Democrats stage sit-in over issue of gun control
Members of the US House of Representatives staged a sit-in at the US Capitol yesterday to protest the lack of action on gun control in the wake of the shooting in Orlando that left 49 people dead.
The protest was led by Congressman John Lewis, a civil rights icon who led non-violent protests against segregation in the 1960s, including sit-ins at segregated restaurants.
"We have lost hundreds of thousands of innocent people to gun violence. Tiny little children. Babies, students, and teachers. Mothers and fathers. Sisters and brothers. Daughters and sons. Friends and neighbours," Mr Lewis said, before taking a seat on the floor of the House chamber. "And what has this body done?"
He was joined by dozens of his Democratic colleagues including Nancy Pelosi, the highest-ranking House Democrat, and Joseph Kennedy III, the grandson of Robert F Kennedy.
US President Barack Obama sent Mr Lewis a note from his personal Twitter account: "Thank you John Lewis for leading on gun violence where we need it most," he said.
Democratic senators began to join the protest, including Chris Murphy, who held a 15-hour filibuster on Wednesday to demand a vote on gun legislation in the upper chamber.
They demanded a vote on legislation that would expand background checks on gun purchasers and ban those on the government's no-fly list and terror watch list from buying guns, chanting "no bill, no break".
The sit-in was a violation of House rules, and Speaker Paul Ryan responded by calling a recess and cutting out the live camera feed to the House floor.
The White House signalled its approval of the sit-in, though a spokesman acknowledged that it was an "extraordinary step". "They are showing the kind of frustration and even anger that people around the country have about the inability of the Republican-led Congress to take common-sense steps that would protect the American people," White House spokesman Josh Earnest said.
Some Republicans in the senate have been working with Democrats to craft a compromise bill on gun control, though a series of measures have failed to pass in recent days. The Republican majority in the House is larger, making the odds of passing such legislation there slimmer still.
But Democrats are demanding that they be brought before the House for a roll-call vote.
Mr Lewis said he was "moved" by Mr Obama's praise for him, and said he and his colleagues would continue the sit-in for as long as it took. "By sitting down we were standing up," he said.(© Daily Telegraph, London)