Mary Cheh, Ward 3 Councilwoman for the District of Columbia was released shortly before midnight. Cheh was arrested for Disorderly Conduct, Blocking a Passage Wednesday, along with seven other women for walking out into traffic and sitting in the crosswalk on Constitution Avenue, NW, while protesting for D.C. rights on Capitol Hill. There were about one hundred demonstrators who gathered at Upper Senate Park, under the shadow of the U.S. Capitol Building.
Almost immediately, a mass of Capitol Police officers surrounded the protesters.
U.S. Capitol Police supervisor issued warnings to the protesters, and after a refusal to voluntarily remove themselves, officers took them into custody. Law enforcement said this action was a safety hazard. One officer [who didn™t want to be identified] said, Although the protesters have a right to voice their concerns, they could have been hurt. Someone could have been brazen enough to hit one of them. They had a permit to protest on the grounds, but not the street.
DC Vote, a non-profit that endorses statehood, organized the protest. The protest focused on a U.S. House bill that would make permanent a federally-imposed ban on using D.C. taxpayer dollars to fund abortions passed Wednesday.
Returning citizen, Sissy Wright, who lives in southeast DC, said, I support everything the city council is doing to draw attention to what should be simple rights for Washingtonians. We are American citizens, so why don™t we have American rights?
Also another returning citizen [who did not want his name used] added, D.C. residents are tired of being the last to have a voice. We live in Washington, D.C., the nation™s capital, and this is how Congress treats us. It™s terrible, just horrible.
"It looks like we're turning the clock back, Mary Cheh said. I willingly go to jail today so that the people of the District can, like all other U.S. citizens, control their own lives." All three female members of the D.C. Council (Cheh, along with Muriel Bowser [Ward 4] and Yvette Alexander [Ward 7]) delivered impassioned speeches. Also, Maudine Cooper, president of the Greater Washington Urban League, and Patrice Sulton of the DC NAACP participated at the rally. Cheh led the charge by asking, "We are going to stand up for D.C. -- who will join me in the street?"
The legislation (H.R. 3, the "No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act") passed the House by a vote of 251-175. It is important to note that the legislation also prevents deducting an abortion's cost from taxable income, except when it's performed in cases of rape, incest or when a woman's life would be in danger if she went through with the pregnancy.
Mary Cheh is the most recent of several D.C. elected officials to be arrested in protesting federal oversight of the District. Last month, D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray, along with several other elected members of the city council were among the forty-one (41) people detained, booked and released during a DC Vote rally on Capital Hill. Cheh was not a part of the rally.
Cheh told the Washington Examiner, "I am proud to join the people today and my colleagues on the council who were arrested last month in standing up for home rule and against congressional meddling in the District budget. She believes that Washingtonians should do everything possible to oppose the legislation. She also implores all listening to support the Budget Autonomy Act Delegate Norton has introduced.
H.R. 345, the "District of Columbia Autonomy Act of 2011," was introduced by Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton. The bill would eliminate all federally-imposed mandates over the local budget process and financial management of DC.
Norton said in a release, Today™s arrests builds on the momentum that was created by DC Vote and the arrests of ˜D.C. 41™ last month. The arrest of D.C. women, on behalf of the city™s low-income women, signals that the revolution is spreading and is being sustained by D.C. residents. Residents realize that undemocratic abuse from the Congress cannot end without direct action by citizens."
Cheh™s involvement was posted via Twitter:
Mary Cheh and 3 others being arrested #dcfightsback #freedc @dc_vote http://yfrog.com/hscksftjless than a minute ago via TweetDeck Favorite Retweet ReplyAnna¦annaew_dc
The Examiner also reports that in addition, the bill disallows a tax credit for small-employer health insurance plans providing coverage for abortions -- closing what abortion opponents say is a gap in President Obama's health care overhaul. Firms are currently allowed the credit for plans covering abortions if they collect a separate premium from policyholders and that money is kept apart from federal subsidies.
"It gives me pride, District resident Morgan Murphy said, adding that the councilmembers were standing up for our rights.
The councilwoman did come prepared “ she told the crowd she brought $100.00 to pay her bail. Shortly after Cheh was arrested and driven away, councilwoman Yvette Alexander arrived to the protest. Alexander was part of the forty-one (41) who was arrested with Mayor Gray last month.
Through Twitter, DC Vote announced another protest would take place at D.C. Superior Court at 7:45 am Thursday morning. This is largely in support of the April 11th arrests and the fifteen (15) of the arrests who refused to the $50 fine, and are scheduled to appear in court Thursday morning. Eugene Kinlow, Public Affairs Director for DC Vote, is one of the fifteen who is expected to plead not guilty and stand trial.
"Whether or not you support abortion, the protestors were supporting D.C.™s rights, said Lareefah William.
Some Washingtonians were bothered by the arrests. J.T. Spangler remarked, DC Vote is a poster child for DC Not Ready for Prime Political Time...otherwise incapable of governing themselves superstars.
Returning citizen, Jacob Davies, said, I want DC government to worry about what is going on inside DC. We™ve got to clean up city council in order to clean up DC, and get the city on the right track. Davies added that having D.C. government officials get arrested makes a joke about doing time. "I've been to prison, they haven't. My elected officials getting arrested and then going home to their warm beds by the end of the day doesn't change the fact that the system in D.C. is screwed up."
The House approved bill is unlikely to pass by the Democrat-led Senate. President Obama said if the bill were ever to pass the Senate, he would veto it.
Delegate Norton advises Washingtonians to show up so that the administration and our Senate allies understand that we are watching and depending on them to stand up for the self-government they have long professed.