Caribbean-American Congresswoman Among Democrats In U.S. Congressional Sit-In

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Congresswoman Yvette Clarke at the Congressional sit-in on June 22, 2016.
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Congresswoman Yvette Clarke at the Congressional sit-in on June 22, 2016.

By NAN Contributor

News Americas, WASHINGTON, D.C., Thurs. June 23, 2016: Caribbean-American Congresswoman Yvette D. Clarke was among dozens of U.S. House Democrats who staged a historic “sit-in” on the House floor Wednesday in protest of the Republican leadership’s refusal to allow a vote on a gun control measure following the Orlando massacre.

The Democratic lawmakers were led by Reps. John Lewis (D-Ga.), the civil rights icon, and John Larson (D-Conn.). Congresswoman Clarke and more than 39 other Democrats walked into the chamber just before noon and pledged to “occupy” the House floor until the GOP leadership allowed a vote.

They began by reciting the Pledge of Allegiance as a couple dozen visitors in the gallery looked on and vowing “to occupy the floor of the House until there is action.”

Other Democrats began chanting: “I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired!” and “No bill, no break!”

“I’m sitting on the House floor staging a sit-in to demand action on commonsense gun legislation #NoMoreSilence #NoBillNoBreak,”  Clarke tweeted at around 1 p.m.

She also urged: “The time is now! #NoMoreSilence”

Clarke’s response and participation was welcomed by many of her constituents on Twitter who express pride and support.

Their numbers over the course of an hour more than tripled — even as Republicans recessed the House, turning off C-SPAN cameras and the video feed to the public. However, Democratic Congressman Rep. Scott Peters, D-California countered the TV camera blackout by streaming everything on their cell phones via Periscope, which ended up on C-SPAN anyway.

“We will be sitting-in until the House is allowed an opportunity to vote,” Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer of Maryland said in a statement. “This is an issue that ought to transcend party — it’s about saving lives and keeping our communities safe.”

House members also took to social media to lodge their protests using the hashtags #NoBillNoBreak, #NOMORESILENCE and #goodtrouble.

The House sit-in came on the heels of a showdown over gun policy Monday in the Senate. Four gun policy measures failed to pass the 60-vote threshold to move forward in the Senate. The votes came in the wake of the deadly shooting spree in a gay nightclub in Orlando — the nation’s worst mass shooting in modern history — and a subsequent 15-hour filibuster by Senate Democrats who demanded action on gun control.

The four amendments — two filed by Democratic Sens. Dianne Feinstein of California, and Chris Murphy of Connecticut, and two other, less restrictive measures filed by Sens. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, and John Cornyn, R-Texas — addressed background checks of prospective gun buyers and the sale of guns and explosives to people on terrorist watch lists.

Murphy, who led last week’s 15-hour filibuster by Senate Democrats who demanded action on gun control, applauded the House’s moves.
So did former President Bill Clinton and President Barack Obama who in a Tweet thanked Lewis for “leading on gun violence where we need it most.”
Vice President Joe Biden called Lewis “the keeper of the nation’s conscience at times of challenge and controversy.”

As the day wore on, the gallery seats began to fill as curious onlookers watched the impassioned speeches. Care packages with snacks and letters from supporters began pouring in for the lawmakers.

Republican Speaker Ryan called the move a “publicity stunt” and said they would not take up gun bills that the Senate already voted down on Monday. He called the House to order around 10 p.m. and tried to call to a vote other unrelated bills amid chants of “No bill, No vote” from Democratic lawmakers.

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