When defiant congressional Democrats sat down on the floor of the House last week to demand a vote on gun control legislation, the Queens delegation had a prominent role in the protest.
The sit-in, led by Rep. John Lewis, the legendary civil rights activist from Georgia, had all the hallmarks of a Sixties call to action aided and abetted by 21st century social media.
Rep. Joseph Crowley, vice chairman of the Democratic Caucus and head of the Queens Democratic Party, and Rep. Gregory Meeks from Jamaica were near Lewis’s side in some photos tweeted out to the public. Rep. Grace Meng was in the background and Rep. Carolyn Maloney said from the floor she and her colleagues had been pushed to “the breaking point.”
The frustration in the House boiled over two days after the Senate failed to pass four bills designed to prevent gun violence following the mass shooting at the Orlando nightclub, which killed 49 people. But the House never even got the chance to vote.
All 36 members of the New York delegation took part in the sit-in.
Once the sit-in started, a Texas Republican gaveled a recess, which under House rules ended C-SPAN’s coverage of the official session. But Twitter has been holding regular training sessions with elected officials to teach them how to harness the power of social media, and many of the House members had taken their lessons to heart.
The Queens reps jumped on their cell phones and got their messages out via Twitter, Facebook and Instagram as some Democratic senators, including New York’s Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, joined the fray. In total, about 170 Democratic lawmakers from both houses were involved in the raucous protest, where some sang “We Shall Overcome.”
The Republicans were outraged that the Democrats had violated the decorum of the House to promote their own agenda.
But a revolution is unfolding in the United States, where the status quo is being challenged by the public and, in the case of the House Democrats, by officials elected to be part of the system.
Sensible gun control bills have often disappeared into the vapor in Washington and moments of silence have been observed too many times after shootings.
Gun control is personal for Queens. Crime has dropped dramatically, but people still are dying on our streets. Many victims are nameless, faceless youths. We want tougher laws to rein in the violence.
The Queens delegates sat down and were counted for 25 hours. They did us proud and will be back on the cause next week.