Congressman Emanuel Cleaver of Kansas City is among the Democrats staging a sit-in on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday to demand a vote on gun control legislation.
Led by civil rights icon John Lewis, a Democrat from Georgia, and Robin Kelly, a Democrat from Illinois, the lawmakers say they plan to hold the floor indefinitely.
“This is just too important to ignore,” Cleaver said in a statement.
“Mass shootings that claim the lives of innocent Americans should not be the norm. And make no mistake, it is time to finally close the terror gap once and for all, by barring gun sales to persons on the FBI’s terrorist watch list. We must allow a vote on the House floor!”
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Democrats from the Congressional Black Caucus initially had planned to stage a symbolic sit-in before heading to a scheduled press conference on Wednesday calling on Republican leaders of the House to allow votes on gun control legislation. But the lawmakers participating in the protest now appear to have settled in for the long haul.
They are taking turns speaking, although the chamber is not in session. Republicans called a recess when they could not bring the House to order, prompting the cameras carrying live images of the protest to turn off.
But lawmakers continued to broadcast videos and send tweets from their smartphones, despite a prohibition against the use of cellular devices on the floor.
During Cleaver’s turn to speak, the reverend and former Kansas City mayor said he walked out of the House’s moment of silence after the mass shooting in Orlando with no disrespect to the victims but he felt it was just wrong to continue to be silent in the face of gun violence.
He referenced a Bible story in which God said to Moses, ‘This is not the time to pray, this is the time to move.’
Another Missouri congressman, Lacy Clay, a Democrat from St. Louis, also is participating in the sit-in.
Missouri’s Democratic senator, Claire McCaskill, stopped by the protest in a show of solidarity Wednesday afternoon. She tweeted her displeasure with Republicans for shutting off the cameras.
President Barack Obama also weighed in to support the protesters on Twitter.