Today, several members of the Democratic Party staged a sit-in on the floor of the United States House of Representatives to protest inaction and to pressure for a vote on pending gun control legislation; their leader, that lion of the civil rights movement, Representative John Lewis of Georgia.
With every action, there are reactions. Some decry the move as a violation of the rules, accusing the demonstrators of petulant unruliness, making the business of the House more difficult to carry out. Others applaud the effort as a necessarily impatient attempt to prod the House to do its job.
Lewis, in his own words: “For months…years…I wondered, ‘What would bring this body to take action? What would finally make Congress do what is right, what is just, what the people of this country have been demanding, and what is long overdue?’ We have lost hundreds and thousands of innocent people to gun violence…The time for silence and patience is long gone. We are calling on the leadership of the House to bring common-sense gun control legislation to the House floor…Rise up Democrats! Rise up Americans! This cannot stand! We will occupy this floor! We will no longer be denied the right to vote!”
In 1955, in Montgomery, Alabama, Rosa Parks refused to relinquish her seat on a bus to a white man. In her knowing violation of the law, she helped to initiate the American civil rights movement, proving that sometimes in order to stand up for the sake of love and justice, one must sit down.
Photographs: John Lewis (1940- ) and Rosa Parks (1913-2005)