Kelsye Adams walked through the Cannon House Office Building hallways and noticed the plaques for representatives from across the country. Texas. New Hampshire. Wisconsin.
“I’m Kelsye, here by way of D.C.” she told the staffer at the front desk before asking to meet with Clyde.
He was unavailable, so Adams sat on the couch, crossed her left leg over the right, folded her hands and told the staffer why she was here.
“Your boss needs to leave us alone,” Adams said. “When we say ‘hands off D.C.,’ we really mean it. And if this office is open to 9 to 5, we can make this a daily thing.”
Adams was one of about 60 statehood advocates and D.C. residents who visited Clyde’s office throughout the day Tuesday to demand that he stop interfering with D.C. legislation.
Advocates say D.C. statehood is an issue of voting rights, racial justice and human rights for everyone who calls the District home but lacks a voice in Congress, which has oversight of D.C. through a provision in the Constitution.
Clyde is leading a disapproval resolution seeking to block the city’s major police accountability legislation, which was crafted in the aftermath of the Minneapolis police murder of George Floyd in 2020 and finalized in January. House Republicans also intend to hold a hearing this month to examine D.C. city management, especially on the issues of crime and public safety.
This comes after a successful Republican effort in Congress, with help from dozens of Democrats, to block D.C. legislation that would have overhauled the city’s criminal code. Clyde sponsored a disapproval resolution on the criminal code in the House as well.
A representative from Clyde’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment Tuesday, but in a news release this month, Clyde celebrated blocking the criminal code.
“By striking down the radical Revised Criminal Code Act, Congress has effectively exercised its constitutional authority to manage Washington’s affairs in order to prevent exacerbating an already troubling crime crisis in D.C. and to protect residents and visitors in Washington,” he said in a news release.
The “Hands Off DC” coalition launched this month includes more than 50 organizations that focus on issues ranging from voting rights and criminal justice reform to go-go music and LGBTQ equality but are unified in demanding D.C. autonomy.
On Tuesday, supporters of the coalition and D.C. residents gathered outside the Cannon Building and visited Clyde’s office in 30-minute shifts. They weren’t able to speak with him, so they spoke with his staff.
Virginia Spatz, 63, a resident of Hill East who has lived in D.C. for 35 years, read to Clyde’s staff her letter of appeal: “Residents of D.C.’s eight diverse wards did not request and do not seek your oversight, Rep. Clyde, of our lives and laws. ... Interfering with D.C. laws is anti-democratic and makes everyone who lives here less safe. The people of D.C. did not elect you.”
Frankie Seabron, 34, felt her frustration rising as she stood in Clyde’s office and listened to other D.C. residents talk about statehood.
As a third-generation Washingtonian, she’s lived her life with the slogan “Taxation Without Representation.” And she thinks of her two children, the fourth generation, and the future they’ll have in the city.
Finally, it was her turn to speak to Clyde’s staffers and she channeled all the love she had for the city into a plea for Clyde to stay out of local affairs.
“Your offices are here, but y’all don’t know nothing about what really happens in D.C. Y’all don’t know nothing about the city. Y’all don’t know nothing about our communities, y’all don’t know about our struggles and what we go through,” she said. “This is another thing that y’all don’t need to have your hands in. So tell Clyde to keep his hands off my city.”
All day, the staffers had nothing to tell the advocates other than promises to pass along their messages. Seabron was glad she spoke up but is still worried about what Republicans will do next. She thought of the city’s budget and every piece of future legislation that will pass through Congress.
“Potentially everything is at stake,” she said.
Advocates say they believe Democrats are siding with Republicans on the criminal code vote for fear of being called “soft on crime” but that they should realize Republicans will still attack them by calling them “radical” or “woke.”
Makia Green, co-conductor for Harriet’s Wildest Dreams, a Black-led mutual aid and community defense organization that is part of the coalition, sees the recent “tough on crime” rhetoric as a return to the broken policies of the past.
And to Green, “woke” is not an insult. It reflects Green’s beliefs of caring about their community, dismantling white supremacy and organizing for a better future.
“They can call me a woke voter, and I feel like the Democrats should not be afraid of being called woke either,” Green said. “We want everyone to see that we are not going anywhere.”
At Clyde’s office, Adams, who is the executive director of Long Live GoGo and director of programs for DC Vote, dropped off a statehood button. After leaving the office she turned around, bent down toward the mail slot and said “D.C. statehood now.”
She plans to return to the Hill on Thursday to once again advocate for statehood.
Marcus Williams, 15 of Ward 8, hopes that D.C. is a state by the time he is able to vote in elections. That way, like other Americans across the country, he would be able to cast a ballot for candidates running to be voting members of Congress.
The 10th-grader at Anacostia High School was hoping to meet with Clyde, but was prepared to drop off his handwritten letter to staffers if he was unavailable. He was nervous and the building was intimidating, but he still walked into the office and made his voice heard:
“I’m a young resident of the District of Columbia. There are many of us that live here peacefully enjoying what we have here distinct from that of the national capital,” Marcus said, reading from a page ripped out of his composition notebook. “For some reason you have now had this weird interest in D.C. local law even though you’re not from D.C. nor are you a resident of D.C. We never asked or voted for you to take action on our behalf so why are you now?”
He left his note with the staffer at the front desk before leaving the building. Even though it was a bit scary at first, Marcus said he felt better knowing he showed up and shared his letter.
“Being in a good community also means you have to fight for the community that you live in,” Marcus said. “So that’s exactly what I’m doing.”