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The House gun control sit-in is not a first for civil rights icon John Lewis

Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) organized a sit-in Wednesday of House Democrats demanding a vote on gun control measures.

It’s an inspiring moment for supporters of gun control and for many who are frustrated with the nation’s deadlocked debate over the issue.

But it’s especially fitting that Lewis would lead a sit-in against violence, since he was the chair of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and a hero of the civil rights movement.

Lewis is the only living Big Six civil rights movement leader, one of the original organizers of the 1963 March on Washington where Martin Luther King Jr. gave his famous I Have a Dream speech.

By the time of that march, Lewis, then 23 years old, had been arrested 24 times for nonviolent protest. He had led the Nashville sit-ins, which were among the movement’s most successful student-led protests. Activists won a victory in 1960 when Nashville desegregated downtown lunch counters, but sit-ins and pickets of other segregated facilities continued until the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was passed.

It’s unlikely that Lewis’s efforts here will be similarly successful. But House Republicans opposed to taking gun control votes have a formidable opponent in Lewis, who has a history of being very persistent in pushing for change.