Pro-D.C. protesters blocked traffic on Capitol Hill for the second time in a week Friday, rallying to complain about the city’s treatment by Congress in the spending bill passed by the House and Senate.
The budget measure — expected to be signed by President Obama on Friday — includes a ban on the District spending its own money to provide abortions to low-income women, and a private school voucher program that some local officials oppose. The bill marks the latest disappointment for D.C. residents tired of not having a vote in Congress or full control of their finances.
The protest, organized by the activist group DC Vote, took place on Second Street NE next to the Hart Senate Office Building, just around the corner from where a larger, louder gathering took place Monday that resulted in the arrests of 41 people, including Mayor Vincent Gray (D) and several members of the D.C. Council.
Three protesters were arrested Friday by U.S. Capitol Police after they sat in the middle of the street blocking traffic, just as Monday’s protesters did. The three who were arrested included shadow Sen. Michael D. Brown, as well as retiree Bob Johnsen and activist and clothing store owner Adam Eidinger.
“I’m trying to make a point,” Brown said just before his arrest. “We need to bring democracy to the District of Columbia.”
The arrestees were among about 60 volunteers who lined Second Street early Friday afternoon and then, in a choreographed action, covered their mouths with gags to symbolize the District’s lack of a voice in the federal government. Several pointed at the Hart building, where Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has his office.
Before staging their protest, the volunteers heard from Gray at the nearby Stewart R. Mott House.
“This is Emancipation Day in the District of Columbia, and it’s time for us to be emancipated from the shackles of bondage that we experience every day in this city,” Gray told the crowd, some of whom were college students at what was billed as a youth rally.
Because of Monday’s protest and arrests, Gray said, both the nation and the world were paying attention to the District’s plight.
“People have asked me, did I think that Monday was going to be … the change that we needed,” Gray said. “Anybody that thinks that Monday is going to change some of these fundamental things that we experience really is very naïve. Monday at best is a catalyst for action.”
The three protesters who were arrested were charged with disorderly conduct, a misdemeanor.
This post has been updated since it was first published.