Protesters stage ‘die in’ in front of Capitol on anniversary of Pulse shooting
© Jesus Rodriguez

Activists from across the country staged die-in demonstrations on Tuesday, including on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., as part of a nationwide campaign to protest gun violence and call for comprehensive gun reforms.

Protesters dropped to the ground in front of the Capitol building for 12 minutes — 720 seconds, symbolic of the approximate number of mass shooting victims in the past two years — to illustrate the effect of what they see as “lethal legislative inaction.”

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“If we don’t do monthly demonstrations, the noise goes away,” Nurah Abdulhaqq, one of the founders of the National Die-In movement, told The Hill. “If [lawmakers] can sell themselves out with constituents dying, that’s pretty sad and they’re cowards.”

The protest, which drew victims of gun violence as participants, comes on the second anniversary of the shooting at the Pulse gay nightclub in Orlando, Fla. The gunman killed 49 before being shot by police, in what was at the time the deadliest mass shooting in modern American history.

Speeches — including one by Matt Deitsch, an alum of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., and an organizer of the March for Our Lives protest in March — preceded the die-in.

“I’m here for Pulse, I’m here for Stoneman Douglas, I’m here for every single mass shooting since, and every single mass shooting that is going to continue until we do something,” Deitsch said.

Other rallies are taking place today in major cities such as New York City, Chicago and Los Angeles. Organizers of the national branch encouraged sister rallies to stage die-ins at state capitols, city halls, government buildings and regional offices of the National Rifle Association (NRA), which has been a target of gun control activists. 

The survivors of the Parkland school shooting who have organized to advocate for gun control also want legislators to refuse financial contributions from the NRA, which spent $5 million in lobbying in 2017. 

“The NRA will meet with Russian donors but will refuse to meet with the children of Parkland,” Deitsch said, referring to recent reports that NRA officials dined with Russians in Moscow in 2016. “We need morally just leaders, not the people who are currently serving us.”

Lawmakers face intense pressure from activists to act to prevent mass shootings. A recent Quinnipiac University poll found that 97 percent of Americans support universal background checks for purchasing firearms, a hallmark of gun control reform.

Die-ins, a form of protest made popular in recent years by opponents of the Iraq War and police brutality, have also become a tactic of the gun control movement. Organizers of the National Die-In said they received support from David Hogg and Emma González, two Parkland, Fla., students and organizers of the March for Our Lives.

Hogg first brought die-ins as a form of protest to the gun control movement last month, when he led a demonstration at several Publix supermarkets to oppose the chain’s political contributions to pro-gun rights gubernatorial candidate Adam Putnam in Florida.

The same day, Publix announced it would suspend corporate contributions to Putnam’s campaign.

Other groups, including People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and the Patriot Picket, also attended the rally. Financial backing came from the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, an organization that aims to reduce deaths from shootings by half by 2025.

The protesters marched to the offices of Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzWarren goes local in race to build 2020 movement Trump holds chummy meeting with Turkey's Erdoğan Overnight Defense: Trump hosts Erdoğan at White House | Says Turkish leader has 'great relationship with the Kurds' | Highlights from first public impeachment hearing MORE (R-Texas) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellGOP senators balk at lengthy impeachment trial Graham: Senate trial 'must expose the whistleblower' Graham says Schiff should be a witness in Trump impeachment trial MORE (R-Ky.) to initiate a "dialogue" but were not able to meet with the senators.

Last updated at 2:48 p.m.