The Democrats — led by Rep. Katherine Clark (D) and legendary civil rights activist John Lewis — spent more than 25 hours camped out. When the Republicans announced a recess and the C-SPAN cameras went off, the protesters turned to social media and the live-streaming app periscope to get their message out. And although the sit-in has ended, they say their fight continues. And the backlash against the action has just begun.
In a weekend interview with Milwaukee station WISN, House Speaker Paul Ryan called the whole thing —"a low moment for the people's House" and he declared that when Congress reconvenes, quote — “We are not going to handle it the same way. We will not take this. We will not tolerate this." Congresswoman Rep. Katherine Clark (D)(@RepKClark), who spearheaded last week's protest and Congressman Rep. Michael Capuano (D)(@mikecapuano) , who participated as well, join Jim to discuss their protest.
Rep. Clark told Jim that she had the initial conversation with Rep. Lewis- who came up with the idea of having a sit-in. There was a frustration over the moments of silence being observed after these tragedies without any action. Clark said, “We have these moments of silence, they’re heartfelt, but there’s no action. And after Orlando, I believe that was the eighth moment of silence since I’ve been in congress, for a mass shooting.” Clark asked people in the chamber what can they do, and demand results.
Jim reminded Capuano of the murders in an elementary school, church, and even the attempted assassination of one of their colleagues. Capuano considered the Orlando nightclub shooting to be the ‘last straw.’ The members of congress that wanted changed used every tactic that they could to have a vote on the proposed legislation. Although, he was aware that not every member of congress is in favor of acting on gun laws, Capuano said, “If people want to vote no, vote no.” He also added, “There were a lot of moderate republicans that were very uncomfortable this week, ‘cause they know they have to go home this week on a break. They’re hearing from their constituents.” He thinks that the right-wing republicans will not change their minds, but the moderate ones will have to open their hearts a little bit.
Clark finds the criticisms to the proposed legislation to be fair. She feels that if they have the vote it will open the opportunity for discussion and negotiation. If members of congress have issues with universal checks, they should be willing fund something that will help look into this issue. “If you really want to look at their cynicism, they won’t even lift a ban on federal research into gun violence. So if you really want to say this isn’t the right way to go, then how about funding something that will show us the right way,” said, Clark. Capuano added that the bill brought before them was sponsored by Rep. Peter King (R-NY) when George Bush was still president.
Jim mentioned that their actions, broadcasting on social media, violates house rules. He asked if any of the ethical issues of their actions, or the civil disobedient actions bother the representatives. To that Clark says, “the whole point of it was civil disobedience. And violating some of the rules. If they have left the mics and the cameras on, we would’ve respected the rules around photography, as well.” Capuano said that they tried violated as few rules as they possibly could. He also said that the cameras did not go on right away, they waited for about an hour and a half before taking their protest to social media.
Clark told Jim that the representatives involved with this protest meant it when they said, ‘no bills no break.’ After the session adjourned in the middle of the night, the protesting representatives decided to continue, and they stayed the night. “When we’re in session again on July 5th, we will be back.” Capuano also said, that this was not a top-down protest. They didn’t expect it to last long. No one brought battery chargers for their cell phones. For it lasting 24 hours, Capuano said “it just kind of happened.”
For more on the house sit-in from Clark and Capuano, watch the video above.