A month after the massacre of 49 people in an Orlando club by Omar Mateen, dozens of gun-control advocates started a 49-hour sit-in near Sen. Marco Rubio’s office to remember the 49 victims. They sang songs, held signs that said “#SitForThe49” and laid 49 red roses on white paper with the names of each victim.
Nine hours in, police cut the demonstration short by arresting 10 protesters who refused to leave the building after business hours. The sit-in was part of a larger fight for new gun-control measures, but so far the calls for change have yielded no results.
The protest was reminiscent of a 26-hour sit-in Democrats staged on the U.S. House floor last month. A GOP-written gun and anti-terror bill has stalled in Washington during this election year and it’s unclear when the House will consider the measure.
On Tuesday, two parents of one of the victims observed the shooting anniversary by visiting Washington, urging members of Congress to pass gun-control laws.
The protesters said they were targeting Rubio in part because of the support he has received from the National Rifle Association.
Rubio, a former GOP presidential candidate, was in Washington this week, but his state director listened to the protesters for about five minutes Monday.
In an email, Rubio spokeswoman Kristen Morrell said that “Sen. Rubio respects the views of others” and that he “welcomes the continued input he is receiving from people across the political spectrum.”
The arrested protesters face misdemeanor trespass charges. They were released on $250 bond each.
Ida Eskamani, who was arrested, said that even though sit-in was over, she and other activists will urge voters to call and tweet Rubio, demanding that he act on gun legislation and measures to end discrimination.
“The line has been drawn and you are either standing with us or not,” Eskamani said Tuesday, hours after being released from jail. “The heat is continuing to be turned up.”
The protesters said they wanted all politicians to reject contributions from the NRA, and they wanted tighter restrictions on assault weapons, as well as universal background checks for all gun purchasers.
“It’s not enough for politicians to offer platitudes,” said Rasha Mubarak, an official with the Council on American-Islamic Relations in Florida. “We demand a comprehensive platform for gun control.”
Officials at the Orlando Regional Medical Center said Tuesday that four patients from the shooting were still being treated, including one in critical condition.
Meanwhile, U.S. Rep. John Mica planned to hold a hearing in Washington on Friday on why federal authorities didn’t deem terrorism as a high enough threat factor in Orlando for the region to receive federal money for preventing and responding to terrorist threats. Almost $590 million in grants were distributed this year by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to metro areas, including Miami, Fort Lauderdale and Tampa, but Orlando was left off the list.
The parents of one of the victims, Maria and Fred Wright, were in Washington, asking lawmakers to pass any gun-control legislation. Their son, Jerry Wright, was among the slain.
Maria said she is asking government “to please do something before we have more children killed.”