On Tuesday we hit the road driving up to New York, reading great speeches to each other in dramatic voices, discussing DC’s wealth disparity (higher than every state and every city other than Atlanta and New Orleans – the average white Washingtonian makes $3.08 for every $1 made by black Washingtonians), and planning what kinds of outreach to do through the rest of our trip to Connecticut, Rhode Island and New Hampshire.
We finally found parking in Lower Manhattan a few blocks from 60 Wall Street, where we found an Occupy Wall Street direct action meeting. Somewhat confusingly sharing the address of the suit-and-tie office building for Duetche Bank next door, it’s a kind of wide food court area where OWS has been meeting since the eviction of Liberty Plaza.
Some 35 people showed up for the meeting. The faces were new to us but the general assembly (GA) structure was refreshingly familiar. We introduced ourselves and our cause to the group along with everyone else working on specific issues, and then the group broke out into issue-based working group meeting.
In our working group we did an informal teach-in on DC’s third-class status (second-class is Puerto Rico, Guam, Virgin Islands and others, which also lack voting representation in Congress – but don’t pay taxes) to about ten people. When we said we were there to talk about DC statehood, one guy said, “Oh, you guys know the hunger strikers?” We told him we were three of the many. He made a heart sign with his hands, and he, along with a few others, committed to working with us on DC statehood actions in New York.
A reporter from WBAI 99.5 Pacifica happened to be there, and invited us to do a radio interview later that night. There, we spoke about our candlelight vigil for #J17 and our continuing 51 days of solidarity strikers along with how DC’s disenfranchisement effects all American citizens. Pacifica broadcasts in a dozen cities; we’ll post the report here when it comes out.
It’s fascinating to watch how indignant people become the more they learn about DC’s third-class status. People can’t believe that DC couldn’t vote for president until the 60’s, that they couldn’t vote for their own mayor and city council until the 70’s. That the president still picks our local judges and that Congress denies us from implementing a commuter tax that every other American city can legislate for itself – the absence of which deprives our city of life-altering resources. They are incredulous to learn that the closest our city has come to a vote in Congress was when Delegate Norton briefly had a vote in a committee, but it would only count if it didn’t sway the final outcome. That we are the only one out of some 115 world democracies that does not grant national representation to the people of its capital. (Guess that would make us a different sort of 1 percent!)
I believe America is standing proof that representative democracy is a people-driven form of government that, while imperfect and currently stacked against the 99%, can work to make people’s voices heard. But I can’t help but feel shame at the hypocrisy of our elected officials when they demand democracy in faraway lands but dismiss it in the political heart of our country. We must all work together to build a democracy in which all people’s voices are heard - the 100% of us, including the people of Washington DC.