At 11:25 a.m. on Wednesday morning, Rep. John Lewis and several other Democratic lawmakers gave an unscheduled speech in front of the House of Representatives. They demanded that the House's Republican leadership allow a vote on two proposed gun control bills—one that would expand background checks to gun show and internet firearm sales, and another that would give the federal government the authority to ban gun sales to suspected terrorists—before moving on to any other legislative business.
Then, they sat down.
Over the ensuing hours, the House Democrats' sit-in protest (hashtagged #NoBillNoBreak) bordered on chaos, with yelling lawmakers, smuggled cell phones, and censored C-SPAN feeds. It’s one of the most dramatic turns of events in recent Congressional history—a rowdy, passionate marathon protest against House Republicans’ failure to address gun control even after hundreds of mass shootings.
Here’s the hour-by-hour recap of the sit-in so far:
At 10:57 a.m., after a Tuesday night planning session, Rep. Lewis tweets a cryptic message indicating that he’s about to take a stand against "injustice & inaction" by "speaking up and speaking out":
Half an hour later, at 11:25 a.m., Lewis—flanked by other Democratic lawmakers—gives a passionate speech calling for a vote on gun control legislation:
The press office of Steny Hoyer, the House Democratic whip, tweets that "reporters should head to gallery" to witness the sit-in as it starts:
Photos from the House sit-in start circulating on social media, as the Democrats begin chanting "No Bill, No Break." House Republicans call the session into recess, and shut down the C-SPAN cameras that had been chronicling the event.
To circumvent the C-SPAN blackout, several Democratic lawmakers begin live-streaming the sit-in on Periscope and other apps.
House Republicans try to bring the chamber to order, but Democrats keep chanting "No Bill, No Break."
Senators including Sen. Chris Murphy (who staged last week's filibuster) and Sen. Al Franken begin showing up in solidarity with House Democrats.
Bill Clinton weighs in on the Democrats' side, too:
House Democrats hold a moment of silence in honor of gun violence victims, and stage a press conference, vowing to sit in for "as long as it takes" to get a vote on gun control measures:
Elsewhere on Capitol Hill, Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN) receives a note, purportedly from his mother, telling him to hightail it to the House chamber.
President Obama tweets in solidarity with the protestors:
House Democrats speak emotionally about gun violence. Rep. Doris Matsui (D-CA) reads out the names of victims of the San Bernardino shooting. Rep. Alan Lowenthal (D-CA) reads a passage from Walt Whitman's "O Captain! My Captain!" Rep. Alan Grayson (D-FL) reads the list of Orlando victim names.
All this speaking is making House members hungry:
The sit-in is still going strong. Not one to miss a party, Sen. Elizabeth Warren shows up:
As does Bernie Sanders:
Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL), teared up while reading a letter from former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. "We will be here sitting and stand strong until we can make sure there are no more Gabbies, no more Orlandos, no more Auroras," she says.
More speeches from House Democrats. Rep. John Larson (D-CT) calls the sit-in a "teach-in for America."
C-SPAN, whose blacked-out cameras are still under the control of House Republicans, begins broadcasting a House member's Facebook Live stream of the sit-in, a first for the channel.
President Obama releases a video, calling for "commonsense reform" on gun control. "We need our kids to hear us speak up about the risks guns pose to our communities," he says.
The C-SPAN blackout is still in effect, but C-SPAN broadcasts a Periscope feed from Rep. Scott Peters, which shows a dangling cell phone charger, an under-appreciated but apparently necessary tool of 21st-century legislation:
Unimpressed by the House Democrats' stand, House Speaker Paul Ryan calls the sit-in a "publicity stunt," and says that the proposed gun control bills would violate the Second Amendment.
Rep. Lewis comes to the podium again, and encourages the assembled House members to stay put for the duration.
"I don't know what's going to happen tonight," Lewis says. "But stay here…never, never give up."
Things are getting pretty rowdy, and decorum is quickly breaking down. House Democrats make an emboldened pledge to stay in the chamber as long as necessary:
Sen. Elizabeth Warren arrives with important backup: donuts.
More than 100 legislators have gathered in the House chamber. The first signs of fatigue appear:
Rep. Barbara Lee shows up with buffet trays of food for the protestors, including corn-on-the-cob and what appear to be baked beans:
Outside, protesters are gathering in support of the House Democrats:
And inside, it's getting intense. While Republicans enter the chamber to try to break up the protests, Rep. Donna Edwards (D-MD) reads a letter from former congresswoman and Tucson shooting victim Gabby Giffords, and Democrats pass out signs and posters containing the names and photos of shooting victims. They're still chanting "No Bill, No Break."
Rep. Lewis shows no signs of fatigue:
And in an unprecedented display of badassery, Rep. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), who lost both of her legs to combat wounds in Iraq, smuggled a cell phone inside her prosthetic leg in order to record the protests.
Rep. Hoyer tells reporters that "I couldn't predict" how long the sit-in will continue. "They're pretty fired up on this. It could go through Friday."
Meanwhile, Speaker Ryan enters the House chamber, and attempts to bring a vote on an unrelated bill—a proposed veto override of an Obama administration rule requiring financial advisors to act in the best interest of their clients. But the House votes down the attempt, and he's interrupted by Democrats shouting "shame!"
Despite not getting the votes needed to pass the unrelated bill, the House Republicans gloat anyway.
More drama begins around 10:50, when Rep. Louie Gohmert, a Texas Republican, interrupts Democrats displaying a poster of Orlando shooting victims by shouting "radical Islam killed those people!" He's quickly shouted down by Democrats chanting "no fly, no gun" and "no bill, no break."
Meanwhile, some Republicans are heading out for the night.
It's becoming apparent that this protest is going to spill over into Thursday. Pizza has arrived, courtesy of some unknown Californians.
As have the Democrats' celebrity supporters, including Lady Gaga and "Carpool Karaoke" host James Corden:
Just after midnight, House Democrats pass out copies of Martin Luther King Jr.'s "Letter From a Birmingham Jail," which they plan to read aloud.
They also hold up photos of the victims of last week's Orlando shooting, and other victims of gun violence.
Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-MI) spoke passionately to the chamber about her own experience with gun violence; she says she was threatened as a child at gunpoint, an experience that left her wounded.
"I lived in a house with a man that should not have had a gun. I know what it’s like to see a gun pointed at you and wonder if you are going to live. And I know what it’s like to hide in a closet and pray to god, ‘Do not let anything happen to me,'" she said.
House Republicans have come up with a plan to end the sit-in, and shut down any possible gun control vote. Speaker Ryan moves to adjourn the House through the July 4th recess, after it votes on several unrelated bills, including one related to the Zika virus. Democrats are unimpressed.
The vote on Zika passes, as does the motion to adjourn. There will be one more round of votes at 2:30 a.m., then the House will be officially on break until after July 4th. It's not clear how long Democrats will stay on the floor.
The House stands to recite the Pledge of Allegiance. Members, presumably Democrats, shout the last line: "and justice for all."
The mood on the floor of the House is reportedly "abuzz," despite the late hour.
And House Democrats appear not to be backing down:
Speaker Ryan, who has apparently been in a catatonic fugue for the last 16 hours, tweets a message of support for the Zika vote:
The House is now officially in recess until July 5, but Democrats are still deciding how to make their presence felt and capitalize on the groundswell of support for gun control legislation they've built today. Some members, including Rep. Pelosi, appear ready for some sleep, while others want to power through the night.
The Sleep Caucus has apparently prevailed.
And even Rep. Lewis appears to be turning in for the night.
Rep. Steve Israel shares his handwritten plans for what the morning will look like:
Members resort to some unique workarounds to stay hydrated and focused.
As the sun rises on Thursday morning, there seems to be some confusion among as to how long the sit-in will continue.
Rep. Lewis shows no signs of backing down. He tweets Speaker Ryan directly.
Members continue to speak.
Rep. Lewis is back on the House floor.
We will be updating this post with more information.