Police arrested D.C. Mayor Vince Gray and several D.C. Councilmembers on Capitol Hill Monday during a protest of the restrictions placed upon the district as part of the federal budget deal between House Republicans and President Barack Obama.
Mayor Gray and over 200 protesters sat down the middle of Constitution Avenue near the Senate Hart Building and chanted, “Hey, hey, no, no, those D.C. riders have got to go” and “No justice, no peace.”
The Washington Post reported that Capitol Police officers let the protesters sit in the street for 30 minutes and then began arresting them.
Council Chairman Kwame Brown and council members Yvette M. Alexander, Tommy Wells, Muriel Bowser and Michael A. Brown were among those arrested.
The protest was organized by the voting-rights group DC Vote.
“Clearly, both our opponents and friends think D.C. is weak,” DC Vote. said in a statement Monday. “Neither thinks we are strong enough to fight back against oppression.”
“We may not have legislative power, but we have the power of the people, and D.C. residents refuse to be treated like second-class citizens,” it continued. “D.C. is not weak. Tonight, we are going to fight back.”
Mayor Gray said in an interview with American University Radio on Monday that Democrats shouldn’t have compromised in the budget bill passed last week on the issues affecting the district.
“The Democrats have been in support of D.C. and Republicans have supported doing whatever was necessary if it meant trampling on the District’s rights,” Gray said. “Now it appears we’ve got both parties in a situation where they are not respecting the District’s rights.”
“The needle exchange program has proven to be very effective. Why should we be prohibited from spending our money on a program proven to prevent the spread of HIV and AIDS?”
“Why should we have foisted upon us a voucher program,” he continued. “Those are decisions that should be made by the people in this city.”
“If we choose to spend our money, as many cities do, on abortions for needy women, those are decisions should be made at local level,” Gray added.