Mayor Gray and Council Members Arrested to Protest Budget

Photo by PoPville flickr user thisisbossi, Andrew Bossi

Bossi writes:

In response to the Congressional budget debacle which proved that DC is but a colony — prone to being singled out unlike any other city in the country — a number of activists, elected officials, and general citizens came out in force upon the grounds of Capitol Hill.

The crowd first formed on the sidewalk, but after some opening remarks by elected officials and activists: they quickly spilled into the street. The Capitol Police had been on hand & I’d thought it amusing that a couple were taking photos & videos… it wasn’t until I saw the wristbands come out when I realised these weren’t officers enjoying the moment; they were recording evidence.

With many minutes of warning, large portions of the group shifted over the sidewalk; whilst a core of dedicated supporters — including our Mayor, a number of councilmembers, and members of DC Vote — remained behind to block the roadway. The officers began to surround the group & repeated their warnings to get back on the sidewalk or face arrest.

Now in all fairness to the Capitol Police: they were doing their job. They were quite courteous about it & the protest was similarly jubilant right back. One woman was first to be bound, soon followed by several other activists. Then came Muriel Bowser: first councilmember to be arrested.

In general, I tend to dislike political grandstanding… but this was different. If our council was being arrested by our own police, I’d think it a cheesy photo op… but now our locally-elected officials were being arrested by the very forces we were out to protest: the Feds. This wasn’t a mere photo op arrest; this was actually a legitimate arrest… the kind of thing that goes on your record; the kind of thing you spent a night in jail for.

Now granted, I don’t expect anyone will be in jail longer than tomorrow; I’d be surprised if any were still locked up by midnight tonight. But it was Councilmember Bowser’s arrest which really hit a moment… you could see the look on her face was of some worried concern: someone who had never been arrested before & didn’t show up here today expecting to be arrested. As she was placed into the police van: her look of concern changed to a bit more worry. I mean this as no knock against Councilmember Bowser’s committment; rather I felt it really help to humanise the entire event. It made me respect her all the more.

Yvette Alexander stood right beside us for quite some time, complicated in that she didn’t have her ID on her. While it was entertaining to see our top officials being frisked, it was also quite entertaining that our easily-recognisable councilmember needed her ID… prompting a standerby to call one of her staffers with the best introduction I’ve ever heard over a phone: “Hi, your councilmember has been arrested.” Also, kudos to Councilmember Alexander for going to jail in high heels!

There is a lot I can complain about with the council in general; and certainly with individual councilmembers & even the mayor. Heck, that’s what politicians are for: you’re not supposed to always like them. But this was an opportunity to set aside some of those issues (frankly, I’d say DC was glad to have a unifying moment after the past couple weeks) and cheer on our own brothers & sisters as they stood up in support of our rights.

It was certainly a proud moment to be a DC resident and a fine boost to our collective esteem after several weeks of turmoil within our local & federal levels of government. It’s aggravating that my support for small & local government is inhibited by those in Congress whom advocate small & local government. If I wanted to live in a colony, I’d have moved to Williamsburg.

What do you think the Mayor and Council Members should do next?

57 Comment

  • This is the first thing I fully approve of during Gray’s tenure. Way to stand up and make the concessions that sacrifice DC local decision-making visible (hopefully to people outside of DC as well as in the city)!

    • Unless you realize it’s to divert people’s attention from his other problems.

      One right does not make up for several wrongs….

    • They wouldn’t have bothered to do this, except the council chair and the mayor’s office need press coverage that’s not about investigations for bribery or funneling hundreds of thousands of dollars of campaign funds to family members.

      I can’t wait for the U.S. Attorney General office to take this on and toss Kwame Brown in prison for real.

      Why do DC voters tolerate these thugs?

      • I don’t think it’s a matter of complacency – I think it’s a matter of true on the part of most DC citizens. Very few people do their homework before they vote – if they vote. We generally have very low turnout for a lot of these elections in this city (*particularly on off-years) and even if people do go to vote, they guess half the time (I;ve talked to my neighbors about this for years). I honestly think this is a direct result of the “my vote doesn’t count anyway” mentality.

  • Wow, great. A PR Stunt ripped straight from the 90s that — surprise, surprise! — had absolutely no effect then either.

  • What should they do next? Concentrate on cleaning up their own acts, rooting out the graft and corruption that causes outsiders to not take us seriously, stop fighting over baseball tickets and Escalades; stop dividing the city through racial issues, and instead work on unifying us. Rebuild the lost political will which leads towards things like this being done to us to begin with. That’s what they should do.

    • Start fighting for the right to vote! Who cares about all that other stuff.

      • How about fighting in an effective way with PAC money spent in congressional districts of the people put in charge of congressional oversight instead of a tired 60’s way with a largely ineffective street protest?

        This isn’t Libya, despite EHN comments to the contrary.

      • Unfortunately, the people who could give us the right to vote care about “all that other stuff.” It is what it is.

      • I care – dumbass – you should too. Unless, of course, you don’t pay taxes

    • “He’ll stop hitting me if I can just stop doing things wrong!”

      Because, yes, District residents are disenfranchised because someone fought over a baseball ticket once.

      The idea that this is about proving to middle America that DC is ready for Democracy (and not about cheap political calculus on the part of national politicians) is asinine in the extreme.

      If there’s someone out there in the Great American Heartland that even knows DC residents don’t have the right to vote, they don’t give a shit.

      • No but unfortunately, those people in middle America (Republican and Democrat) vote for the clowns who don’t feel any reprecussions in our disenfranchisment. Get it out there that we are disenfranchised, and back it up with good, solid local government and it builds up a lot more political will on our behalf. Back it up with bad government (real and perceived) and we lose. Sorry, it is what it is.

        • I basically agree with you both. I went to the protest, and it was great. However, it disappointed me greatly to see the level of enthusiasm the crowd displayed for Gray and Brown. I refused to clap, cheer, whatever for them, and luckily, one dude near me made me feel understood by saying he couldn’t give them any props.

          Call me crazy, but it might help the cause if there wasn’t a crisis of legitimacy in two of the most powerful offices in city government. It looks like official recall efforts can’t start until a year into a term and require signatures of a full 10% of registered voters. Nuts.

          • I think we can do it and I think we HAVE to do it. I will donate most of my free time to this effort when the time comes. Question is, can we start getting the signatures now or do we have to wait for them to be on official docs?


    • We did. I voted for Obama; he didn’t do crap for the District and neither will having a voting member of congress.

      It ranks somewhere between sending humans to Mars and ladling sand out of the ocean in terms of it’s effectiveness.

      • You can always move back to your home state but SOME OF US CAN’T!!! We need to vote!

        • dc is my home, but to be honest i don’t give a shit about the vote. the trade off to live in this great city is worth it to me. fantastic public transportation. free museums. a growing population and middle class. more bars and restaurants. great people with strange and varied jobs, histories and experiences. bike share. cupcakes. all without the vote. i love it here. so yeah, maybe it would be better if there was another star on the flag, or we got to vote in MD’s elections, or best of all not have to pay fed taxes. still, we’ve got it really god damned good.

          • Good for you, keep on doing nothing for democracy.

          • Then dont cry about not being able to pay rent when you get furloughed. Enjoy the bars and cupcakes till then 🙂

          • anon.
            i wouldn’t cry about it. and i have my own business. and i’m almost done paying off my house. i’ve been here a while. Also, a furlough is a risk regardless of our voting status.
            i actually don’t like cupcakes.
            but thanks for the well wishes!

          • Not a government worker, so not applicable.

          • i can’t vote,

            how would your life improve?
            and what do you do to make dc a better place?

          • Middle class? Ha! What middle class?

          • yes steve. middle class. at least by my perspective. what’s your definition of middle class that you don’t think dc has one?

          • Well said.

            I am a DC native for almost 50 years. Unless we get full rights, become part of Maryland (Virginia is not an option), or become a state I am ok with the way it is.

            Funny how so many blame our woes on the lack of a vote when I think most of our problems come from within.

            And a big YES Steve, there is a large middle class in DC.

          • How do we begin to fix the pervasive social problems we have, particularly for the poor, when creative, perhaps controversial programs can be unilaterally stopped by Congress?

            How do we attract talented individuals to run for office when they know that after Mayor, there’s nowhere else to go up?

            You think these kinds of things don’t effect you as a relatively well off business owner, but they do. Crime affects your personal safety, the local economy affects your business. What happens to others, and how policy helps or hurts others, affects everyone in the city.

          • See, the problem here is that far too many people are “ok with the way it is.” Most of you wouldn’t sit down in the street and get arrested for civil disobedience because it might get your $300 skinny jeans dirty and you’d lose your place in the line at the cupcake truck. The sad fact of the matter is that most DC residents, both newcomers and natives, really don’t care. And that’s the way Congress would like to keep it.

  • If council were to organize a repeat of yesterday, I would take the day off and be arrested too. I bet a LOT of DC residents would too.

    • Exactly!

      That was so last minute and ineffective as a result. We need thousands of people – I know I could get 50 of my friends to do it!

  • Don’t hate on the ‘Burg. Not cool.

  • When I first heard this news, I was honestly quite torn between seeing this as a long-overdue, rather ballsy move on the part of Gray and others, or a childish act that may have the benefit of getting the issue in the news, but more importantly came with the benefit of getting other issues out (such as corruption, poor performance, etc.).

    I really, really, really want to be excited about something that brings communities together to stand against all of the infuriating ways that Congress (and Obama, sadly) step all over District. And I am one of those residents who is very mindful of the political power that I no longer have (that I gave up when I gave up my residency in the state where I was born) and a staunch supporter of representation rights for DC.

    But, at this point, I’m sorely disappointed to come to the conclusion that this really wasn’t much more than a PR stunt, however meaningful it could have become. I wish I could see it otherwise.

  • Good job on their part of trying to distract people from the real story, which is that each week we are learning more and more about how crooked the Gray administration and Councilman Kwame Brown.

  • it IS a nice to listen to a DC mayor speak and not cringe with embarrassment. maybe fenty was a smart man, but i always felt like speaking was a challenge to him.

    • Maybe it wouldn’t have been so bad if you had volunteered to be a speech writer for him. Clearly you have a firm grasp on the English language. Capitalization and punctuation? Not so much. But I think somebody could’ve edited those things in before the final copy reached Mayor Fenty’s hands.

  • We spent 350 million dollars in the first 10 days of war in Libya, and our congressmen are bickering over a few million dollars here and there for programs that actually make a difference to us in the US.

    There needs to be a some concrete changes to how our policies work.

    We are out and about spreading “democracy” around the world, when the truth is the Capital of the Free Democratic world gets no representation.

    And as far as Obama is concerned.. Palin was right about asking how that Hopey-Changey thing is going for all of us.

  • At least the first words out of his mouth weren’t “bitch set me up”

  • Whoever said this was ineffective, it did make the front page of the Washington Post…

    Wouldn’t it be great if every time a representative of the US made some feelgood PR pitch for democracy… the journalists no matter where they were kept asking them about the 600,000 people in DC. That would be amazing.

  • It’s easy to say this was a PR stunt for Gray, and trust me I’m not a fan of his, but if you had been there and heard the passion in his voice and seen the look on his face knowing he was about to be arrested, then you might change your tune.

    No matter how you feel about Gray, the city council members, or the specific riders pertaining to DC–wouldn’t you at least have liked to have had the option for your opinion to matter??? And instead DC has turned into a bargaining chip and a playground for Congressmen to test their pet projects.

    I really hope they do have another, better publicized, rally because I know that more than a couple hundred DC residents care about being represented.

  • Why wasn’t Ward 1 represented?

    • I was wondering the same thing…and then I got more annoyed that Eleanor Holmes Norton wasn’t there. She’s been talking a lot to not have been there to back it up.

  • Even if Norton were given the vote we deserve — a very unlikely event — would local DC issues have been any less of a bargaining chip for those asshats on the hill? We are effed in the A, friends.

  • I was so excited when I first heard that Gray had been arrested – I thought they finally nailed him for all the corruption and scandal and they’re going to bring back Fenty and DC would be wonderful again. But then I learned it was for protesting for DC Statehood, which while I agree with it is a lost cause at the moment.

  • >>And a big YES Steve, there is a large middle class in DC.

    If their kids can’t get a decent education, there won’t be a large middle class for much longer. Look around and you’ll see that many of the people willing to pay $500K+ for a home in DC are pushing strollers or planning on it soon. Boehner, a man elected by people in Ohio, just gave their DC TAX MONEY (not federal) to a tiny minority of students who have little hope of climbing up the ladder if Republicans get everything else they want.

    God Bless America, but f*ck DC residents.

  • If Gray doesn’t like DC’s status relative to the federal government, why doesn’t he try to change it? DC isn’t a state and, as a result, is subject to Article 1 Sections 2 and 8 of the Constitution. If we don’t like them, we should amend the Constitution. Until then, however, schemes to give EHN a vote in committee, the House floor, or the parking lot of Wendys are useless and a complete affront to the democracy DC residents claim to be clamoring for.

    The true reason we don’t want to be a state is because the city would have to finally pay for all the free s–t we get from the federal government and this ( nice set up would come to a crashing end.

    Quite frankly, I’m happy there is a check on the DC Council’s nonsense. Letting them fight over baseball tickets and Escalades is far safer than actual budgeting and appropriations.

    • Contrarian – I’m SO glad you brought that chart into this. Only thing is, I think you missed the part that showed how much more in tax dollars we pay per capita as residents. Yes, we get a LOT of federal dollars spent on us, but considering this is where nearly EVERYTHING government related takes place, I hardly consider that a lavish expenditure on our behalf. Because of our relationship with the Fed, we deal with constant road closures, marches, diplomats, re-allocation of police for security (there’s plenty more) and to top it off NO say in any of it.

      One of the biggest problems with not being a state is that we can’t levy taxes in the way of tolls – even $.25 would generate hundreds of millions/year that people wouldn’t even feel – on the 2.5mil people that commute into the city to work.

      I dream for the day when we can actually use the Barryesque vetting process as a means of weeding OUT perspective politicians. That day IS coming and it’s one of the main reasons I’m so passionate about this city.

  • If this makes folks feel better about themselves then great. I agree that the whole purpose is to change the story. Politicians and residents of the District can tilt at this windmill all they want, but DC will never get full voting rights. Perhaps it would be better to seek to have federal taxes eliminated – sort of a Puerto Rico deal. Of course that could increase the the rate of gentrification to the speed of light as DC becomes the Monaco of the Mid Atlantic.

    I actually thing that has a better chance of passing in this political climate.

    It may sound revolting, but if you are going to continually get screwed by Congress, might as well find a way to enjoy/profit from it.

  • What does this have to do w/ Gray or K. Brown?

    • Bc it was K Brown’s dad who working on a campaign made the derogatory comments about white people. It was also K Brown’s dad and his brother that were beneficiaries of the money funneled from the K. Brown campaign according the city’s recent audit. In other words there is a culture of cronyism, corruption and bigotry against whites.

  • Give it up! if you want to live in a state, move to one! DC is a Federal District. It’s barely a city much less a state! Why should a relatively small city become a state?

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