Mayor and Councilmembers arrested in protest of budget deal
Mayor Vincent Gray, Council Chairman Kwame Brown (D) and five other councilmembers brought the fight for D.C. home rule and democracy to Congress yesterday when they were arrested by the U.S. Capitol Police as they blocked traffic on Constitution Avenue, NE. They were protesting last week’s White House-congressional agreement to prohibit the District from spending its own money on abortions for low-income women and revive private school vouchers as part of deal to keep the federal government open.
Gray said the treatment of D.C. by Congress was like someone looking into your pocket and seeing how much money you have and then telling you how to send it. “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.”
Georgetown ANC Commissioner Bill Starrels joined the approximately 200 demonstrators as Councilmembers Yvette M. Alexander (Ward 7), Tommy Wells (Ward 6), Sekou Biddle (at-large), Muriel Bowser (Ward 4) and Michael A. Brown (at-lLarge) were also arrested, along with 34 other protesters. "By getting arrested in today's protest, the Mayor made a bold statement. Let's hope the President and Congress listen," Starrels said. it was a warm, late afternoon spring day as the crowd chanted, “hey, hey, ho, ho, the DC riders have got to go” and “this is what democracy looks like.” The supporters filled both sides of the street besides the Dirksen Senate office building.
Ward 2 Council member Jack Evans tweeted "Regret I was unable to join my colleagues & Mayor today for voting rights. I applaud them for their courage."
Early Tuesday morning, Gray, Chairman Kwame Brown and Councilmember Michael Brown were released. “We needed to make a statement that what happened in the budget process is just unacceptable,” Gray told reporters and supporters. “It’s time for the people of the District of Columbia to stand up and say we want to be treated like anybody else.”
Another arrested councilmember, Muriel Bowser, addressed President Obama: “I’ve got to tell you I’m disappointed in my president,” she said. “If you don’t choose us, we won’t choose you.”
Washington Post reporter Mike Debonis reports that, Gray said he was "hungry" and heading to Horace and Dickie's. Councilmember Wells said, via Twitter, “Finally got home at 4:45 am. Nobody knows the troubles I've seen...”
The last time a DC mayor was arrested was 1993 when Mayor Sharon Pratt Kelly, Jesse Jackson and others were jailed for blocking traffic on the House side of Capitol Hill in a demonstration for DC statehood.