After holding out for more than 25 hours, Democrats ended their occupation of the House of Representatives just before 1pm on Thursday, failing to get Republicans to cave to their demands for a vote on gun control legislation.
Democratic Rep. John Lewis from Georgia, who led the sit-in, vowed that Democrats would continue the fight for gun control measures when congress returns to session early next month.
"We must come back here on July 5 more determined than ever before," said Lewis, a civil rights leader who organized sit-ins during the 1960s.
"It's not a struggle that lasts for one day, one week, one month, one year," he said. "We're going to win. We're going to win big."
Speaker Paul Ryan tried repeatedly to cut short the sit-in, which began at around noon on Wednesday, by calling for a vote on several bills not related to guns in the early hours of Thursday morning. After the votes, Ryan adjourned the House at around 3:15am and sent lawmakers on recess until July 5. As Ryan left his chair, some Democrats yelled "Shame! Shame! Shame!"
But even as the House adjourned, more than a dozen Democrats remained on the floor and were still there well into Thursday morning. Their ranks swelled to more than 200 Representatives and Senators at one point on Wednesday, but those numbers petered out as the night wore on.
"This is just one bridge. We have other bridges to cross," Lewis said after the House adjourned.
Ryan called the sit-in a "publicity stunt." Referring to criticism from civil liberties groups about the Democrats' proposal to ban people on the controversial no-fly list from buying guns, Ryan told CNN that lawmakers were "not going to take away a citizen's constitutional rights without due process."
The House floor descended into turmoil at times during the sit-in, with Democrats chanting "No bill, no break," and holding up placards featuring the faces of gun violence victims. Ryan repeatedly tried and failed to restore order.
The mood was temporarily elevated when Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren brought boxes of Dunkin Donuts to the chamber on Wednesday night, drawing a huge round of applause from her Democratic colleagues.
The stalemate on gun control legislation began last week following the mass shooting in Orlando, Florida, that killed 49 people and left 53 injured. The FBI had previously monitored the gunman, Omar Mateen, over suspected ties to terrorism in 2013, but dropped its surveillance after finding no evidence of terrorist activity.
As these details emerged in the wake of the shooting, Senate Democrats tried to revive two gun control bills that were voted down earlier this week. One included a measure to prevent people on terrorism watch lists from buying guns.
California Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein had previously introduced similar legislation in December following the mass shooting of 14 people in San Bernardino, California, but Senators rejected the bill in a 54-45 vote along party lines that same month.
The other bill introduced by Democratic Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut would have expanded background checks for prospective gun buyers. Murphy staged a 15-hour filibuster on June 15 to bolster support for the bill, but ultimately both measures were defeated on Monday.
Some Democrats and their supporters accused Republicans of trying to tune out their protest by shutting off C-SPAN cameras inside the chamber. The cameras were not turned on again until Ryan called for a vote on legislation in the early hours of Thursday morning. Much of the sit-in was streamed on Periscope and documented on social media, even though House rules bar all devices on the floor. C-SPAN eventually began airing the periscope stream for the first time in the channel's history.
C-SPAN has no control over the U.S. House TV cameras.
— CSPAN (@cspan)June 22, 2016
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