- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 16, 2011

D.C. Mayor Vincent C. Gray urged residents Tuesday to attend events preceding the dedication of the Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial that highlight the city’s efforts to achieve statehood and more autonomy from Capitol Hill.

“I’m sick and tired of going to rallies here in the city where 400 or 500 people show up,” said Mr. Gray, a Democrat. “When people start to show up and show up consistently, it will get the attention of those who have the ability to do something about this.”

He called the Aug. 28 dedication ceremony an “unprecedented opportunity” to tell people about the self-rule limitations on the District and its lack of clout in Congress.

An estimated 250,000 people are expected to visit the Mall for the dedication ceremony and other events.

The District-related events will include D.C. Residents Day on Aug. 23, for which tickets are no longer needed because of the high demand. There is also a march for D.C. statehood on Aug. 27 that starts at Freedom Plaza and proceeds to a spot near the memorial at the Tidal Basin.

Chuck Hicks, chairman of the D.C. Black History Celebration Committee, said that a brochure about the city and its non-state status will be circulated during festivities.

He said the memorial dedication, which is expected to draw many from outside the city, is an appropriate stage for D.C. issues.

“I believe people see that it fits into the whole picture,” said Mr. Hicks, who heads the host committee for dedication events.

Gray spokeswoman Linda Wharton-Boyd said “nobody has objected yet” to trumpeting D.C. issues during the dedication week.

For the second time this month, Mr. Gray referred to a quotation from King in 1965 that indicates he backed full rights for D.C. residents.

King said Congress had been “derelict” in its duty to make freedom a reality for all residents of the District, Mr. Gray said.

He also said celebrities in attendance may be asked to do a 30-second media spot “talking about bringing justice to the District.”

The mayor said he is always surprised by those who believe D.C. residents have the same representation rights as all Americans or that the District is fully funded by the federal government.

Officials are still working on road closures and other logistics, but that information will be available on event-specific websites and on signs across the city, said Millicent W. West, director of D.C. Homeland Security and Emergency Management.

Said Mr. Gray: “Frankly, given the magnitude and complexity of this, there will be issues that will continue to evolve right up to the last minute.”

The city will incur an estimated $400,000 in costs for the events, though a portion will be paid by a federal fund designed to reimburse the District for such events, according to the mayor’s office.

Metropolitan Police Department Chief Cathy L. Lanier said “absolutely no credible threats” have emerged but that the District is “an area where we have to stay on our toes all the time in terms of security.”

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