DC Mayor Arrested in Budget Protests
||The Hoya (DC)
||Tuesday, April 12, 2011
D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray was arrested Monday while protesting the 11th hour deal Congress brokered late last Friday that saved the federal government from a looming shutdown but dealt another blow to the District's autonomy.
Gray assembled with a several members of the D.C. city council and a crowd of over 200 other protesters near the Hart Senate office building Monday evening as part of a protest organized by the advocacy group DC Vote.
According to the Capitol Police, Gray and Councilmembers Muriel Bowser and Kwame Brown were arrested and taken into custody. The protesters were sitting in the street on Constitution Avenue and chanting, "Free D.C." and "We can't take it no more," according to Politico.
They had gathered in opposition to clauses in the budget deal, which includes provisions that deny District politicians the ability to make decisions regarding funding for public education and for abortions for low-income women.
Though the budget negotiations resulted in a prized concession given by the GOP — continued funding for Planned Parenthood — the deal yielded on another reproductive rights issue.
A rider added to the funding bill, largely supported by Republicans, reinstates a ban preventing the District from using its own funds to provide abortions to low-income women.
Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.), the city's non-voting representative to Congress, tried to prevent the rider from being passed by introducing an amendment striking down the provision. Her efforts, along with those of several other District leaders, were ultimately unsuccessful.
Gray released a statement condemning the congressional authority on city matters.
"If these reports are correct, then the District of Columbia's right to govern itself has, once again, been sacrificed on the altar of political expediency," Gray wrote.
Certain District leaders are angered over a provision that re-funds the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program for an additional five years. The program is designed to provide vouchers to low-income families in the District in order to send their children to private schools.
According to The Washington Post, this initiative is a "top priority" for House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio). The program, which stopped admitting new participants in 2009, has mixed support from past and current city leaders.
While D.C. suffered some losses in its battle for budget autonomy, the city was spared the potential calamity of a federal government shutdown — trash collection continues, museums remain open and federal employees were paid for their work on Monday.
But according to Gray, this only compounds the perceived insult Congress paid to the District.
"This indignity comes on top of the fact that no other state or jurisdiction had to endure the hardship of planning to shut down a municipal government, thus spending valuable resources and personnel on a process that never should have been necessary," he said.