Local leaders joined civil rights advocates on Saturday in the nation’s capital for the first-ever national rally in support of D.C. statehood.
Thousands from across the country — including more than 50 civil rights, voter rights, and racial justice groups — attended the D.C. rally that was the last stop of a nine-city, eight-day Freedom Ride for Voting Rights that began in New Orleans organized by Black Voters Matter, according to the Washington Post.
As Mother Jones notes, the bus tour retraced the steps of the Freedom Riders in 1961 who were viciously assaulted by white mobs when they sought to desegregate interstate bus travel.
“The fact that residents of D.C. don’t have congressional representation is an issue of racial justice,” said Akosua Ali, president of the NAACP’s D.C. chapter. “This is a call to action. Hold Joe Manchin accountable.”
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After House Democrats passed the statehood bill, H.R. 51, earlier this year, with no Republican votes, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) said that he opposes the bill, saying, “If Congress wants to make D.C. a state, it should propose a constitutional amendment… and let the people of America vote.”
President Biden supports statehood and said he’d sign the bill if got through the Senate, but with all 50 GOP senators opposed to it and the need for 60 votes to avoid a filibuster, the bill’s passage is unlikely.
D.C. has more than 700,000 residents — more than the population of Wyoming — but no voting representation in Congress. Eleanor Holmes Norton represents D.C. in Congress but as a non-voting delegate.
The district, which is nearly half black, leans heavily Democratic, and as CBS News points out, 92 percent of its residents supported President Biden in the 2020 election. So statehood would all but ensure Democrats would have more representation in Congress.
Norton, who attended that rally, told the crowd to keep fighting for the same rights as all other citizens.
“We must defy history so that we can make sure that the residents of the nation’s capital here in the shadow of the Capitol itself have the same rights as every other American,” Norton said. “Make black lives matter and make the black vote matter.”
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