House members made a video of the proceedings using live-streaming app Periscope.

WASHINGTON — A drained and dwindling group of Democrats, some draped in blankets and toting pillows, carried their remarkable House floor sit-in past daybreak Thursday, disrupting the business of Congress in the wake of the Orlando shooting rampage with demands for gun-control votes in an extraordinary scene of protest broadcast live to the world.

Even after the House adjourned around 3:15 a.m. Thursday, and Republicans streamed to the exits, Democrats stayed on the House floor, shouting “No bill no break!” and waving papers with the names of gun victims written in black. Rep. Maxine Waters of California said she was ready to stay “until Hell freezes over.”

Gradually the Democrats began to wind down their protest, but a core group lingered, including Maine Rep. Chellie Pingree, who remained on the House floor after daybreak Thursday, according to her spokesman.

With a crowd cheering them on from outside the Capitol and many more following the theatrics on social media, Democrats declared success in dramatizing the argument for action to stem gun violence.

“Just because they cut and run in the dark of night, just because they have left doesn’t mean we are taking no for an answer,” said House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.

“We won’t stop until the job is done,” the Californian declared to fellow Democrats camped out in the well of the House in the early hours of the morning, saying the party had changed “the dynamic of what happens” concerning guns.

House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer of Maryland said the public shouldn’t be happy with a Republican majority that shut down the House and disregarded “the unfinished business of the American people.”

The stunning and unruly scene was broadcast live to the world from Democrats’ cellphones, feeds picked up by C-SPAN after Republicans shut down the network’s cameras. Maine 1st District Rep. Chellie Pingree was among the several dozen Democrats who began the protest around 11:30 a.m. Wednesday by demanding a vote on measures to expand background checks and block gun purchases by some suspected terrorists.

The sit-in, led by Georgia Rep. John Lewis, a leader of the civil rights movement, was well into its 11th hour, with Democrats camped out on the floor stopping legislative business in the House, when Ryan stepped to the lectern around 10 p.m. to gavel the House into session and hold votes on routine business. Angry Democrats chanted “No bill, no break!” and waved pieces of paper with the names of gun victims, continuing their protest in the well of the House even as lawmakers voted on a previously scheduled and unrelated measure to overturn a veto by President Obama.

Ryan tried to ignore the outbursts and announce the business of the day, pounding down his gavel over the shouting. “Shame! Shame! Shame!” Democrats yelled, but Ryan left the lectern and the voting continued. Then Democrats began singing “We Shall Overcome,” still holding up the names of gun victims.

The scene presented a radical, almost shocking departure from the normal orderly conduct of the House.

Outside, several hundred protesters who back tougher gun control gathered outside the Capitol to show solidarity with House Democrats.

In a phone interview earlier during the sit-in, Pingree described an emotional scene as lawmakers parted from the scripted, time-limited speeches typically heard on the House floor to share the personal, and often emotional, experiences of their constituents. Pingree said the protest is the minority party’s attempt “to do something meaningful and to move this forward” in the wake of the killing of 49 people at an Orlando nightclub last week, the deadliest mass shooting in recent U.S. history.

“I think we got to this point of frustration where the Republican leadership has refused to have a debate or bring bills to the floor,” Pingree said from a cloakroom just off the House floor. “We are hearing from constituents asking, ‘Why don’t you do something?’ … And this is a way for us to say we want to do something.”

It was uncertain what would happen as the night stretched on. Republicans planned to attempt to adjourn the House, and hoped to present themselves as soberly attending to business and Democrats as disruptive. Democrats said they would stay until Republicans yielded to their demands to hold votes on bills to strengthen background checks and prevent people on the “no fly” list from getting guns in the wake of the Orlando shootings.

“Are they more afraid than the children at Sandy Hook?” asked Rep. Mike Thompson, D-Calif., referring to the 2012 shooting that killed 26 people, including 20 elementary school children, in Newtown, Connecticut. “What is so scary about having a vote?”

Lewis, revered for his role in the civil rights movement, asked what Congress has done, then answered his own question: “Nothing. We have turned a deaf ear to the blood of innocents. We are blind to a crisis. Where is our courage?”

Ryan dismissed the protest as “nothing more than a publicity stunt,” and in an interview with CNN, made clear there would be no vote.

“We’re not going to take away a citizen’s constitutional rights without due process,” he said.

The protest was briefly interrupted shortly after it began when Rep. Ted Poe, R-Texas, tried to start the House’s work at noon. The customary prayer and Pledge of Allegiance went ahead, but Poe was forced to recess the House when dozens of Democrats refused to leave the well.

By evening, 168 House Democrats – out of 188 – and 34 Senate Democrats had joined the protest, according to the House minority leader’s office. One after another, they spoke of the need for gun control and talked of constituents who had been killed.

Although the cameras were turned off, lawmakers relied on social media to transmit photos and video of their protest, using Facebook, Twitter and Periscope. C-SPAN used Periscope video from Rep. Scott Peters, D-Calif., to provide coverage.

Angry Democrats shout "No bill, no break!" while waving pieces of paper with the names of gun victims as Speaker Paul Ryan tries to reconvene the House on Wednesday night. After Ryan tried to ignore the outbursts, Democrats began singing "We Shall Overcome."

Angry Democrats shout “No bill, no break!” while waving pieces of paper with the names of gun victims as Speaker Paul Ryan tries to reconvene the House on Wednesday night. After Ryan tried to ignore the outbursts, Democrats began singing “We Shall Overcome.” Associated Press/House Television

“They can turn off all the TV they want, but they can’t stop us from doing what we know is the right thing here in this well,” Rep. John Larson, D-Conn., said of Republican leaders.

Republican staffers said the cameras only operate when the House is in session and that the chamber had recessed because Democrats were not following House rules.

Larson said lawmakers were “calling for the simple dignity of a vote.”

Joining the protest were several Democratic senators, including Massachusetts’ Elizabeth Warren and Connecticut’s Chris Murphy, who had waged a nearly 15-hour filibuster last week to force votes in the Senate on gun legislation. Those votes failed Monday night. Minority Leader Harry Reid and Bernie Sanders of Vermont also took part.

Ryan said Wednesday that House leaders were “waiting to see what the Senate does before proceeding” on gun legislation, including a possible compromise that Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, is seeking.

Across the Capitol on Wednesday, Collins continued to attempt to win more support for her bipartisan measure to prohibit those on the federal “no-fly” and “selectee” lists from purchasing a firearm. The proposal would affect an estimated 2,700 Americans currently on the two lists and includes a five-year look-back provision to alert the FBI to gun purchases by someone who had been on the broader Terrorism Screening Database. The bill also includes a process for individual on those lists to appeal the prohibitions.

Collins and a bipartisan group of senators – including Sen. Angus King, a Maine independent – unveiled the proposal during a news conference Tuesday. It was unclear whether the group would muster the 60 votes needed to move the bill forward in the Senate, much less enough votes to pass the Republican-controlled House

Rep. Bruce Poliquin, a Republican who represents Maine’s 2nd District, released a statement Wednesday night that said some of the current proposals to limit gun purchases by subjects of terrorism investigations showed promise.

“Properly implemented, these may have stopped the killer in Orlando,” he said. “Taken with meaningful due process protections, these proposals could be a step in the right direction as long as constitutional provisions remain intact.

“We must remember that in this same vein, any legislation that advances must pass constitutional muster or it will be struck down by the courts. The courts have repeatedly, and rightfully, upheld Second Amendment rights contained in our Constitution.”

Poliquin did not answer a question about whether he thought a gun bill should be brought to the House floor for debate.

A photo shot and tweeted from the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives shows Democrats staging a sit-in Wednesday on the House floor "to demand action on common-sense gun legislation."

A photo shot and tweeted from the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives shows Democrats staging a sit-in Wednesday on the House floor “to demand action on common-sense gun legislation.” Reuters/U.S. Rep. Katherine Clark

House Democrats cited polls showing broad public support for expanding background checks for firearms purchases and blocking suspected terrorists from buying guns.

Although Wednesday’s sit-in took on a heightened dimension because of Lewis’ involvement and the use of social media, such tactics are not unprecedented and have been employed by both parties over the years.

Republicans staged a similar protest in 2008. Democrats controlling the House at the time turned off the cameras amid a Republican push for a vote to expand oil and gas drilling. Republicans occupied the floor, delivering speeches after then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi sent the House on its August recess. Republicans ultimately forced the drilling provision to be attached to a stopgap spending bill.

Staff writers Kevin Miller and Eric Russell contributed to this report.

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