Sorry, your browser is unable to play this video. House Democrats hold sit-in protest over gun control
This upshot was an initial media blackout on an
hours-long sit-in protest by Democratic lawmakers over gun control legislation, which had coalesced on social media around the hashtag #NoBillNoBreak.
But in response, several representatives, including Californias Scott Peters, began using their phones to
broadcast from inside the chamber.
At 12 noon they shut all the cameras and the microphones and decided to turn them back on, representative Peters told the Guardian. So one of my staffers said, why dont we Periscope it?
Peters said he had never used the app before. I downloaded it on the House floor, and turned it on, he said. Took some reprimands from House clerks, but we were in a protest. Filming in the House chamber is not allowed; but after a while the assembled lawmakers proposed a motion to suspend the rules on filming, which passed unanimously.
After the feed became overwhelmed with people watching it, Peters corralled other representatives to begin broadcasting too, to reduce the load on each individual stream. Speaking from a phone just outside the chamber, Peters said that we have four or five people Periscoping now.
C-Span, the public service cable network which broadcasts congressional proceedings, can only broadcast what the built-in cameras in the House provide them, according to Howard Mortman, the networks communications director. The office of the Speaker has control over the cameras, not the network.
But, he said, when they started seeing that members were using social media, they decided to pick up those feeds. Quickly, the networks coverage was switching between Peters
Periscope feed and later Texas congressman Beto ORourkes Facebook Live feed.
This kind of extended use of a social media feed has never been used on C-Span before, Mortman said. We use social media in our coverage every day tweets from members of congress, journalists, ordinary Americans but what youre seeing right now, when a member of Congress is using social media [on the House floor] when the House is not in session, that is a first for us.
The sit-in, led by veteran civil rights campaigner and Georgia congressman John Lewis, was staged to demand a vote on gun control measures, after a 15-hour
filibuster in the Senate on 16 June led to a floor vote on four measures, including one which aimed to prevent those on a terrorist no-fly list from purchasing firearms. All four measures failed to reach enough votes on the Senate floor to pass.
Unlike in the Senate, filibusters arent allowed on the House floor. But sit-ins like this one, though rare, have happened before.
In 2008, when the
Democrats were the majority in the House, then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi turned out the lights and cut the microphones on a Republican protest against gas prices though they were turned on again soon afterwards.
Asked how first-time experience with Periscope was going, Peters laughed. I recommend the app! he said.