News & Politics

DC Residents Rally Against Congressional Interference

At least 17 protesters and elected officials were arrested at the "Hands Off DC" rally while they protested Congressional meddling.

Protestors for the Hands Off DC rally at Union Station. Photographs by Keely Bastow.

Over a dozen people were arrested today during a Hands Off DC rally supporting city autonomy and statehood and protesting Congressional interference with home rule.

The rally began with a group of local lawmakers speaking in front of Union Station and was followed by a march on Capitol Hill, where US Capitol Police arrested at least 16 organizers and elected officials for blocking traffic, and one for vandalism. It took place as the Senate debated blocking the DC Council’s controversial criminal code reform bill, which the House of Representatives voted to do last month.

DC “shadow representative” Oye Owolewa, one of those arrested, told Washingtonian afterward that the USCP were respectful, but “it’s a shame that we have to get arrested for folks on Capitol Hill to pay attention.”

Rally speakers and attendees—including Representative Eleanor Holmes Norton, shadow senator Paul Strauss, and DC Council members Charles Allen, Robert White, Brianne K. Nadeau, Zachary Parker, and Janeese Lewis George, all of whom voted for the crime bill—voiced strong opposition to the federal government debating and potentially overturning local laws passed by the city’s elected officials. 

Protestors also expressed frustration with President Biden, who tweeted last week that if the Senate overturns DC’s crime bill, he’ll sign the resolution. 

“Congress crossed a line and the President gave them cover,” ANC Commissioner Rev. Wendy Hamilton told the crowd at Union Station. 

Speaking to the crowd, Lewis George doubled down on the fight for DC statehood, saying: “I’m a DC resident born and raised in DC without representation, and let me tell you I’m not going to die without it.”

Council members Zachary Parker, Robert White, Charles Allen, and Janeese Lewis George (from left to right) at the rally.

During the march to Capitol Hill, organizers led the group in chants while USCP blocked the roads and redirected protesters to the sidewalk. At the intersection of First Street and Constitution Avenue, protestors gathered in the traffic square and USCP began warning that anyone not on the sidewalk was at risk of being arrested. A small group of organizers and elected officials, all residents of DC, remained in the street behind two large signs that read “Hands Off DC.” 

One other person was arrested for painting “U got blood on ur hand” in washable makeup on the sidewalk.

Correction: This story has been updated to say 17 people were arrested, not 18.

More photos:

Protesters gathered behind the Hands Off DC signs while marching to the Capitol.
Two protesters stand with Jews United for Justice signs.
The crowd during the rally.
Police began pushing protesters off of the road during the march to the Capitol.
USCP lined the entrance to the Capitol Building.
Some protestors stayed on the street after the USCP warned of arrest.
An attendee was arrested for writing on the sidewalk.
Protesters continued chanting and singing from the sidewalk while others were arrested on the street.   

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Keely recently graduated with her master’s in journalism from American University and has reported on local DC, national politics, and business. She has previously written for The Capitol Forum.