D.C. Mayor Arrested Protesting New Federal Budget
||Tuesday, April 12, 2011
Remember when it came out that the budget negotiations needed to avoid the government shutdown were really about abortion? Republicans used the new budget to try and insist that Planned Parenthood get defunded in the process.
We thought the Republicans had lost this one. When news broke that a budget compromise had been reached, Planned Parenthood was still intact. Except, it turns out, in Washington D.C.
D.C., being a strange little state-less spot on the U.S. map, is notoriously under-governed. It has a mayor and a city government, but it doesn’t fall under the jurisdiction of any state government, and therefore gets famously bossed around by the federal government.
While most of the country was sighing in mild relief that some budget compromise had been reached without the Obama Administration selling out women’s access to abortion procedures, residents of Washington D.C. were left to freak out over the fact that the Obama Administration had just, indeed, sold out women’s access to abortion procedures.
A caveat in the fine print of the budget compromise that Republicans were able to push through stopped Washington D.C. from being able to spend its own money on abortions, which it had been doing to subsidize procedures for low-income women in need of assistance. Suddenly, Washington D.C.’s women most in need of assistance in family planning and health services found themselves shit out of luck.
This kind of legislative bullying happens all the time, but especially without the lobbying strength of a state government in its corner Washington D.C. finds itself particularly defenseless in these situations.
D.C Mayor Vincent Gray, irate over the development, did what too few politicians do when confronted with the harsh reality that they are powerless to change the tide of consensus: He took to the street and protested, and was arrested.
According to the Washington Post, “more than 200 protesters lined Constitution Avenue NE Monday evening in a rally next to the Dirksen Senate Office Building staged by the activist group DC Vote.” Gray, who helped lead the protest, was front and center, and was among the 41 arrested and charged with “unlawful assembly for blocking passage on the street.” He was released this morning.
Speaking to supporters and the press, Gray said, “We needed to make a statement that what happened in the budget process is just unacceptable. It’s time for the people of the District of Columbia to stand up and say we want to be treated like anybody else.”
Plenty of politicians spout this kind of rhetoric, and most find themselves powerless to actually turn it into action of any kind. Gray himself might be powerless to overturn D.C.’s new imposed ban on helping low-income women take control of their own bodies, but D.C. can at least be proud that their mayor would risk arrest to make his point.
After all, as Thoreau pointed out, when all else fails civil disobedience is sometimes the most patriotic stand you can take.