efforts in the segregated South.
The Democrats ended their sit-in about an hour after House Speaker Paul Ryan, a Wisconsin Republican, slammed them for staging what he called "a publicity stunt, a fund-raising stunt."
Ryan said he has no intention of bringing up for a vote proposed bills that would bar suspected terrorists on no-fly lists from buying guns and impose universal background checks when Congress reconvenes on July 5.
The House Democrats took over the floor of Congress at 11:24 a.m. ET Wednesday, demanding Republican leadership schedule votes on the gun control bills. They were soon joined by several Democratic Senators and fortified by deliveries of care packages, pizza and blankets.
While the GOP leadership ordered that C-SPAN's cameras be turned off, Rep. Scott Peters, D-California, used the video streaming app, Periscope, to get footage of what was happening out to the world. C-Span broadcasted Peters' video feed.
When Ryan reconvened the session around 10 p.m. Wednesday for a vote on a matter unrelated to the gun issue, he was greeted by determined Democrats chanting, "No bill, no break!"
Ryan and the Republicans held a number of procedural votes and then adjourned at 3:13 a.m. But the Democrats would not budge and continued to occupy the well of House chamber.
The House is now on recess and will reconvene in early July.
Shortly after the Democrats ended their sit-in, colleagues in the Senate blocked an effort to table a bipartisan proposal by Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, on allowing the Justice Department to prevent people suspected of terrorist ties on the federal "No Fly List" and the "Selectee List" from buying guns while under investigation.
In the meantime, the Democrats have vowed that, in spirit, they will not be moved.
"When we come back here we're going to push, pull, stand up," Lewis said. "And, if necessary, sit down."
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said the massacre-weary American public expects more from Congress than "moments of silence.'
"Moments of silence aren't a substitute for the actions needed on gun violence," she said.
Luke Russert joined NBC News in August 2008 as a correspondent based in Washington, D.C. Russert currently reports from Capitol Hill on the House of Representatives for “Nightly News with Brian Williams,” “TODAY,” MSNBC and NBCNews.com.
Since late 2011 Russert has served as a guest host on various MSNBC programs including: “Way Too Early” “The Daily Rundown with Chuck Todd” “Andrea Mitchell Reports” “NOW with Alex Wagner” and “The Cycle.”
From March 2006-2010, Russert co-hosted the sports radio talk show "60/20 Sports" with political pundit James Carville on Sirius-XM Satellite Radio. On "60/20 Sports" he interviewed the likes of former President Clinton, former President George Bush, Bill Russell, Cal Ripken Jr. and Lance Armstrong.
In May of 2009, Russert was honored with the Marlin Fitzwater Award for Leadership in Public Communication from Franklin Pierce University, an award meant to honor individuals who have made significant contributions to public discourse in the spirit of a healthy democracy. He’s also received an honorary degree from Wingate University in North Carolina.
Russert graduated from Boston College with a double major in history and communications. He is the son of the late Tim Russert and Vanity Fair writer Maureen Orth. Russert lives in Washington, D.C., with his pug Chamberlain.
Alex Moe is a Capitol Hill producer for NBC News covering the House of Representatives.
Halimah Abdullah is a digital editor and writer for NBC News and is responsible for reporting, writing, editing and web producing federal policy news for NBCNews.com. Prior to joining the site in April 2015, Abdullah worked at CNN.com, where she reported, edited and web produced stories on federal politics and policy. In that role, Abdullah was responsible for helping cover Congress, the White House, federal agencies, and national political races.
A veteran politics and policy reporter and editor, Abdullah has worked for Bloomberg Government, McClatchy Newspapers' Washington Bureau, the Memphis Commercial Appeal, Newsday, and the Dallas Morning News. Her work has also appeared in the New York Times and TODAY.com, among other publications. Her journalism and creative writing have won awards, been published in several anthologies, and earned her invitations to attend several writing colonies. Abdullah is also a writing professor who has taught at the University of Maryland and the University of the District of Columbia and John Jay College and Brooklyn College in New York.
Abdullah lives in the Washington D.C. metro area.
Corky Siemaszko is a senior writer for NBC News Digital.