The morning of June 23rd probably started like most others on Capitol Hill. Congress would be in session to vote on some legislation and then after a day’s work they would be released for their Independence Day break. However, John Lewis, congressman from Georgia and civil rights leader, was hatching a plan. One by one the word spread Democrat by Democrat that there was going to be a sit-in to force a vote on gun legislation. 9:30am the sit-in began.
Senator Elizabeth Warren heard the news and came over to offer support and Duncan Donuts. CSPAN had started spreading the news to the American viewing audience, but then the cameras went out. The mics went dead shortly after that. CSPAN posted a note at the bottom of their feed saying they have no dominion over the cameras in congress. Indeed the majority party in congress holds the power to turn the cameras and mics on or off. So in addition to the Democrats asking for a vote on gun legislation, they also asked why the Republicans would want to keep the American public in the dark about this history making occurrence. The Republicans refuse to see the sit-in as anything other than a petty stunt.
However, a broadcast of the sit-in soon could be viewed on Periscope. California Representative Scott Peters downloaded the app and began streaming – and CSPAN broadcast his feed. At some moments he could be heard gently directing those to move if they sat in front of his camera, and he mentioned his skills as a journalist hadn’t been tested since he was in high school. He would be joined by California congressman Eric Swalwell who also filmed to Periscope, and 19 members of congress who streamed their video to Facebook Live.
The goings-on during the sit-in had viewers glued to their screens. It was a poignant and purposed unscripted reality straight to video. When the Democrats sang, “We Shall Overcome” it was beautiful and moving. It’s a rare stunt that will touch and inspire many an American citizen to thank their congressperson. Social media lit up like the 4th of July with Thank Yous to those representatives participating.
North Brooklyn’s own Representatives Congresswomen Nydia Velázquez and Carolyn Maloney sat strong. Both representatives are rated F by the NRA, they have both voted to close the gun show loophole and voted against decreasing waiting periods.
Around 12:30am (the 15th hour of the sit-in) Rep. Maloney spoke, “Now if guns kept America safe America would be the safest country in the world because we have more guns per capita than any other country in the world; but compared to other economically advanced nations, this country is washed in the blood of our own because of the guns that we permit. Between 2001 and 2013, guns killed more Americans than AIDS, war, and illegal drug overdose combined.”
The sit-in ended up lasting 25 hours. In the last hour or so Rep. Velázquez urged the American people to use their voices, “Come out and vote in big numbers, and tell them we are not going to take this anymore!” It was straight to the core of what will get something done. National polls conducted in 2015 consistently show that around 90 percent of Americans support some sort of expanded background checks for gun purchases. Plus a CBS News poll conducted in the days following the Orlando shooting reveals 57 percent of Americans support a nationwide ban on assault weapons, a 13 percentage jump up from the 44 percent number collected in December from the same poll. The Democrats in congress didn’t get their vote. It is now up to the American people to take a stand.