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Dublin: 6 °C Thursday 14 November, 2019
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US Democrats are staging an extraordinary sit-in at Congress over gun-control laws

And they’ve got their sleeping bags.

REBELLIOUS US DEMOCRATS are staging an extraordinary round-the-clock sit-in on the floor of the lower house of the US Congress to demand votes on gun-control bills.

Democrats drowned out the Speaker Paul Ryan with chants when he attempted to restore order as their protest stretched into Thursday morning (Irish time).

The stunning and unruly scenes were broadcast live to the world from Democrats’ mobile phones after Republicans shut down the network’s cameras.

The protest began at 11.30am yesterday (4.30pm Irish time) when Democrats camped out on the floor, stopping legislative business in the House when Ryan stepped to the podium to hold votes on routine business yesterday.

Angry Democrats chanted “No bill, no break!” and waved pieces of paper with the names of gun victims, continuing their protest in the well of the House.

Ryan attempted to ignore the outbursts and announce the business of the day, pounding down his gavel over shouting.

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The Democrats shouted “Shame! Shame! Shame!” but Ryan left the lectern and the voting continued. Then Democrats began singing “We Shall Overcome,” still holding up the names of gun victims.

By evening, 168 House Democrats — out of 188 — and 34 Senate Democrats joined the protest. One after another, they spoke of the need for gun control and talked of constituents who had been killed.

The scene presented a radical, almost shocking departure from the normal orderly conduct of the House. As the night stretched on Republicans signaled plans to push through a bill to deal with the Zika outbreak and then adjourn until after 4 July to shut Democrats down – a plan Democrats furiously denounced as “cowardly”.

They said they would stay until Republicans yielded to their demands to hold votes on bills to strengthen background checks and prevent people on the no-fly list from getting guns in the wake of last week’s massacre in Orlando, Florida.

John Lewis, a veteran civil rights leader, asked what Congress has done, then answered his own question: “Nothing.

We have turned a deaf ear to the blood of innocents. We are blind to a crisis. Where is our courage?

Ryan dismissed the protest as “nothing more than a publicity stunt,” and in an interview with CNN, made clear there would be no vote.

“We’re not going to take away a citizen’s constitutional rights without due process,” he said.

Republican Steve King was even more direct:

C-SPAN, a cable and satellite network that provides continual coverage of House and Senate floor proceedings, does not control the cameras. They’re run on authorisation by legislative leaders.

Although the cameras were turned off yesterday, lawmakers relied on social media to transmit video, using Facebook, Twitter and Periscope under the hashtag #NoBillNoBreak.

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Associated Press

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