Black Voters Matter hosts DC rally in support of statehood

The U.S. Capitol is seen on June 23
Greg Nash

National advocacy group Black Voters Matter gathered in Washington, D.C., on Saturday with other organizations to rally in support of making the nation’s capital the newest U.S. state. 

The rally, held on the National Mall in front of the Capitol building, also included representatives from the D.C. chapter of the NAACP, the National Organization for Women, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) Action Fund and dozens of other activist groups. 

The event marked the conclusion of Black Voters Matter’s eight-day Freedom Ride for Voting Rights from Louisiana to D.C. to honor “the tradition of the original Freedom Rides” as “more than 40 states consider legislation to restrict voting rights, which would have a disproportionate impact on Black communities,” according to the group’s website

Among the group’s goals is also to make D.C. the 51st state in the union, with proponents arguing that not having voting representation in Congress for the nation’s capital is racist, due to the District’s historically Black population. 

D.C. does have a single non-voting delegate in the House, Eleanor Holmes Norton (D), who said during Saturday’s event that she represents roughly “700,000 Americans who pay the highest federal taxes per capita in the United States, but have no final vote on the House floor and have no senators whatsoever.” 

“Black voters matter in November,” she continued as she received cheers from the audience. “Help us get out the vote to make Black voters matter so that we can keep the House, keep the Senate.” 

The push to have D.C. residents represented in Congress comes as Democrats look to hold on to their already slim majorities in both chambers, with concerns that a Republican majority in either the House or the Senate could lead to obstructions on elements of President Biden’s policy agenda. 

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser (D), another staunch advocate for D.C. statehood, said at Saturday’s rally that “D.C. statehood is a voting rights issue.” 

“When you come to this town that is minority majority, and we don’t have two senators, you are talking about suppressing the Black vote, and it’s time for that to end” Bowser argued. 

The rally comes just days after Norton and Bowser both spoke in favor of D.C. statehood at a Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee hearing on a House-passed bill that would make the D.C. the newest state in the union. 

However, Republican lawmakers have argued that the movement constitutes a Democratic power grab effort, due to the District’s heavy liberal tilt. 

Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) argued during Tuesday’s hearing that individuals who move to D.C. know beforehand that the situation there in terms of representation is different from states, as it has been for more than 200 years.

Tags 2022 election cycle 51st state Congress D.C. D.C. statehood Eleanor Holmes Norton James Lankford Joe Biden Muriel Bowser Statehood movement in the District of Columbia voting rights legislation Washington D.C.

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