Statehood Rally Draws Politicians, Mic Fights
Saturday's pre-March on Washington statehood rally gave D.C. an opportunity to pitch politically active Americans on its continued disenfranchisement. The city's politicians, meanwhile, had their own opportunity to associate themselves with the least controversial issue in the District. Some superlatives:
Don't Fence Me In: In addition to his rally speech, Mayor Vince Gray also spoke to the much larger March on Washington crowd. But one thing Gray couldn't do, despite his requests, was get the extensive fencing around the rally's World War I memorial site taken down. That left rally attendees and the out-of-town activists they were trying to appeal to separated by several layers of metal.
Barry v. Music: Rally organizers weren't above deploying play-off music to keep the event running on time. Shadow Rep. Nate Bennett-Fleming and DC Vote executive director Kimberly Perry both fell victim to the "Celebration"-style soundtrack.
When Chairman Phil Mendelson finished his speech (complete with a mention of the living wage bill), Marion Barry tried to give a speech of his own. The music swelled and the mayor-for-life's mic was cut off, but Barry persisted. For what seemed like forever to LL but was really more like five minutes, Barry refused to give up the podium.
Finally, organizers turned off the music and restored the Barry's mic for a brief speech. "How disrespectful!" Barry said. "No music is more important than statehood!"
Where's Wells? Mayoral hopefuls Jack Evans and Muriel Bowser made appearances at the rally, but rival Tommy Wells was nowhere to be found. Still, his supporters were the most visible contingent at the rally in Wells' signature light blue. Gray spokesman Pedro Ribeiro complained to LL that their politicking distracted from the rally's message, but he must have missed the "Tommy Wells for DC Statehood Now" paper signs taped over Wells' usual slogan.
Photo by Will Sommer