As the Republican-controlled Congress and President Donald Trump work to overturn or block local District legislation, the Hands Off D.C. organization plans to prepare D.C. leaders to resist federal plans that intervene in local policymaking.
A local effort by District Councilmember Charles Allen (D-Ward 6), Hands Off D.C. will meet for the first time at the Atlas Performing Arts Center on Monday at 6:30 p.m., with more than 500 D.C. residents expected to attend.
Andy Le, Allen’s communications director, said the councilmember hopes the organization will consolidate support from D.C.-area residents to oppose federal Republican intervention in District initiatives, such as President Trump’s plan to rescind federal funds based on the District’s status as a sanctuary city.
“We have seen signals from Congressional members who want to meddle in local affairs and we have to resist and defend our values,” Le wrote in an email to The Hoya, “The Council was elected by District residents and are ultimately accountable to them. Congress was not elected by the people of D.C. and should play no role in our affairs.”
Over the past month, House of Representatives Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) has indicated attempts to block D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser’s (D) Death with Dignity Act, which legalizes assisted suicide, and cut off funding for the District’s abortion services. Congressmen have also moved to overturn D.C.’s gun control laws.
Le also said he hopes to provide meeting attendees with a list of action items and contact information so they can connect with those with similar interests to continue work on these issues over the next four years.
“This is a marathon and we have a long road ahead,” Le wrote. “There are many issues to discuss with different timelines and success metrics.”
According to Le, Hands Off D.C. participants will decide how they want to address the issue of protecting the interests of District residents.
“This meeting is about action but we’re not here to tell people what to do. We’re just providing a space for democracy and direct action to take place,” Le wrote.
Neighbors United for D.C. Statehood, an organization in support of Hands Off D.C., seeks to increase District representation in Congress.
The District’s 680,000 residents do not have a senator, and D.C. Representative Eleanor Holmes Norton is not allowed to vote on the House floor.
Neighbors United for D.C. Statehood, a volunteer group focused on advocating for D.C. Statehood, founder Josh Burch said he hopes Hands Off D.C. brings District residents together to advocate for the policies important to them.
“We want people to come together and believe we can all make a difference,” Burch said. “We have members from all over the District — if people can give us five hours or five minutes a month, we can give them something productive to do.”
Burch said the number of people who registered to attend the Monday meeting gives him hope.
“My biggest hope is that everyone who participates walks away knowing what they can do to help,” Burch said. “We want to prevent Congress from messing with us now and also prevent it in the long term.”
Burch also said residents must remain vigilant and get involved to push the movement forward.
“We want to maintain a constant presence on Capitol Hill,” Burch said. “Each of us has a role to play and we can’t just wait for our elected leaders to act. We need everyday citizens to become actively involved.”
A referendum for statehood gained approval from 80 percent of D.C. residents in the Nov. 8 election; however, all legislation passed by local lawmakers must be approved by Congress and the president, which is highly unlikely given that if D.C. ends up becoming the 51st state, there would likely be two new Democratic senators as well as one new Democratic representative in the House.
Georgetown Students for D.C. Statehood Vice President Maddy Taub (COL ’18) said the organization is important because it has the potential to raise awareness and bring District residents together to discuss future goals.
“The first step is to bring all Washingtonians together supporting Statehood and understanding what rights we deserve,” Taub wrote in an email to The Hoya. “The second step after that will be to get the rest of the United States to understand what D.C.’s lack of Statehood and representation actually means.”
Additionally, Taub said the growing movement for District rights could raise the voices of area residents.
“D.C. citizens do not have a vote in the Senate or in Congress, meaning that we have no say in laws that affect our lives,” Taub wrote. “This movement is important because D.C. citizens deserve a say.”
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