Three Arrested In Protest Over DC Autonomy
Published: Tuesday, April 19, 2011
Updated: Tuesday, April 19, 2011 17:04
D.C. Shadow Senator Michael Brown and two activists were arrested outside the Hart Senate Office Building Friday after sitting in the street to protest provisions in the recent budget deal which restricted District autonomy.
In a protest organized by DC Vote, about 100 activists descended on the Senate offices and stood on the sidewalk pointing at the office of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev) while the three men sat in the road. All wore gags to symbolize the way D.C. is "silenced" by its lack of a voting representative in Congress.
Though the protests were sparked by Congress's restriction on the District's use of local funds to cover the Medicaid costs of abortion for women with low incomes, protesters said that they were speaking up for more than 210 years of grievances.
The protest took place on Emancipation Day, 149 years after slavery was outlawed in D.C. by Abraham Lincoln.
"We need to send a message to these people that we intend to be emancipated," Brown said.
Local business owner Adam Eidinger, one of the three men arrested, expressed frustration over his obligation to pay federal taxes when he lacks congressional representation.
"My business last year paid over $350,000 to this federal government. I have no say over how that money is spent," Eidinger said to a throng of reporters. "This federal government is enacting tyranny on the District of Columbia residents. ... I feel it's my obligation to sit here in the middle of the street."
Brown stressed that change will only occur if D.C. residents cease to be complacent about their situation.
"Thomas Jefferson said that legitimate government gets its power and gets its legitimacy from the consent of the people," Brown said. "The people of Washington, D.C., have to stop consenting, and that's what this is about. We're withdrawing our consent."
Protesters drew comparisons between their protest and those in the Middle East this spring.
"I think [the protest] will make a difference because it's a spark, like the spark in Tunisia where the street vendor set himself on fire that lit the revolutions in the Middle East. We're hoping that this spark ... can light a revolution in the city," Bob Johnsen, the third protester arrested, said.
Brown waved off concerns about the relatively small crowd of protesters as irrelevant but said that he hopes the movement will grow.
"Whether it grows or not, this is my job, this is what I was elected to do," Brown said.
Capitol Police Lieutenant Kennedy gave the men three warnings to leave the road before arresting them on the charge of unlawful assembly. The men were handcuffed to the cheers and chanting of the crowd
"I'll sit here all day if I have to. I'm going to jail today," Eidinger said.
Mayor Vincent Gray and several members of the D.C. Council were arrested earlier last week in a similar protest. Gray encouraged protesters in a speech Friday before they rallied but was not present at the protest itself.