News & Politics

DC Plans Statehood Rally as Part of March on Washington Anniversary

Details of Saturday morning's demonstration are still coming in, but DC Mayor Vince Gray is riled up about statehood even if the event is tough to get to.

DC Mayor Vince Gray announces a city-sponsored statehood rally. Photograph by Benjamin Freed.

DC officials and statehood activists will stage a demonstration on Saturday morning to bring attention to the District’s lack of full congressional representation as part of a week of ceremonies marking the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington.

Mayor Vince Gray and Kimberly Perry, the executive director of DC Vote, announced the rally at the mayor’s biweekly press conference today, but aside from the starting time and location, few details of the event have been announced.

Among the missing pieces are how people will arrive at the rallying point, the District of Columbia War Memorial, a monument to local veterans of World War I located on the south side of the Mall and a bit of a hike from the nearest Metro station or bus stop. Stephen Glaude, the mayor’s director of community affairs, told reporters that the National Park Service is reviewing the city’s logistical plan today, including potential plans to shuttle participants to the staging location.

“There may be some who find it less easy to get here, but that’s the battle we’re waging,” Gray said responding to a reporter who mentioned that many of the event’s participants might be elderly residents who need a lift or directions to the war memorial. Perry later said she is expecting a younger crowd.

When pressed for greater clarity on the event’s planning, the mayor became riled up about DC’s status relative to the states. “I’m going to make this happen!” he said. “It’s time to make this indignity stop.”

One crucial component of any public demonstration plan is the readiness of emergency medical services, something that has been more of a concern in the wake of multiple ambulance fires earlier this month. Paul Quander, the deputy mayor for public safety, said that first-aid tents and ambulances will be stationed around the rally site.

Whatever crowd shows up on Saturday, the event will begin with a rally at the War Memorial at 8:30 a.m. and proceed with a march to the Lincoln Memorial. (There is also, Gray stressed, a sign-making event Thursday at noon on Freedom Plaza.) The DC statehood event may wind up crossing paths with a demonstration being put on by the Rev. Al Sharpton’s National Action Network, which is marching Saturday morning from the Lincoln Memorial to the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial.

Staff Writer

Benjamin Freed joined Washingtonian in August 2013 and covers politics, business, and media. He was previously the editor of DCist and has also written for Washington City Paper, the New York Times, the New Republic, Slate, and BuzzFeed. He lives in Adams Morgan.