- The Washington Times - Monday, April 11, 2011

Fired up by a few hundred supporters of D.C. voting rights and opponents of congressional meddling, Mayor Vincent C. Gray, council Chairman Kwame R. Brown and more than a dozen others were arrested outside the Hart Senate Office Building in a carefully orchestrated protest during Monday’s evening rush hour.

Mr. Gray and the others were frisked and their personal belongings were bagged and tagged as U.S. Capitol Police officers escorted the protesters one by one into two paddy wagons.

A total of 41 people, including Mr. Gray and six D.C. Council members, were arrested for blocking street traffic outside the Hart Senate Office Building.

They were released after about seven hours in police custody.

“We needed to make a statement about what has happened … to the District of Columbia is completely unacceptable,” Mr. Gray, a Democrat, told WRC-TV shortly after his release about midnight.

The council members arrested were Mr. Brown, a Democrat; Michael A. Brown, an independent, and Democrats Sekou Biddle, at large; Yvette M. Alexander, Ward 7; Muriel Bowser, Ward 4; and Tommy Wells, Ward 6.

All were charged with “impeding traffic,” a misdemeanor, an officer said, that would require them to post $50 bail.

Noticeably absent was Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, the District’s nonvoting congressional representative, who, like the mayor and others, expressed outrage at riders tied to the eleventh-hour federal budget agreement that prohibits the District from spending local money on abortions and re-establishes a school voucher program for D.C. students.

Mrs. Norton, a Democrat, recently characterized congressional actions as “the functional equivalent of bombing innocent civilians.”

“It’s time that the District of Columbia told the Congress to go straight to hell,” she said last week.

During Monday’s rally, Mr. Gray called the congressional action “an absolute travesty.”

“D.C. deserves to be free,” he said. “All we want to do is spend our own money. Why should women in the District of Columbia be subjected to a set of rules that no other woman is subjected to? If we want a school voucher program, we should choose it ourselves.”

The demonstration was organized by city officials and several groups, including the nonprofit DC Vote, whose email alerts and other electronic communications drew volunteers who carried “flash mob” clipboards carrying the signatures of demonstration supporters.

The rally began at about 5 p.m., and by 5:45, as commuter traffic poured through the intersection of Second Street and Constitution Avenue on Capitol Hill, Mr. Gray and other prominent protesters moved from the sidewalk to the street and were warned by Capitol Police that they risked arrest if they insisted on impeding traffic.

As police pushed most media onto the sidewalk and rerouted traffic away from the intersection, Mr. Gray’s chauffeur-driven Lincoln Navigator sat parked curbside and did not move until after he was safely inside the paddy wagon.

None in the group resisted arrest, and the crowd cheered and applauded them between chants of “We’re fired up, can’t take it no more,” “We say free D.C., we run this town, we’ll shut it down,” and “taxation without representation.”

Onlookers and passers-by said that while they didn’t necessarily agree with the demonstrators, they supported them in making their views known.

“I thoroughly enjoyed the proceeding,” said Adam Baron, a native of Arkansas.

Chris Cannon, who has lived in the District for three months, said he pays income taxes to the District but continues to maintain his Connecticut residence so he can vote there.

“Otherwise, I wouldn’t have a vote,” Mr. Cannon said.

A mother with three boys who wanted to watch the goings-on, pulled the boys away to continue on their travels.

“Come on guys,” she said. “The mayor is getting arrested.”



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