D.C. activists may not have a vote in Congress, but they do have props and sarcasm, and they brought plenty of both to a protest outside Rep. Trent Franks’s office Wednesday.
D.C. Vote organized the rally outside the Arizona Republican’s office in the Rayburn Building in response to the hearing Franks held last week on his bill that would ban all abortions in the District after 20
weeks’ pregnancy. Local leaders view the bill as an intrusion on the city’s self-governance, while Frank, a strong abortion opponent, has pointed out that the Constitution grants Congress the authority to “exercise exclusive legislation in all cases whatsoever” in the District.
In that case, the protesters reasoned, Franks must be interested in solving all kinds of other local problems. But when they went to his office Wednesday to ask for help, the door was locked. The phones went straight to a full voice mail box. With the House on recess this week, Franks was likely out of town.
“We expect him to be here whether it’s recess or not, because there are a lot of issues to deal with here in the District,” said DC Vote head Ilir Zherka. “If he’s going to be D.C.’s pretend mayor, he needs to be here full-time.”
Franks’s office had not responded to a request for comment as of this posting.
Though there was no one there to hear their complaints, several dozen protesters still took turns knocking on Franks’s office door, then explaining on camera — to be posted later on YouTube — what local problems they’d like “Mayor Franks” to address.
Tighe Barry, an activist with both OccupyDC and CodePink, came to tell Franks about the need to repair the steps of the elementary school across the street from his house in Northeast Washington.
“It really is a danger, and it’s been like this for six weeks,” Barry said. ”We were thinking we’d approach [D.C. Council member] Tommy Wells, but since [Franks] is so concerned with the District, we figured we’d ask him.”
Sara Shaw, also an OccupyDC activist, said she wanted to talk to Franks about “all of our issues with WMATA,” particularly the salaries of top executives at the transportation agency.
Other protesters came to tell Franks about the need for better bike lanes and about the “cockroach and rat problems” near Petworth. They brought garbage bags, to suggest Franks might want to take over trash collection; a toilet plunger, which was meant to symbolize the need to clean up the Anacostia River; and photos of broken Metro escalators.
Under the watchful eye of the Capitol Police, the activists milled in the otherwise empty Rayburn hallway for roughly 90 minutes, then broke up to go their separate ways. Franks’s door never opened.
The National Right to Life Committee, which has made Franks’s bill a top priority, suggested the protest was misguided.
“We hope that after more reflection, the demonstrators will grasp the profound difference between a broken street light and the broken skull of an unborn child, which is crushed by a steel clamp during a late abortion,” said Douglas Johnson, the NRLC’s legislative director.
He added that “the U.S. Constitution makes it crystal clear that the District of Columbia belongs to all of the American people, and is to be governed by the Congress and the president.”