Why was anyone watching C-SPAN today? A Democratic gun protest

House sit in

By RODNEY HO/ rho@ajc.com, originally Wednesday, June 22, 2016

The House Democrats, led by Georgia Rep. John Lewis, spent most of Wednesday disrupting the House proceedings over the lack of movement on gun bills, leading to a likely unusual spike in viewership of C-SPAN.

The Democrats dubbed the protest a “sit in,” echoing civil rights efforts decades earlier that Lewis had taken part. It began around 11:25 a.m. and was still going at 10:54 p.m. EST. “No bills, no break!” was the mantra. They demanded a vote on various gun control bills.

CNN and MSNBC spent much of the evening covering the sit in. C-SPAN lost its feed at 10:31 p.m. when the Republicans adjourned after being in session for just 30 minutes. (The Republicans have control over the cameras.) The Democrats supplemented with Periscope and Facebook feeds at different times during the day although technically video and photos are forbidden on the House floor.

Lewis left the House at 10:43 p.m. On the House steps, before media and onlookers, Lewis said, “By standing here tonight, standing with us, of being here, you bear witness to the truth. You must never give up, given in or give out. We’ve got to stop the violence and do something about the political issue of guns. Give us a vote!”

He gave credit to Rep. Katherine Clark (D) of Massachusetts for coming up with the idea.

John Lewis

House speaker Paul Ryan tried to have a vote unrelated to guns at around 10 p.m. Democrats shouted down him down.

“There is chaos to some extent,” said Don Lemon on CNN., noting that the Democrats began singing “We Shall Overcome.” (They changed a lyric to “We shall pass a bill.”

“This is a political stunt,” said Mark Preston, CNN political editor.

“The theater of this is that they’re not even getting a chance to have that vote,” said Dana Bash, CNN correspondent.

“It’s an extraordinary moment,” said Lawrence O’Donnell on MSNBC.

“They don’t want to give the Democrats any more traction” by forcing them off the floor, said Norman Ornstein, resident scholar for the American Enterprise Institute, a D.C. conservative think tank, on MSNBC.

During the 10 p.m. hour, Fox News’ Sean Hannity focused on the presidential campaign and spent little time on the sit in. (I was told Thursday that Fox News did do some coverage during the 7 and 9 p.m. hours.)

On C-SPAN, many callers – even conservative ones – supported some gun control measures but one caller was quite annoyed, calling this protest a “political coup.” “This is trespassing,” said Patrick from Quinlan, Texas. “This is the people’s house, not the political house. They should be arrested.”

 


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