Georgia Rep. John Lewis’ friend and leader of the Civil Rights Movement in America, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, was once quoted as having said, “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” At this very moment, Lewis is living up to King’s measure of a man. Aiming to push Republicans to address mounting gun violence in the United States in the legislative chamber, the Alabama native whose skull was fractured in 1965 during an attempted voting rights march from Selma to Montgomery, is leading a sit-in on the House floor.
The sit-in comes days after Senator Chris Murphy led a nearly 15-hour filibuster demanding votes on gun safety and control following the largest mass shooting in American history in Orlando, Florida that left 49 dead.
Of today’s sit-in, which mirrors protests Lewis led during the Civil Rights Movement, Lewis said, “Sometimes you have to do something out of the ordinary. Sometimes you have to make a way out of no way. We have been too quiet for too long … There comes a time when you have to say something, when you have to make a little noise, when you have to move your feet. This is the time. Now is the time to get in the way. The time to act is now. We will be silent no more.”
“As the worst mass shooting in our nation’s history has underscored, our country cannot afford to stand by while this Congress continues to be paralyzed by politics,” Lewis wrote in a letter to House Speaker Paul Ryan, urging him to keep the House in session so members could debate and vote on gun control. “We urge you to lead the House into action and work with both sides of the aisle to pass commonsense solutions to keep American children and families safe.”
Following the regular noontime prayer, Lewis along with Connecticut Sen. Chris Murphy, Florida Rep. Frederica Wilson, Michigan Rep. Dale Kildee, Louisiana Rep. Cedric Richmond, Connecticut Rep. Jim Himes and Conneticut Rep. John Larson remained in the chamber to protest the lack of a vote, according to CNN.
“Give us a vote. Let us vote. We came here to do our job. We came here to work. The American people demand action,” said Lewis, who was arrested more than 40 times during the Civil Rights Movement.
Many Democrats took to Twitter to post images of the sit-in. “I’m on the House floor with @repjohnlewis & Dems staging a sit-in to demand action on commonsense gun legislation,” wrote Representative John Yarmuth, sharing a snap (above).