House Democrats ended their sit-in over gun control early Thursday afternoon after previously saying it could go on for days.
The sit-in began Wednesday and lasted more than 25 hours as the Democrats tried to force a vote on several gun-control measures.
When confronted with the prospect of continuing the sit-in with Republicans out of town and holiday plans approaching, members opted to end their protest. But they plan to start back up when Congress returns on July 5. “Our goal is that when the House is in session and we have the possibility of bringing up [a gun-control] vote, that we are there being vocal about this issue, and that we keep this momentum going,” Representative Katherine Clark (D., Mass.) told TIME.
“It hasn’t ended,” Representative Steny Hoyer (D., Md.) told TIME. “It’s ended on the floor. We’re now taking it home. We’re taking it to the districts. We’re taking it to the people and the country. And the reason it’s not on the floor is because now there’s no possibility to get the bill on the floor because the Republicans turned tail and left without doing their business.”
Democrats approached the heart of the House just after 1 p.m. Thursday and surrounded Representative John Lewis, a Democrat from Georgia and a civil rights leader who spearheaded the sit-in, as he addressed the gathered House members. Lewis planned to speak to supporters and gun-violence survivors after the sit-in ended, an aide said.
“Never, ever get lost in a sea of despair,” Lewis said. “We must never, ever give up or give in. We must come back here on July 5th more determined than ever before.”
Democrats left the House and gathered on the steps of the Capitol with supporters and victims of gun violence. They used hashtags, livestreams and the Internet to attract attention to the sit-in, hoping to force Republicans to allow a vote on a bill that would keep suspected terrorists from buying guns.
“I believe the time has come for commonsense gun laws that will make it impossible for people on the no-fly list to purchase a firearm,” said Representative James Clyburn, a top House Democrat, as he wrapped up the sit-in. Democratic leaders said they believe almost all House Democrats attended the protest, with many Democratic Senators joining too.
The hashtags #NoBillNoBreak, #DemocraticSitIn and others trended on Twitter and Facebook from Wednesday evening through the end of the sit-in.
“What has happened over the last 26 hours is extraordinarily important for America,” said Representative John Garamendi, a Democrat from California. We’ve taken [gun control] off the deep freeze where [House Speaker Paul] Ryan and the Republicans put it, and brought it right to the front of the stove. This is a hot issue. The American public wants it. And over the last 24 hours, we’ve told them that we will make it happen.”
Speaking earlier on Thursday, Ryan slammed the sit-in as a “stunt” meant to raise money. “I have a responsibility to protect this democracy,” Ryan told reporters
— With reporting by Lissandra Villa