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Kathy Castor ‘running on adrenaline’ after 26-hour sit-in House protest

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor said Thursday she is “running on adrenaline” following her participation in an overnight sit-in at the House of Representatives in Washington.

The Tampa congresswoman joined other Democrats in a protest against the refusal by House Speaker Paul Ryan to allow a vote on restricting access to military-style assault weapons in the wake of the mass murder June 12 in Orlando.

The protest lasted about 26 hours after it began at 11:24 a.m. Wednesday.

“The sit-in is over but I feel we’re just getting started,” she said from Washington. “The fuse has been lit.”

Castor was one of about 15 Democratic members of the House who met Tuesday to plan the protest. Included in the plot, Castor said, was U.S. Rep. Katherine Clark of Massachusetts.

“This came from the ground up,” she said. “It didn’t come from (Minority Leader) Nancy Pelosi or the leadership, but from people like me who are frustrated.”

The plan accelerated when civil rights icon and U.S. Rep. John Lewis of Georgia got involved. Castor said they decided to make their stand near the front of the House chamber. Occupying that space, Castor said, “Is against the rules, but we took a page from John Lewis’ civil rights peaceful protest.”

Ryan retaliated by cutting off C-SPAN cameras and banging the session to a close.

“We didn’t expect the Speaker to do that, but he didn’t expect us to take to social media,” Castor said. “You can’t take pictures of the House when it’s in session, but since it was in recess, there was nothing they could do.”

Democrats have been consistently thwarted in attempts to pass gun control laws since Republicans took control of the House in 2010. Castor said she attributes that to the outsized influence the National Rifle Association has with GOP representatives.

“Everyone is so frustrated,” she said. “We’ve got to do something. People filled with hate take these high-capacity military style weapons into elementary schools and movie theaters.

“It’s going to take some time to change things, but we have to start. This is really a pretty darned modest proposal we’re talking about. We just want to keep these weapons out of the hands of people who want to inflict terror. I don’t know why Republicans in Congress can’t even put that on the floor for a vote.”

The pro-gun argument is that while it’s important to keep individuals on a terrorist watch list from buying a gun, those put there wrongly could be denied due process of their Second Amendment rights. Asked about that, Castor mentioned Pulse, the Orlando nightclub where 49 people were recently gunned down by a terrorist sympathizer.

“How much due process did they have?” she said.

Castor said she grabbed “a couple of hours” sleep on the House floor during the protest. She was fueled Thursday by coffee and adrenaline.

“It’s not as good as my café con leche in West Tampa,” she said, “but it had to do.”

Joe Henderson has had a 45-year career in newspapers, including the last nearly 42 years at The Tampa Tribune. He covered a large variety of things, primarily in sports but also including hard news. The two intertwined in the decade-long search to bring Major League Baseball to the area. Henderson was also City Hall reporter for two years and covered all sides of the sales tax issue that ultimately led to the construction of Raymond James Stadium. He served as a full-time sports columnist for about 10 years before moving to the metro news columnist for the last 4 ½ years. Henderson has numerous local, state and national writing awards. He has been married to his wife, Elaine, for nearly 35 years and has two grown sons – Ben and Patrick.

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