The organizers of a rally for Statehood for the District of Columbia wanted relatively short speeches and a limited list of speakers, Saturday morning. That's because participants were expected to march together to join a much bigger rally to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the historic 1963 civil rights march in Washington.
So Ward Eight Councilman Marion Barry was not on the speakers' list.
As the speeches were winding down, Barry stepped up to the microphone anyway. Organizers responded within seconds. The music was turned up, and the podium mic was turned off.
The former mayor stood at the podium for several minutes, visibly agitated at his inability to address the crowd over the loud music. Urgent discussions took place, but Barry refused to leave his place at the podium. After several minutes of debate, the music was turned down and the main microphone was turned back on.
"How disrespectful!" thundered the former mayor. "I told the organizers to turn the damn music off!" Many in the crowd clapped at Barry's apparent victory. The Democratic Councilman then spoke for several minutes about the need for Statehood.
"Let's stand up," exhorted Barry. "Let's do something radical. Let's not March on Washington, let's march on the Congress!"
While D.C. has an elected member of the House, Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton may vote only in committee, not on the floor of the house where final legislative decisions are made. D.C. has no representation at all in the U.S. Senate.
Proponents of Statehood point out that D.C. residents pay full federal income taxes, yet have no real say in how the money is spent.
Under the federal laws that govern D.C., all local ordinances are subject to Congressional veto.
In the early years of the nation, when the federal city was established, Washington, D.C., had few residents. Today, more than 630,000 people live in the District of Columbia.
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