Democrats ended a sit-in on the floor of the House of Representatives after more than 25 hours —a bid to force a vote on gun control legislation — and walked out of the building on Thursday afternoon.
The scene on the floor at some points descended into pandemonium. Republican lawmakers loudly argued with Democratic counterparts on the floor — one GOP member was reportedly restrained by his staffers — and Democrats tried to obstruct votes on several bills related to spending and the Zika virus.
Things came to a head at 3 a.m. Thursday, when, after about 16 hours, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan — the highest-elected Republican official — took to the floor to adjourn the session through the Fourth of July. Democrats gathered around the podium and shouted “No bill! No break!” and "Shame!" at him.
Shortly before 1:15 p.m. on Thursday, Rep. John Lewis, who led the protest, said, "I just want to thank you guys, really. You got it out there. You got in the way. You got in trouble, necessary trouble. We must never give up or give in. We must keep the faith and we must come back here on July 5 more determined than ever before."
He added, "We are going out, down the steps, to greet the people outside. American people are with us and people around the world are with us."
Ryan on Thursday used his weekly address to the press to call the matter a "publicity stunt."
Ryan said Democrats know what the process on voting on a bill is and by ignoring the process they are merely creating distractions.
"Democrats can talk all they want," he said. "I'm not sure what their plan or end game is."
He also called the sit-in a "fundraising scheme" and slammed Democrats who are "trying to raise money off of a tragedy."
Here's a breakdown of the events. Lewis, a civil rights activist from Georgia, delivered a speech on the floor of the House shortly before noon on Wednesday and as his colleagues gathered around him. When he was done, they sat down. Here's his full speech:
"We have turned deaf ears to the blood of the innocent and the concerns of our nation," Lewis said. "How many more mothers, how many more fathers need to shed tears of grief before we do something?"
"There comes a time when you have to make a little noise," Lewis added, banging his fist on the podium. "Now is the time to get in the way. We will be silent no more. The time for silence is over!"
When Lewis was finished, they all sat down:
Lewis has a history of staging sit-ins. In 1966, he was part of the famous Nashville anti-segregation demonstrations in which black civil rights activists sat at diner countertops designated for white people.
Shortly after Democrats sat down, the Republican-controlled House went into recess.
A spokesperson for Ryan's office told BuzzFeed News at the time that the House "cannot operate without members following the rules of the institution, so the House has recessed subject to the call of the chair."
And because the House was not formally gaveled into session, the cameras were turned off, which meant the live broadcast was cut.
The House studio has control of the cameras inside, according to C-SPAN, which clarified that the network was not responsible for the lost feed.
Enter social media.
Despite it being against the rules to take videos or pictures on the House floor, lawmakers continued to broadcast their protest on Periscope, Facebook Live, and Twitter — a work-around that became its own story on Wednesday.
Many Republicans noted that Democrats have in the past not only shut off the cameras, but cut the lights.
In 2008, when Republicans were protesting high gas prices, then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat, refused to reconvene the House and turned off the lights on the GOP lawmakers.
Around hour five of the sit-in, Ryan had not called the House back in session, and the cameras remained off, prompting C-SPAN to broadcast Rep. Scott Peters' Periscope stream instead.
The lawmakers then chanted "No Bill No Break" in between speeches demanding Ryan reconvene the session for a vote on legislation that would bar people from the so-called "no fly" list from purchasing guns.
On Monday, four gun policy measures failed to pass the 60-vote threshold to move from the Senate to the House following a 15-hour filibuster by Senate Democrats demanding action on gun control in the wake of the deadly massacre at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida.
By 4 p.m., the number of representatives and senators on the floor had reached around 80 people. By 8 p.m., representatives said they would continue into the night.
Rep. John Larson said, "The House will NOT be in order. We want a vote."
As the sit-in continued, Democratic senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren joined, while many others came to watch.
Around 10 p.m., Ryan attempted to gavel in a session, but was shouted down by Democrats on the floor.
By 10:30 p.m., a vote on an unrelated issue took place, and Democrats continued their protest, at times drowning out the official business. Republicans returned two hours later for another vote, and then around 3 a.m. Thursday, the House adjourned until after the July 4 holiday
And tensions flared around 11 p.m. as Louie Gohmert, a Republican from Texas, interrupted a speech about the victims of gun violence. "Radical Islam killed these people," he shouted.
Other representatives gathered around Gohmert, and the series of Democratic speakers continued.
Aides and colleagues also "appeared to physically restrain" Rep. Don Young, an Alaska Republican, from approaching Democrats, The New York Times reported.
Rep. Keith Ellison also joined after his mother had something to say about him not immediately doing so.
Throughout the day, supporters in the Senate as well as private citizens brought by food to the hours-long sit-in.
Outside, protesters also gathered in support of the sit-in.
As the night wore on, Democratic aides brought pillows and blankets to lawmakers.
Around 3:30 a.m., after Ryan adjourned, Lewis held a news conference where he said Democrats would continue their fight in July when the House returned.
"We’re not giving up the fight," he said. "The fight is an ongoing fight. We will not be happy, we will not be satisfied, we will not be pleased until we do something in a major way, make a major down payment on ending gun violence in America."
As at 8:45 a.m. Thursday morning, a small group remained and
Rep. Jackie Speier brought a bullet that she was shot with in 1978 by cult members from the Jim Jones Peoples Temple cult in Guyana. "I know what it feels like to be shot," Speier said, speaking during the sit-in Thursday morning.
The sit-in culminated on Wednesday night with Democrats singing "We Shall Overcome" on the floor of the House.
Ema O'Connor is a politics reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Washington, DC.
Contact Ema O'Connor at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Claudia Koerner is a national reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Los Angeles.
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