Heard on the Hill

The Idea That Kept America Watching the Sit-In

California Rep. Scott Peters used Periscope for the first time on Wednesday

California Rep. Scott Peters takes a picture in the Longworth House Office Building with 10th graders from Temple Adat Shalom in Poway, Calif., in April. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

California Democrat Scott Peters became the Capitol cameraman at the House Democrats' sit-in on Wednesday because of a random idea.  

One of his staffers mentioned that he should use Periscope, a live-streaming video app.  

“If it wasn’t for that, we would have been talking to ourselves. It would have been very much like a Democratic caucus meeting,” Peters said.  

Peters headed to the Capitol before the sit-in to attend Maryland Rep. Steny H. Hoyer’s whip meeting, which was cancelled without notice.  

“I was kind of ticked off because I walked all that way,” he recalled.  

The California Democrat walked back to his office, only to get an email to go to the House floor’s well with Georgia Democratic Rep. John Lewis .  

“Little did I know, my whole schedule would be blown out yesterday,” Peters said.  

Once he found out the microphones and cameras were turned off, a staffer made the Periscope suggestion.  

Peters, 58, had heard of the app, but hadn't used it. So he downloaded it on the House floor.  

“Because of that technology, we really had a chance to speak our frustration to America about what is wrong with this government and why it’s not working,” he said.  

Quickly enough, a sergeant-at-arms staffer came over and told him to shut off the camera. He turned it off and immediately received tweets from people asking him to turn it back on.  

So, he did.  

He filmed Massachusetts Democratic Rep. Joseph P. Kennedy III’s speech, “which was great,” before the staffer came back.  

He turned the app off again and more tweets came in.  

“They said, ‘What happened to the Periscope? It stopped feeding. Put it back up,’” Peters said.  

“I made a deal with myself that I would turn off the camera when the house cameras came back on,” he said.  

[ Sit-In Democrats Circumvent GOP-Controlled TV Cameras Using Social Media ]  

He was soon joined on Periscope by several Democratic colleagues, including Reps. Sean Patrick Maloney of New York, Don Beyer Jr. of Virginia, and Eric Swalwell of California. Rep. Beto O’Rourke of Texas and California Reps. Mark Takano and Michael M. Honda were streaming on Facebook.  

Peters also got a floor pass for one of his staffers so he could get portable chargers. The staff of Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Hoyer, the minority whip, also offered chargers.  

“The staff really started to appreciate what was happening,” Peters said.  

He ran out of juice only once.

“I don’t really look for that, I really want press around issues,” he said. “It’s a bizarre thing.”  

Peters has been making one-minute speeches on the House floor for months reading names of victims of gun violence, vowing he would do so until he saw a vote.

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