Capitol Police arrested seven members of Gays Against Guns after the group staged an ACT UP-style die-in at the Hart Senate Office Building in Washington, D.C., on Monday. The protests occurred the day after yet another mass shooting, this time leaving 26 dead at a Texas church.
Members of the group today brought their disruption to the offices of Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), who each have lost constituents in mass shootings but maintain A ratings with the National Rifle Association.
"We knew we were risking arrest," said Tim Murphy, a member of GAG NYC. "But we are holding them accountable as puppets of the NRA."
Those arrested include Murphy, Mari Gustafson, John Grauwiler, Natalie James, Lewis Bossing, Michael Adolph, and John Becker.
Murphy tells The Advocate that protesters conducted a die-in at the atrium for the Hart building, and video shows the individuals writhing around like wounded gunshot victims, chanting "how many more have to die." The disruption, which included protesters loudly shouting, "You're killing us with money from the NRA," went on for about 10 minutes before police asked protesters to leave. When the protestors refused to do so, arrests began. Murphy says GAG members did not resist arrest. Each one was detained for a matter of hours by police and charged a $50 fine before being released.
The group in advance had already made the decision to target Cruz for his extreme position on gun rights, but the failed presidential candidate became a priority focus after the nation's most recent deadly shooting took place in Texas.
Rubio also drew the ire of GAG, with members noting the Republican represented constituents killed at Pulse last year in what remains the second deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history and the deadliest targeting LGBT Americans. The Pulse shooting inspired the creation of Gays Against Guns, Murphy says.
"We really felt as though we need to raise the volume and raise the stakes in the drum beat and demand for gun control legislation," he says. "We are just so angry we have these mass shootings, always involving semiautomatic or automatic weapons."
That's why the group spoke out in favor of an expansion in background checks being sponsored by Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), and an assault weapons ban by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.). While hand-delivering these demands to Cruz's and Rubio's offices, GAG members chanted "Background Checks Work."
"I hope today's action inspires the 94 percent of Americans who support background checks to hold their elected officials accountable in more demonstrative ways," Grauwiler said.
This is the second time a protest calling for gun control measures resulted in arrests at a Rubio office. After the Pulse shooting, activists participated in a "Sit-In for the 49" honoring the 49 victims of the attack, and 10 individuals were arrested there. Some of that group would later found the Orlando chapter of GAG.
Calls to Rubio and Cruz from The Advocate have not been returned. Cruz has been visiting with families in Texas since the shooting, but put out a statement praising a gun owner who went after the shooter.
"Every law enforcement agent I talked to said the death toll could have been much, much higher," Cruz said in the statement. "The reason this depraved gunman finally gave up, got in the car and fled and didn't murder more is precisely because one individual demonstrated bravery and courage. We need to be celebrating that bravery and courage. We need to be celebrating that compassion, love, and unity. Evil, tragically, will always be with us, but so will good."
Rubio tweeted prayers: "We pray for the Sutherland Springs community in this difficult time. So incredibly thankful to first responders."
Watch video of the die-in below.
Video courtesy of Terry Roethlein.