News & Politics

EU Greets Vice President Pence With 51-Star American Flag

Was this was a subtle international call for DC voting rights?

Pence with EU Council President Donald Tusk on Monday. (AP Photo/Thierry Monasse)

Vice President Mike Pence walked on stage to a European Union summit in Brussels to a backdrop featuring a version of the US flag with 51 stars, instead of the traditional 50. The flag featured three rows of nine stars and three rows of eight stars, instead of the usual layout of nine rows that alternate between six and five stars.

Was it a glaring error by some lazy graphics editor who pulled a file off of Google Image Search, or a jab at the fact that the United States is unique among industrialized democracies in not granting residents of its capital full representation in the national legislature? The EU isn’t saying, according to the Associated Press. But the international community has been vocal in the past about DC’s marginalized status in its own country.

In 2005, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly, representing 55 countries, passed a unanimous resolution supporting equal congressional representation for DC. The District’s current status in Congress has also been condemned by the Organization of American States, and by the UN Human Rights Committee, which said in 2006 that DC’s lack of representation International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights appears to violate the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

In 2015, DC was admitted into the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization, an international coalition of politically marginalized groups, including Kurds in Iran, Hmong in Laos, and Tatars in the disputed region of Crimea.

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.