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Democrats end gun-control sit-in, vow to continue after July 4th

By Amy R. Connolly
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House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., speaks at a press conference Wednesday urging Speaker Ryan and the House Republicans to take up gun-reform legislation before leaving on recess, at the U.S. Capitol Building in Washington, D.C. The House Democrats staged a sit-in on the House floor in an attempt to force a House gun control vote. Photo by Ken Cedeno/UPI | <a href="/News_Photos/lp/28e5de17ccfc0074cc9f450b6d85a0bb/" target="_blank">License Photo</a>
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., speaks at a press conference Wednesday urging Speaker Ryan and the House Republicans to take up gun-reform legislation before leaving on recess, at the U.S. Capitol Building in Washington, D.C. The House Democrats staged a sit-in on the House floor in an attempt to force a House gun control vote. Photo by Ken Cedeno/UPI | License Photo

WASHINGTON, June 23 (UPI) -- House Democrats ended their day-long "sit-in" Thursday afternoon as Speaker Paul Ryan renewed his charge the protest was nothing more than a publicity stunt aimed at raising money for the party.

Ryan, in a news conference as Democrats wound down their demonstration, said he was "not going to allow stunts like this to stop us from carrying out the people's business. He said House Democrats were engaging in fundraising in the protest, pointing out calls for donations from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. Ryan reiterated the sentiments a day earlier before adjourning the chamber for the Fourth of July holiday.

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"One of the things that makes our country strong is our institutions," Ryan, R-Wis., said Thursday afternoon. "No matter how bad things get in this country, we have a basic structure that ensures a functioning democracy. We can disagree on policy, but we do so within the bounds of order and respect for the system. Otherwise it all falls apart."

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Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., a 1960s civil rights leader who started the protest Wednesday morning, ended the 25-hour sit-in on the steps of the Capitol building but said the fight was not over. Democrats say they will continue to force a vote on what they call "common-sense gun legislation."

No vote can be taken until after the holiday, when the House returns on July 5. Democrats said they will work during the break to urge their constituents to become vocal about the need for gun restrictions.

"We must never ever give up or give in. We must keep the faith. We must come back here on July 5 more determined than ever before," Lewis said on Twitter.

GOP leaders called the activity a publicity stunt shortly after Democrats took over the floor at 11:25 a.m. Wednesday. Throughout the evening session, Democrats drowned out Ryan with chants of "No Bill, No Break." Ryan formally adjourned at 3:13 a.m. to chants of "Shame, Shame."

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"The chair appreciates that members will differ on matters of policy and will seek to express those differences," Ryan said before adjourning. "But the chair would hope that the business of the House could be conducted in a fashion that respects positively on the dignity and decorum of this institution."

Dozens of Democrats kept the vigil going through the night, taking turns speaking at a podium and into a microphone that had been turned off. The GOP leadership ordered C-Span's video and audio feed turned off after the House went into recess, but Democrats continued live streaming their activities on Facebook and Periscope. C-Span covered the events live through social media.

Shortly after 7 a.m., Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., took to the podium to proclaim the sit-in a success. She praised social media feeds that allowed the protest to continue in the public eye. One House member could be heard asking if Pelosi's speech meant the sit-in was over. Another answered saying no.

"This morning brings again a new dawn in our fight for gun safety," she said. "Our job will not be done until we honor our oath of office we take to protect the American people."

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Democrats said their renewed push for gun legislation comes in response to the shooting in Orlando, Fla., that left 49 people dead at Pulse nightclub. Gunman Omar Mateen was killed in a shootout with police.

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