Shortly before 11:30 Wednesday morning, Democrats in the House of Representatives staged a revolt. There would be no more business in their chamber of Congress, they declared, until Republican leadership called for votes on two bills: one that would ban individuals on the government’s no-fly list from purchasing weapons, and a second that would expand background checks on gun sales.
The GOP’s response? To hastily call a recess and cut the C-SPAN feed. Democrats, undeterred, live-streamed the protest — which ultimately lasted for more than 24 hours — on Periscope and other platforms.
Here’s everything House Republicans didn’t want you to see, from Rep. Bobby Rush’s emotional account of losing his son to gun violence to his colleague Debbie Dingell’s searing recollection of staring down the barrel of a gun.
1. John Lewis initiates the sit-in
Famed civil rights leader Rep. John Lewis kicked off the House occupation with a thundering speech lambasting his Republican colleagues for their inaction on guns.
“For months, even for years, through seven sessions of Congress, I wondered, ‘What would bring this body to take action?’ We have lost hundreds and thousands of innocent people to gun violence. Tiny little children. Babies. Students and teachers. Mother and fathers. Sisters and brothers. Daughters and sons. Friends and neighbors. What has this body done? Mr. Speaker, not one thing.”
2. Bobby Rush recalls losing his son to gun violence
After the C-SPAN cameras inside the House were shut off, Democratic lawmakers, led by Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, gathered on the Capitol steps to discuss the sit-in that had just begun inside the chambers. That’s where Rep. Bobby Rush of Illinois spoke of losing his son to gun violence 17 years ago.
“My son, in 1999, was shot…. What I remember most, besides this picture of my son laying in that hospital bed, swollen up twice his normal size — what I remember about that was my daughter, her mother falling on the floor… in the hospital, prostate, screaming. Screaming. She said, ‘Dad, dad, do something.’ I could not have felt more helpless. And then the awful, primal scream that only a mother, only a mother, only a mother could scream that primal scream. I never will forget the primal scream of my son’s mother. Shot down in cold blood on the streets of Chicago. It’s time to end this chorus of primal screams in our nation, and it’s time to end it right now.”
3. Keith Ellison’s mom demands action
Rep. Keith Ellison of Minnesota was forced to cut short a meeting with Trita Parsi of the National Iranian American Council when he got this stern message from his mother, Clida Ellison.
— Trita Parsi (@tparsi) June 22, 2016
4. Bernie drops by
Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders took some time out from his ongoing campaign to join his colleagues on the House floor Wednesday.
— Adam Schiff (@RepAdamSchiff) June 22, 2016
5. Debbie Wasserman Schultz reads Gabby Giffords’ retirement letter
In the early afternoon Wednesday, Florida Congresswoman and embattled DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz took the dais to read a letter written by former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. Giffords retired from Congress in 2012 after surviving an assassination attempt that has impaired her ability to talk and walk.
“Speaking is difficult for me,” a visibly emotional Wasserman Schultz read on Wednesday, quoting Giffords, “but I haven’t been silenced, and neither should the American people. Their representatives must vote to prevent gun violence.”
Giffords and her husband, Mark Kelly, now run the PAC Americans for Responsible Solutions, which advocates for gun control.