Gandhi acolyte leads US congress dharna demanding gun law change

  • Yashwant Raj, Hindustan Times, Washington
  • Updated: Jun 23, 2016 12:49 IST
In this frame grab taken from AP video Georgia Rep. John Lewis leads more than 200 Democrats in demanding a vote on measures to expand background checks and block gun purchases. (AP)

John Lewis, a Democrat who counts Mahatma Gandhi among his inspirations, led a sit-in — essentially a dharna — in the House of Representatives Wednesday in support of gun control.

Continuing late into the night, members of the House used live video streaming app Periscope to circumvent a procedurally mandated camera blackout by the Republican leadership.

The phrase “civil disobedience”, made famous worldwide by the Indian independence movement led by Gandhi, was frequently used by commentators to describe the House sit-in.

“My colleagues and I have had enough,” said Lewis, starting the protest Wednesday morning. “We are sitting-in on the House Floor until we get a vote to address gun violence.”

Lewis, one of the few surviving members of the iconic team put together by Martin Luther King, is a House representative from Georgia and is widely respected by both parties.

The protest led by him follows a 15-hour filibuster (a legislative tool that allows members to bock listed agenda through a talk -athon) in support of gun law reforms measures that failed.

The Lewis-led dharna is certain to fail also because the Republican-led House of Representatives is unlikely to buck the party line dictated, some say, by the gun lobby.

A set of four measures, proposing changes in the country notoriously slack gun laws in the aftermath of the killing of 49 people in Orlando, failed to pass the senate Tuesday.

Undeterred, Lewis — who has described himself as “student” of King, Gandhi and Nelson Mandela — and other congressmen, plotted the sit-in over the weekend.

President Barack Obama, who has been emotionally invested in the effort, tweeted his support to Lewis saying, “Thank you John Lewis for leading on gun violence where we need it most.”

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