"Free D.C."

April 16, 2007
D.C. Voting Rights Supporters March to Capitol

Mary Beth Sheridan, Hamil R. Harris and David Nakamura

Washington Post - April 16, 2007

Despite winds and a light rain, thousands of chanting marchers led by D.C. Mayor Adrian M. Fenty headed down Pennsylvania Avenue today in an effort to build support for D.C. voting rights in Congress.

"We are not totally free," Fenty (D) told a roaring crowd this afternoon, shortly before the marchers left Freedom Plaza en route to a rally at the Capitol Reflecting Pool. "That's why we are here to march today. It's a civil rights issue."

An energetic throng of senior citizens, university students, union members and other demonstrators marched behind a line of dignitaries including Fenty, Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D), and Council Chairman Vincent C. Gray (D).

"Free D.C.," they shouted.

Today's demonstration was timed to coincide with a step-up in activity on the issue in Congress as well as the commemoration of Emancipation Day, a city holiday remembering the date that President Abraham Lincoln signed an act freeing more than 3,100 slaves in the District of Columbia.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi:

Pelosi Statement on March for D.C. Voting Rights

Washington, D.C.--Speaker Nancy Pelosi released the following statement this afternoon following today's march in support of voting rights for the District of Columbia:

"Today's rally affirms an enduring principle of our democracy: the right to be heard and represented. For more than 200 years, the people of the District of Columbia have been denied full voting representation. The bipartisan D.C. Vote legislation by Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton and Congressman Tom Davis corrects a serious flaw in our democracy.

"America is at its best--and honors the cause of freedom and justice--when all voices are fully represented. That must include the people of the District of Columbia.

"The efforts to politicize this issue of fundamental fairness disrespect the ideals of this nation and the people of the District of Columbia. We will overcome this obstacle and pass this legislation.

"We must honor our democracy: House Democrats will not rest until full voting representation in the House is granted to the District of Columbia."

Majority Leader Steny Hoyer:

Hoyer Statement Recognizing Emancipation Day in the District of Columbia

WASHINGTON, DC - House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (MD) released the following statement marking the 145th anniversary of Emancipation Day in the District of Columbia, the day on which slaves in the District were freed:

"On today's date in 1862, President Abraham Lincoln signed legislation that freed more than 3,100 enslaved persons within the District of Columbia, and helped close a chapter in American history that will forever scar our national conscience.

"The Compensated Emancipation Act, as it was known, was one of the first official acts that sought to end slavery in the United States and extend the liberties guaranteed in our Constitution to Americans that had been unjustly denied their God-given rights since our country's inception.

"But today, 145 years later, the residents of the District cannot help but celebrate this momentous occasion with a certain sense of irony, because Washington remains the only capital city in the free world whose citizens do not have voting representation in their federal legislature.

"The time has come for this national embarrassment to be rectified - and I am hopeful that the People's House will confront the issue of D.C. voting rights sometime in the very near future. I remain confident that our efforts to fully enfranchise the nearly 600,000 residents of the District will succeed - because, after all, a vote in favor of DC voting rights in the House of Representatives is nothing less than a vote in defense of democracy and all of the values and principles for which our nation stands."