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Minute by minute: How the Democrats shut down the House for gun control

It all started with a small group of House Democrats from New England. Fed up with federal inaction on gun violence after the Orlando massacre, Reps. Katherine Clark of Massachusetts, David Cicilline of Rhode Island and John Larson of Connecticut hatched a plan on Tuesday to hold a sit-in on the House floor. They soon got civil rights icon Rep. John Lewis of Georgia on board with their plan — and the rest is CSPAN history.

Here, based on our reporting, is a definitive timeline from behind-the-scenes, on the Internet and in the chamber.

Anatomy of a gun control sit in
Daytime Tuesday.

It starts with New England. Rep. Katherine Clark, D-Massachusetts, thinks: we should stage a sit-in. She reaches out to fellow gun-concerned New Englanders, Reps. David Cicilline, D-Rhode Island, and John Larson, D-Connecticut to get their thoughts.

5:30 p.m. Tuesday.

The civil rights veteran. Clark, Cicilline and Larson hold a meeting in Clark’s office with longtime civil rights leader Rep. John Lewis, D-Georgia, to pitch their idea. He is completely on board.

7:30 p.m. Tuesday

Momentum. A meeting in Lewis’ office includes the three initial organizers and roughly ten other Democrats. They decide to take to the House floor early the next morning. Do they need a schedule of speakers? No, Lewis advises, this will grow organically. Overnight, word spreads.

9 a.m. Wednesday

All Democrats now. House Democratic Caucus meets (with Hillary Clinton). Caucus chairman Xavier Becerra, D-California, tells members about the sit-in plan.

11:25 a.m. Wednesday

Rebellion. Lewis takes the podium on the House floor, booms against gun violence. Democrats start chanting, “No bill, no break.” Republicans recess and turn off cameras.

12:03 p.m. Wednesday

Confusion. Republicans try to regain order but amidst chanting and shouting are unable. They recess the chamber. Cameras turn off. CSPAN begins showing tweets, takes calls.

12 o’clock hour Wednesday

The revolution goes online. Early social media adapter Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-California, starts streaming sit-in on Facebook Live. Soon others join and expand to Periscope.

2:35 p.m. Wednesday

CSPAN. The channel broadcasts from Periscope, marking the first such sustained use of live social media streaming in its history. CSPAN starts with the House floor feed from California Democratic Rep. Scott Peters’s phone and switches between dozens of feeds of varying qualities over the next day.

8:29 p.m. Wednesday

Going all night. Rep. Joseph Crowley, D-New York, asks Democrats on the floor to caucus. Many voices agree and it is clear the group will go all night. (At least.)

10:55 p.m. Wednesday

Things get heated. Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, confronts Democrats in the House well, yelling, “Radical Islam killed” the victims of the Orlando massacre. Democrats shout Gohmert down, sparking one of the night’s angriest exchanges.

2:30 a.m. Thursday

… Aaaand we’re back. House reconvenes to consider legislation including Zika funding in an effort to wrap up work for the night. Democrats respond with shouts of “Shame, shame, shame,” as voting gets underway.

3:25 a.m. Thursday

It’s all over (sort of). The House adjourns after passing Zika funding bill and starts its July 4th recess. Next round of voting is scheduled for July 5th.

3:30 a.m. Thursday

The huddle. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-California, and other Democrats gather on the floor to discuss next steps — giving (very) late night viewers a rare behind-the-scenes glimpse of how party strategy and messaging gets made.

6:10 a.m. Thursday

Moving the needle. Long after the most committed CSPAN watchers have gone to bed, Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Maryland, says the sit-in moved the needle on gun control. “We’re not satisfied to have a moment of silence. That’s not enough.”

11:40 a.m. Thursday

End game? House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin, blasts Democrats at a press conference while the sit-in winds down on the floor. “I’m really not sure what their plan or end game is,” Ryan says, adding, “Democrats were not interested in advancing the process.”

Approx. 1 p.m.

The end. For now. Rep. John Lewis takes the podium, wrapping up the 25.5-hour sit-in. Afterward, Democrats walk out of the chamber and go to the Capitol’s front steps to talk with supporters. They indicate the sit-in will continue when the House returns July 5.

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