When Allyson Behnke’s friend was arrested back in May for rallying in support of District representation in Congress, she and a few others started brainstorming ways to raise awareness for the cause in a more entertaining way. Somebody mentioned Flag Day, and an idea tattooed itself on her mind.
“Flag Day is for the American flag and D.C. doesn’t have a star on that flag,” said Behnke. “I had a tattoo of the District flag, and I knew there had to be plenty of others who did too.”
And like that, Flag Day came to be Flag Day in the Flesh.
Organized by Behnke and other friends in the advocacy group DC Vote, the DC Flag Tattoo Day: Flag Day in the Flesh rally at Dupont Circle brought together the inked and unadorned on Tuesday to call attention to the lack of voting representation in the House and Senate for District residents.
It was billed by DC Vote as the “world’s largest gathering of people with DC flag tattoos EVER.”
Dozens bared the three stars and two bars, with ink showing up in unusual places. There were the typical ankle and shoulder tattoos, with slight variations on the theme. Lenore Gore, from D.C. Rollergirl’s roller derby team Scareforce One, boasted a calf tattoo with two bars and three jets above. D.C. resident Doug Brown got his flag wrapped around his wrist and added the Maryland flag on the other one for good measure. David Barrows, who has lived in the District for 43 years, got his shoulder ink – a crest with two bars, three stars and a banner saying “Free DC” – three hours before the rally.
Brandon Skall may have chosen one of the most unusual locations for his homage to the District. The owner of D.C. Brau brewing company went around lifting his shirt to all who inquired, showing a flag that stretched across his stomach just below his navel and disappeared underneath his boxer shorts.
“D.C. is a place where people live, own businesses, and it gets no love,” said the lifelong resident. “It’s like our contributions and taxes aren’t worth as much as other people’s.”
Accompanying the ink-based festivities was a different art project of sorts: two sculpted oversized hands created by artist Peter Krsko, sponsored by Give Me a Vote and decorated by participants. Resembling the hands of two giant, inquisitive school children, the sculptures symbolize the votes of D.C. residents who lack representation in the House and Senate.
“I came from a county where we weren’t really allowed to vote for just anybody a few years back,” said the Slovakian expatriate, who has lived in D.C. since 2006. “Then I get here to the capital of democracy and you aren’t allowed a vote at all.”
Krsko has been working on the project for a year. In total, 30 hands have already been installed in restaurants, in front of private residences and in public parks across the District. Krsko said four more hands, decorated tonight, would be placed in public spaces in the four corners of the city.
Bakyt Omurzakov and Asel Omuralieva, married Kansas State University students, were among those who added their designs to the sculptures.
“We are amazed by the action of the people and how they can protest in a peaceful manner and still have their voices heard by politicians,” said Omurzakov, a political science graduate student who is doing a summer internship in D.C. He added that he was amazed to hear of D.C. Mayor Vincent C. Gray getting arrested in April while rallying for home rule.
Even some of the politicians have gotten in on the tattooing action in support of home rule. Bryan Weaver, who recently ran for an At-Large seat on the D.C. Council, and Mike Panetta, the three-term D.C. shadow representative, got their D.C. flag tattoos last weekend. Check out Weaver’s here.
Not everybody was ready for a permanent commitment. Organizers offered hundreds of temporary D.C. flag tattoos to attendees.
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