Loose Lips

Twelve Arrested At D.C. Voting Rights Rally; Gray Calls For Daily Action

When 41 D.C. voting rights activists were arrested after a show of civil disobedience in April, Mayor Vince Gray, Council Chairman Kwame "Fully Loaded" Brown and several councilmembers were  among them. Today’s D.C. Vote rally in Lafayette Park featured considerably less star power getting driven away in police vans.

Twelve people were arrested for blocking the sidewalk in front of the White House gates. The only elected official among them was Trayon White, State Board of Education representative for Ward 8.

Also arrested was 18-year-old Markus Batchelor, a Congress Heights resident and D.C.’s former youth mayor. Hey, if the current crop of D.C. politicians aren’t willing to get arrested twice in a few months, at least the next generation is stepping in, right?

“I just thought it’s my time to stand up for democracy just like everyone else is,” Batchelor said.

Though Gray chose not to join the protesters today, he did say he was proud to be arrested in April.  When he addressed the assembled crowd at today's rally, he called D.C.’s disenfranchisement a “hypocrisy of democracy” that will take more than a few feel-good rallies to fix.

“It is time for us to do something every day,” Gray said. “Because if we have an event today, and another one next month, and another one two months after that, we become the most easily ignored people in America.”

Unfortunately for voting rights activists, it may be difficult to keep up with such a tall order. Today’s rally showed that even if hundreds are still willing to show up and support D.C. voting rights from the sidelines, the city’s passion for headline-grabbing civil disobedience could be waning.

Ilir Zherka, executive director of D.C. Vote, said his group is doing the best they can with the resources they have; they’re planning a Capitol Hill advocacy day on June 7 to coincide with the floor vote on the House appropriations bill that will govern District spending.

And D.C.’s boosters may face an even bigger challenge than sustaining the interest of District residents or getting attention from Congress: few outside this city seem to know that the District has has no real say on Capitol Hill and fewer still seem to care.  Nuchhi Currier, president of the Woman’s National Democratic Club, highlighted that problem when she asked the crowd if most people in other states are even aware that D.C. has no voting representation in Congress. The crowd shouted no.

Zherka said his group tries to move its message beyond the District when opportunities arise, but he admitted it’s sometimes difficult to reach a wide audience. Events like today’s rally will have to help close that knowledge gap, otherwise voting rights activists may continue to have a long fight ahead of them.

Photos by Nick DeSantis

  • Sally

    Surprised Gray didn't try to get arrested again in order to give a boost to his ever-sagging popularity ratings.

    Of course, this is the same Gray that is such a strong supporter of DC voting rights that he originally wasn't even going to be at this protest b/c it was way more important for him to be the grand marshal of the Caribbean Day Parade.

    Perhaps Gray SHOULD have gotten himself arrested. It would have saved him the embarassment of being at the disaster of the Caribbean Parade, where there was tons of confusion, no official guidance, and ended in violence.

    Come to think of it, that sounds an awful lot like the Gray Administration.

  • TWR

    Sally..... Now that we know you don't like Gray, why don't you tell u's how you feel about the residents of DC who are taxed and have no real representation. Are you one of those non-residents who think we should only be treated like a US citizen if we elect who YOU think we should elect?

    Grays only real relevance to the issue is that he supports it. Does that mean you don't simply because you will go against anything he does support? If so, what does that make you? And if you are a supporter of voting rights, what have YOU done to better the cause? Stop looking to everyone else to solve your problems, stop hiding behind you computer, go out and do something. Anything!

  • Jes’ sayin’

    The tragedy here is that those who oppose our rights can point to the governance of the District and even our allies wince when the see travesties such a reporters being arrested while covering a Taxicab Commission meeting.

    These protests might make us feel good - and they are morally the right thing to do - but let's face it, folks. They are a one-way ticket to Nowheresville.

  • Drez

    When he addressed the assembled crowd at today's rally, he called D.C.’s disenfranchisement a “hypocrisy of democracy” that will take more than a few feel-good rallies to fix. “Because if we have an event today, and another one next month, and another one two months after that, we become the most easily ignored people in America.”

    It's hard to disagree with this on the merits.

  • Truth Hurts

    Gray's loves slogans. But "One City" is irreparably tarnished at this point.

    Perhaps it's time he segue to "One Nation (Except For DC)". Would be a graceful way of burying that dumbass "one city" mantra.

  • Meyaj

    I do not understand the argument that DC should be denied the same rights as the rest of the country on the basis of the behavior of elected officials here or perceived or real corruption. That same argument is not used against states and other cities. Witness corruption in state and local governments in New Jersey, Louisiana, California, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Alabama, Florida (Mark Foley scandal), Texas, Nevada (Senator Ensign), New York (Weiner), Maryland (Prince George'c County and recent Baltimore scandals), etc., etc.

    Do we shut down the FBI because of corrupt FBI agents who helped Whitey Bulger?

  • Rake

    “It is time for us to do something every day,” Gray said...

    Yes Vince - but what I'd like YOU to do is to make an attempt, however feeble, to move this city forward and actually govern. Of course, it's much easier to try and keep date.

  • Typical DC BS

    Easy solution: Give DC back to Maryland and make it part of that state. Let the Feds keep the Federal core and be done with it. DC gets two senators (and at least one representative WHO IS A REAL REPRESENTATIVE, not the fake like we have with Eleanor Holmes Norton) to represent it and becomes a major player in Maryland politics from the get-go.

  • Wm Arch

    Cronyism, "Sillyman" Brown, slipping backwards, sluggishness, Taxicab Commission follies, Carribean parade fiasco...

    How's that One City stuff workin' out fer ya?

  • Karl

    Civil Disobedience says it all. Get over it DC -- it's your choice to live here and the Constitution is clear -- no voting rights. This is just another excuse for some residents to act out. The Mayor is showing no leadership for promoting this activity and shame on you Mary Cheh!

  • John Butler

    Full voting representation for the District of Columbia is long overdue and I fully support the efforts of the citizens of DC to achieve it...I am a maryland resident but I fully support DC having the same rights as the states.. Peace and Love!

  • Southeast Resident

    @John Butler, you and your fellow Maryland residents need to make it your business too to keep pushing your Congressmen, Congresswomen, and Senators to promote DC voting rights.