This evening, a group of
four eight women protestors, lead by Mary Cheh, were arrested near the Capitol for blocking traffic as part of a protest against the 251-175 vote to prohibit local tax dollars being used for abortions.
While it’s clear that the District’s rights to self-governance are being deeply abridged, pointless protests like the one today, and the one scheduled for next week, same time/same place, do nothing to advance the cause of self-determination for the District. Instead, they’re just a sideshow that demonstrate that we understand the theatrical part of politics, but we’re failing categorically at its other half: policy.
I’d like to ask public figures in DC a favor: Until you can come up with a solution to the problem, if you’re going to get arrested, do us all a favor and stay in jail until you think of something that will work.
So that begs the question, DC: Who would you like to see locked up for good for protesting? A set of options, and a write-in field, after the jump.
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FYI, there were 8 women arrested last night. I was one of them, and so was Councilwoman Cheh. While I’m a staunch advocate for womens’ rights, I was only at the rally in support of DC Vote and for overall DC rights. However, once at the protest, I became madder and madder at the situation in DC. I decided to stand up with the Councilwoman and my 6 new friends. I think its also important to note that last night marked the first arrest for all 8 women and none of us regret it one ounce.
As Washingtonians, we are all aware of the legislative process and the fact that there is no current legislation in support of our mission. However, I believe that creating awareness (nationally and internationally) about the plight of DC and its residents is very important and should not be callously dismissed. I was arrested because, I LOVE DC! I’m absolutely outraged that your website “I LOVE DC” has taken this disgusting hard-line stance about the action. Before you toss stones at us brave women, I ask you, WHAT ARE YOU DOING FOR DC??
Wow, I totally disagree with dismissing this as the theatrical part of politics. It’s called civil disobedience.
People without power and autonomy don’t just decide to come up with “a solution to the problem.” If it was as simple as brainstorming a solution, and if they then actually had the power to enact that solution, we wouldn’t have the problem in the first place. Knowing the solution isn’t the problem. The solution is statehood. It’s getting to the solution that’s the problem. And it’s certainly not going to be done with an f—ing surveymonkey poll.
This post is even more silly and pointless than the act of civil disobedience you’re condemning. Jesus.
@Brooke: The original WTOP report had said 4, I’ll be sure to update the story to reflect 8 women, thank you for letting us know there were additional protestors. I’m also glad to hear that you think the protest was worthwhile, even if I didn’t. Protests are often about the individuals protesting, more than they are about the people reading about it the next day. Personally, I think that was $400 the 8 of you could have spent on efforts to get Middle America to care about Statehood for DC, as those are the people we have to convince as we move along a path toward statehood.
The blog is also We Love DC. We are many voices, I am just one of them, and I choose to work for many small business clients helping keep their computers moving, including at schools in Ward 5 and Ward 8, working with kids who clearly need further assistance.
@Amanda: As for civil disobedience, yes, this is being disobedient, but what does it do to actually advance political independence for the District? In blocking traffic, protestors are stopping their fellow residents from moving about and that potentially serves to alienate your allies locally while not providing a significant boost to your profile.
If this is the best we can do to protest for statehood, then I think we’ve already lost this round. We need a better protest rather than just a few people arrested in the street. if DC’s going to push for statehood, that will need to be tens of thousands, not just a couple people on a Wednesday afternoon at 6pm.
Yes, blocking traffic was the point, and it clearly alienated people such as you, which is a fair enough point. I would argue that the only way for a protest of four people to gain attention is to do so, but it does of course present an inconvenience that would distract some likely allies.
That being said, those four people should next time work on rounding up tens of thousands of complacent people — seems simple enough and not at all frustrating for those who want to do something immediately. Meanwhile, you work with the city officials to come up with that solution.
I’m sure people said MLK could have put his work to better use than getting arrested in Birmingham too. That’s just a silly argument by you, Tom. In fact, if you really cared about this issue, you would be USING this incident to promote calls for statehood rather than stomping all over the participants. I am appalled that “We Love DC” would not stand in support of your fellow District residents. Even if you don’t think this is the BEST way to go about things, this sanctimonious post was completely unnecessary and really makes me think a lot less of your blog.
Good point, Greg. Protests with tens of thousands of people aren’t going to happen if the first small protests are instantly ridiculed and quashed by people and supposed pro-dc-statehood blogs like this.
@Greg: When Martin Luther King Jr. and his fellow protestors were arrested back in the 1950s and 1960s, they were actually risking something. They were risking fire hoses, and dog attacks, and brutal beatdowns at the hands of the police. That was bravery.
When you stand in traffic now, the only thing you’re risking is a few hours in a holding cell and a $50 fine.
I support local autonomy for the District, and representation in Congress, but this protest wasn’t about risking freedoms and safety in favor of principle. This was about spending a few hours in a bland room and paying $50. That’s not risk. That’s going to a theatre show you end up not liking.
If they were risking nothing, more people would do it. And I still fail to see why the level of risk involved should determine whether the endeavor is worthwhile or not. Nor do I see why you should be the judge of that. You suggested that they spend their money reaching out to Middle America but then mocked them for participating in theatrics. Well, it’s the theatrics that gets the word out to Middle America. Of course, that requires solidarity with local press who are willing to spread the word.
And your suggestion that they just stay in jail? Are you serious? How about you drop the cynicism and put your money where your mouth (or, rather, keyboard) is? Brooke asked you what you’re doing for DC. You responded with what I can only assume is work for which you are paid. If not, that’s great. But I would still love to know if you have done a single thing in the fight for statehood. If not, then maybe you should show a little more respect to people actually taking action. Just a thought.
@Amanda Exactly! Couldn’t agree more. I just have no idea why someone like Tom would go out of his way to criticize like this. I’ve lost a lot of respect for WeLoveDC because of this post.
Greg: I think if more people saw a point in doing this, they’d do it. But $50 and a night in a boring room at the Capitol Police sounds entirely without point to me, other than to make me feel good.
These theatrics didn’t *reach* Middle America, and what if it had? They saw a protest about more abortions, which we all know that Middle America isn’t in love with anyway.
The best things that we can do to raise awareness for our situation is education not theater. If we’re not working hard to educate our fellow americans about our plight, and doing that without engaging controversial issues like abortion, then we’re failing in our endeavors. Educate. Work online and through other networks to explain to other Americans why we should have the right to self-determination in our laws, just like they do, and we’ll find a path to success. Continuing to use divisive issues means we alienate half of our target audience.
As for your respect, I would only ask that you keep your frustration to me personally, rather than the other people who work hard and write well about culture, sports, food & drink, and music in this town. We’re a group of voices. We’re not a group of angels.
RE: Middle America. Gee, I don’t know, Tom. Maybe if we had intelligent and creative writers covering the event they could explain how it wasn’t for “more abortions” but about autonomy and proper representation . . . you know, the things our entire country was founded on in the first place???
You are the editor in chief of WeLoveDC, are you not? If you want people to keep their disgust to just you, personally, then perhaps you should post crap like this on your personal blog and not here. If you’re going to post here, then perhaps you should give a little more thought as to whether it’s really worth it to stomp all over people fighting for a cause that you claim to fully support. Because, fair or not, WeLoveDC will be judged by your words here.
Since what we’re talking about here is whether or not such an event actually raises the profile of DC’s plight in a way that moves us closer to resolving it, I went to Google News and searched for any media coverage outside the DC area.
While there was an AP story filed on the protest, exactly ONE non-DC outlet picked it up: The Albany Times-Union picked it up on their website.
If the idea was to get the attention of people outside DC, then by any reasonable measure, yesterday’s protest was an utter failure.
If the idea was to rile up DC residents and inspire them to take similar action, by any reasonable measure we have already reached the point of badly diminishing returns.
No one is saying DC shouldn’t stand up for itself. But a cheap stunt that catches no one’s attention isn’t the way to do it.
@Tiffany And maybe if a local news outlet like WeLoveDC, even if it thought that stunt was hollow, used it to draw attention to the greater cause, more local residents would be riled up and more national media outlets would pick up on the story. That’s my entire point. Rather, WeLoveDC decided to be cynical and sanctimonious in criticizing the protesters.
We need solidarity in this cause, not petty infighting.
You will have my solidarity when you come up with an idea that is not actively hindering my interest in working with you.
And while we’re on the topic of “what WeLoveDC should be doing,” the answer to that question is, “Expressing a variety of opinions on what is happening in DC.” If your argument is that such protests are necessary to catch attention to a larger cause, then by the very same token, we are absolutely entitled to argue that such protests have the opposite of the intended effect and thus not only are not effective, but actually set the cause of DC rights BACK.
I’m not just a media figure, I am a citizen of the District of Columbia who demands better from people who claim to speak for me.
@Tiffany Great attitude, but I was talking about WeLoveDC. And, by the way, are you related to Tom?
@Greg Of course I am. I hope you are not planning to argue that my opinion is somehow invalidated by my marital status, as though somehow my husband determines my opinions. Because that would be incredibly backward and sexist of you.
I am also a co-founder of WeLoveDC, though as we have repeatedly said, each of us speaks only for ourselves as there is no such thing as “The opinion of WeLoveDC.”
@Tiffany How is this post “expressing a variety of opinions”? I see exactly one opinion expressed here.
@Greg WeLoveDC, as a site, expresses a variety of opinions about life in DC. The site contains opinion about DC theater, food, sports teams, neighborhoods, and yes, politics. We each share our individual opinions on the same site. That’s what we do here. Just because you happen to disagree with an opinion expressed doesn’t mean we are somehow failing to express opinions.
@Tiffany Rest assured, I was not planning on going there. The attitude you display in your posts speaks for itself. Basically, people fighting for the same cause as you have to do it in a way in which you completely approve or you’ll shit all over them.
For the record, that’s the exact opposite of “solidarity.”
Now that I know that WeLoveDC is run by a married couple with that sort of attitude towards their fellow District members, I feel no need to visit the site anymore.
@Greg I, individually, promise to lose the appropriate amount of sleep over that. Though I am compelled in the interest of fairness to correct your facts: WLDC is owned and managed by 10 people, only two of whom happen to be married to each other. There are approximately 20 additional people involved with the site, though of course this number fluctuates. I don’t know what the other 28 people involved with the site think about DC statehood and the appropriate means of protesting for it. They have the same ability to chime in as anyone else.
Finally, if there’s anyone here shitting on anyone, it is you. I will remind you that you have been provided with the venue in which to do so, and all you have been met with is people defending their individual opinions.
I just want to start off by saying that this blog would not even exist without freedom of speech. You know, precisely what the protestors were exercising last night.
@Tiffany: No one is claiming to speak for you. There are various methods that can be used to obtain the final goal, which is obviously representation in Congress. We all agree that we pay taxes, and we have no representation, which is a fundamental violation of our rights as American citizens. This debate is so intense precisely because we are deeply disturbed by this.
I’m not at all clear on why you think that there are diminishing returns to protesting for your inalienable rights. While personally, this is not the tactic that I want to take, I cannot claim that protesters throughout history have not radically changed my life for the better: women have the right to vote, gays have the right to marry in some places, and hate crimes are illegal.
Every day we are free-riding off the giant leaps that our countrymen and women have taken to better our world, and you cannot deny that some of that is due to precisely the actions and risks that these DC residents took last night.
@Tiffany Your snark is only proven my point for me. So thanks.
And, yes, I’m the one shitting on people here. Not your husband who authored the ridiculous original post. Again, great point.
Thank you for correcting my facts. I’m sure you feel truly supported by all of your colleagues who have rushed here to defend you and your husband. Oh wait . . .
Sorry, proven = proving.
@Michelle Of course we are all huge fans of freedom of speech, which is what every one of us is exercising not only by engaging in protests, but also by criticizing the methods of those protests. (And then by criticizing the criticism, etc. etc.)
We keep going back to this comparison of these specific protests with the protests that moved the civil rights movement forward, but I think that’s an incredibly inapt comparison. First, as Tom has already pointed out, civil rights marchers faced real, tangible risk that this cannot even begin to compare to. I’m actually disappointed in how blithely people keep making this comparison, because it minimizes the actual, existential danger civil rights marchers faced. No one is going to assassinate Mary Cheh for her support of DC rights. As perverse as it sounds, this existential danger is an important part of WHY the civil rights protests worked; you had all these peaceable people being set upon by dogs and firehoses on television, and innocent children being abused and frightened on their way to school, and it worked as a call to the conscience to white audiences watching the evening news by putting the abject hate behind the policies being protested on display for everyone to see.
Getting arrested for blocking a street and paying a $50 dollar fine is not making anyone think, “Look at all the terrible things those poor DC people are enduring for the sake of their right to representation.” Because those *aren’t* terrible things. So the reaction (when there is one, because it’s not interesting enough to make the news outside the area) is more a yawn and an eye-roll at those crazy DC people again. Don’t they know they can just move 5 miles?
If you want these protests to work as a call to conscience (and you should, because this is an issue of conscience), stop copying the FORM of the civil rights movement and start copying the EFFECT. Let’s get some attention on the *effects* of DC’s second-class status. Let’s get people who are actually being affected by the results of these budget riders to speak up to the media. Let’s start talking about the children left caring for parents suffering from AIDS. Let’s start adding up the federal taxes paid by District residents and broadcasting that number. Let’s start protesting in front of legislators’ HOME offices, where their constituents can SEE us. Let’s dress up like Thomas Jefferson and George Washington and carry signs about taxation instead of going back to the same old method that generates an ever-diminishing level of media and population interest.
Tiffany, your argument is muddled and unclear. You’re saying that 1. Protests of the sort that occurred last night are not effective; and 2. That these types of protests actually cause a negative effect. These are two separate issues, which I will now comment on.
1. Not effective: Agreed, this type of protest is nothing like what other citizens have gone through for their rights. But as Greg asked before, the method is still a valid one. You’re saying that “if you risk a lot, a protest is worth it. If you risk a relatively small amount, it is not”. How many movements started off with gunfire and hoses? Have we forgotten Rosa Parks???
2. Actually causing damage: This is just incorrect. Yes, it’s very annoying when you have to deal with people protesting and preventing you from getting your coffee and getting to work. But it is effective, and it IS worthwhile. I’m pretty sure that the Arab Spring that revolutionized and changed the world did not come about because of one single massive protest in Cairo, but rather from years and years of discontentment building a citizenry that is capable enough to actually achieve their rights. Rome wasn’t built in a day.
I haven’t forgotten Rosa Parks at all, but she’s exactly an example of what I mean. Do you not think a black woman being arrested by white police was vulnerable to actual threats to her physical well-being? She undertook a HUGE risk.
And I think you’re making my point for me about it being ineffective. Alienating and annoying DC residents is not how one generates a groundswell of support. And even if annoying DC residents got them to come join you, it’s not DC residents you need the support of. It’s the residents of the other 50 states, because the people who can change DC’s status work for THEM, not US. And they still think of us as the town of Marion Barry, so DC elected officials getting themselves arrested is a punchline, not an appeal to conscience.
(And what worked in Cairo is that the military owns all the industry in Egypt and thus saw it as not in their best interest to fire on the protesters. Hosni Mubarak didn’t step down because he was convinced by the peaceful example, but because he lost the support of the military.)
I am very disappointed in this blog. There is no love here. Maybe between this husband and wife team, but not for this city. This posting is so disrespectful. I am so proud of people when they stand up for their rights. I couldn’t imagine putting anyone down for taking a stand for something they believe in.
I cannot help but wonder how many news outlets would have picked up the story if even one person arrested had been a man.
It seems that every headline on this protest has included the words “women” and “abortion”. Although factual/accurate headlines, they have still bothered me very much.
And Tom, your expression of opinion is pretty offensive. And now you’re being pretty defensive, which makes it even more offensive, I think.
I also can’t help but wonder what Tom’s opinion would have been if a man had been involved in yesterday’s protest.
I was at the protest yesterday. While I had a lot of fun – it was my first protest in a while – it all seemed so utterly futile. A bunch of folks rallying close to the Capitol is nice, but does anyone think John Boehner is going to see this and break down in tears as he laments the error of his ways?
Well, he might break down in tears, but that’s not the point.
The only way we can get people’s attention, as I see it, is to perform acts of civil disobedience. But they need to be bigger. The mayor getting arrested – that was something news outlets would pick up on.
What we need is a celebrity to get arrested too. Hmm…is Matt Damon available?
@houseintherear I can tell you: No different. I was actually kinda stunned there were no men arrested as part of the group yesterday.
@houseintherear It’ll probably be the same next week when another group does the same thing.
This is hilarious. Arranging to be arrested by the gentle professionals of the Cap Hill Police is not the same as going to Mississippi in 1960. Blocking traffic does not make you MLK. Comparing the brave people of Cairo to yourself is just delusional.
Free speech exists, obviously, but your protest was so pointless that it didn’t even make the local news. News is “new” – performing the same meaningless gesture the Mayor did a few weeks ago is not news. This has nothing to do with gender. If you did something that was news, it would be reported. There are a million other causes and outrages in this city, all angling for news time.
You can love DC and disagree with the methods of the home rule amateurs – in fact, you can even disagree with the very notion of home rule and still love this city.
Finally, trying to shame people into joining your cause is a sign of its weakness. I suggest going back to the drawing board and coming up with an approach relevant to 2011.
I fail to see even for a moment how “I expect better from people who say they speak for me” constitutes anything like a lack of love for DC.
Complaining that an opinion with which you disagree is somehow counter to loving DC is like, the official We Love DC Drive-By Commenter Cliche.
For those who want to utilize the “jump into traffic” approach to fight for our voting rights, I propose the following:
Find friends in 8-10 major media markets. At the same time (in their respective time zones.. say at 4:00 on the given day), have them jump into traffic declaring the injustice taking place regarding voting rights.
Their local media will cover it, and national media will note the trend and also cover it.
Throw in a couple big names in DC on the same day and boom, you have a day of awareness.
I happen to disagree with Tom’s conclusion here (so much for this supposed unified stance of We Love DC…) but some of you commenters really make me sorry to agree with you. Is this the tone you take in other people’s houses when you disagree?
If you’re defending the idea that this was an exercise in building unity and changing minds you might want to consider whether your demeanor supports or contradicts that assertion.
Though you have given me a funny image – Rosa Parks yelling at someone “Getting arrested was pointless and stupid? YOU’RE STUPID! What did YOU DO YESTERDAY, HUH???!??”
So I’m the girl pictured above in the article my name is Corryn Freeman and I was not arrested yesterday but I was arrested ont he 11th of April and these are my thoughts about this post.
you said “pointless protests like the one today…do nothing to advance the cause of self-determination for the District” I disagree I think something even as “small” as conciously breaking the law and stopping the flow of traffic in the name of the District of Columbia is very self determanent, now even if it is just 8 people in the street, those 8 people illegally shut down Constitution Avenue on behalf of the district of Columbia to make a stand for the rights of all DC residents. Thats pretty self determinent if you ask me.
and then you go on to say: “Instead, they’re just a sideshow that demonstrate that we understand the theatrical part of politics, but we’re failing categorically at its other half: policy.” Would you say that the marches by MLK Jr. were “side shows” of the civil rights movement? No I’d call them the BACKBONE of the civil rights movement. They apply pressure to the politicians to act. when the 41 people got arrested on the 11th the next day one of the riders on the budget was taken off. In Egypt at the beginning of those 18 revolutionary days, protests began with small numbers, of dedicated people. And in regards to the policy, do you seriously think that we arent attempting to create some form of legislation that will result in DC Voting rights? 1 its not an easy process, and there are organizations dedicated to the creation of legislation for the district of columbia,and 2 its not one that attracts media attention which is why you may be ignorant to it.
In regards to statements made in comments, I feel completely disrespected, for anyone to have the mitigated gull to assume that my efforts were in vain is disheartening and offensive. I am a broke college student, while 50 bucks may not mean much to you I didnt even have it to post up after the 10 hours I spent detained without food (that was continually promised by capitol police). I didnt get released until 4:30 in the morning with no cabs running. I sacrificed my time and my money for YOUR rights and the rights of the other 599,999 people who reside in the district of columbia who are unfairly taxed and not given any real representation in congress
It is insulting that you didnt even care enough to even get the facts about yesterdays protest correct but instead you went straight into criticizing our meathod and even went as far to criticize the character of those who did stand up for YOU. I can honestly say that I felt no love in this article, all I saw was criticism, and I found none of it constructive. It is so easy to sit behind a computer screen and banter about how you don’t like something but i quote Mahatma Ghandi “you must be the change you want to see in the world”. and at least we have taken the innitiative to ACT. Instead of condeming the elected officials and others who did take the 10 hours out of there day to make a stand about their meathod, how about you join us and make us stronger with some CONSTRUCTIVE criticism and some support. Thats all we really ask for. the people UNITED will never be defeated, we have to in the very least be on one accord
oh yeah and i forgot to add I am proud to say that I am Corryn Freeman #22 of the DC 41, and I will gladly keep stepping out into the streets just like my successors for Our rights
Thanks for chiming in, Corryn. I think we’ve already addressed the MLK comparison, however. To summarize: I think it’s spurious.
That said, I actually thought the original DC41 protest/arrests were an okay way to get something started on short notice (can’t speak for Tom here, just my opinion), even if I thought the mayor’s participation in them was cynical and designed to distract from the scandals attached to him.
Unfortunately, however, the same lack of planning and organization have continued while this group of people keeps going back to the same tired strategy apparently without asking themselves if it’s viable or even sustainable. The national media has lost interest. The local media is rapidly losing interest. And the protesters themselves aren’t doing a whole lot to make the rest of us think they’d be great people to be locked in a cell with for hours on end.
You’re welcome to keep making your $50 donations to federal law enforcement if it makes you feel better, but don’t expect me to be grateful for it. I’d be grateful if someone actually sat down and tried to think up something that actually WOULD get noticed instead of berating me for pointing out the obvious.
Shutting down Constitution Avenue in the middle of evening rush just makes those people who are driving through resent you, it doesn’t make them respect you.
My criticism, as I more eloquently put on our Facebook:
The legislators that this rally was targeted against do not, and frankly will not, care about DC until their constituents tell them that it’s an issue that’s important to them. We all know that these decisions by Congress affect people in this city in a terrible way, but until we can take that message to people all over the US, we’re not going to have a positive response.
When the Mayor and 40 others were arrested a few weeks ago, it did make news outside DC, which was good. What we should be doing is traveling to the home offices of the Congresspeople making these decisions for us, and holding rallies there, and if we think it would help get on the news, getting arrested there. Those are the people we have to convince that we need to have our civil rights (and no one is saying these aren’t civil rights!) honored by the legislature.
Because we’re not being beaten or attacked means that we need to make ourselves sympathetic in other ways. Getting arrested by the calm and orderly Capitol Police isn’t the right way.
If you want to fix the situation, then we need to do more to:
1) Engage the citizens of DC, which won’t be done while blocking their way home.
2) Engage citizens outside of DC to support the citizens of DC, which won’t be done inside the District.
3) Encourage those citizens to engage with their government and stand with the citizens of the District.
I’m sorry that you couldn’t pay your fine. I will happily sponsor your arrest fees for the demonstration with the mayor. You can email me at tom at welovedc dot com.
I’m all for acting on behalf of the District, but I won’t do it if the actions will set back the cause.
Well thank you Tom for your swift response, I agree with the majority of your posting. However when you are the organizing and mobilizing side of advocacy you will find that it is much more difficult than what one seems, I can tell you first hand I underestimated the complex nature of planning protests an other events.
Now: DC Vote the organization behind the planning of this event has been engaging DC residents throughthe outlets that it does have, you could help us by allowing us to maybe post a link to our events on your page. 2. something is in the works to go to other states and tell people about DC and their lack of representation in congress, and DC vot has gone to states before to tell constituents of senators and congressional leaders about what their elected officials are doing in dc. I promise you we are doing all of what you are saying, however you will find that in small numbers those efforts are not widely publicized
and thank you for offering to post the money for me. But today we actually went to court and the post and forefiet went up to 100 $ I was able to pay it today, but your generosity is greaty appreciated.
I just felt that in the article there was nothing constructive but i appreciate your constructive advice now :) and I will pass the message on to dc vote
We have given solutions! The D.C. Council has provided solutions to this issue, but they are being ignored!
Congress has been given the plans for reducing the size of the federal district so that like other federal districts around the country, it will no longer contain residential property, but again there has been no movement by congress to embrace this.
The O.A.S. and United Nations have also given their demands to the U.S. government to address the issues of discrimination and lack of democracy in the District of Columbia, but again the U.S. government has declined to action this.
Please tell me what else do you suggest we do? Create a militia?
These are not petty issues! The country needs educating on the reality of the District of Columbia!