DC voting rights activists, officials protest at White House

Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray and hundreds of protestors took to the White House on Saturday to demand a representational vote in Congress for the capital city.

Waving Washington D.C. flags and signs with the “Taxation Without Representation” slogan, the Lafayette Square demonstration was part of DC Vote’s increasingly aggressive campaign to push President Obama and Congress to grant the city a vote in the House.

{mosads}Gray and several D.C. council members were arrested earlier this year on Capitol Hill for protesting a short-term spending measure that placed new constraints on the city.

The U.S. Park Police arrested a dozen people as they sat in front of the White House’s fence early in Saturday’s rally.

Norton lauded the arrests.

“Every branch of this government has been implicated in our treatment as second-class citizens” said Norton.

“We are outraged that at a time when this rally should be about the vote and statehood, we are forced to defend the simple right of every American and of every local jurisdiction to pass any law and especially to spend any funds we raise any way we choose.”

At-large D.C. Councilman Vincent Brown called on the crowd to begin organizing 1 million people to march on the city next April – the 150th anniversary of the emancipation of D.C.’s slaves.

“They can’t lock up a million people, right?” said Orange.

Voting rights advocates came close to gaining a representative vote for Washington in the last Congress. Despite Democratic majorities in both chambers and the White House, the effort was held up by a Republican amendment that would have loosened the city’s gun laws.

Obama was seen as the city’s best hope of getting voting representation in Congress, but hopes of passing a bill have dimmed with a Republican-controlled House. And voting rights groups have recently charged that the president is using the issue as a bargaining chip with Republicans in order to pass a government funding measure.

The city’s shadow representative, Mike Panetta, said on Saturday that D.C. residents “are tired of being sold out by the President of the United States” and “tired of not having a Congress and not having a president that will stand up for their rights … and traded away like a chip in a poker game.”

Norton can participate in congressional debates and craft legislation but can’t vote on the House floor.


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