On Monday this week, organizations and concerned citizens from all over the city were summoned in unison at the “Hands Off DC” event at the Atlas Performing Arts Center in Ward 6. All were gathered to counteract the potential policy that will negatively impact DC residents under the new Trump Administration. The goal of #HandsOffDC is to protect DC rights and values. The event was organized and sponsored by DC council member Charles Allen, who has worked to improve the safety and positive proliferation of Ward 6 for over a decade and was hosted by SwingLeft NorthEast DC, an organization built on progressive action for the NE area.
The primary aims of the event were: connect residents and activists from different areas of city, to build capacity so that these residents feel empowered to advocate, and to organize around the clear theme of “HandsOffDC”. The breadth of policy issues and areas was far reaching from DC schools to Planned Parenthood to gun action and the importance of the DC vote. If you are new to the area, you may recognize license plates adorned with the “taxation without representation”, which exemplifies DC residents have long been fighting for DC rights, as the District of Columbia is classified as a state but never has had the same rights as all other 49 states, most notably, any voting representation in Congress.A rally began the night at the Spirit of Justice Park from 5:00-6:00 pm. This was followed by the organizing meeting with panel discussions on the below outlined topics. Two separate theaters held panel discussions, one moderated by Charles Allen and the other moderated by Rene Bryce –LaPorte, from the Center For Community Economic Development. In addition to the below topics, the Lang theater had panelists from the Neighbors United for DC Statehood, ACLU DC and the US Climate Action Network, highlighting the progress made with the DC Carbon Fee (http://chesapeakeclimate.org/dc-federal/a-dc-carbon-fee-for-clean-energy-and-a-fair-economy/). Participants had the option to choose between either theater for the panel discussions, join the CHAW (Capitol Hill Arts Workshop) Sign Making and PostCard Writing Workshop, or head to the overflow room which was also full.
Some of the progress in DC statehood rights is under threat and are outlined below, and speakers, panelists and experts were present to represent these important issues:
- DC Schools:
- How the ’95 Reform School Act of Congress (allowed the creation of the independent charter school board), increased charter school and private school voucher programs for DC which is the only state with this program. This has hindered the growth and quality of the DC public education system, and has significantly impacted those that are economically barred from private and charter school opportunities.
- Congress will likely cut funding for federal education and push more money for these schools
- Planned Parenthood:
- Two new centers have opened in the DC area, 1 located in the ‘medical desert’ of Suitland, Maryland
- Planned Parenthood has a variety of services for sexual and reproductive health and is the only place some people (namely low socioeconomic status populations and areas, e.g. Austin, Indiana) can access these services
- Defunding Planned Parenthood has severe consequences for women and family in these communities
- Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense:
- This organization began post-Sandyhook gun shootings
- The DC gun law that is sponsored by Mark Rubio will force DC to use the “shall issue”policy which: gives open carry to anyone who applies for it, ensures no background checks, allows concealed carry weapons in places like schools, churches and bars, and bars the mayor from enacting any future review of this policy
- Strategies were outlined on how to contact DC champions and representatives to urge their disapproval of this law
- DC Vote:
- Three DC votes that are currently being overturned in Congress are: Death with Dignity Bill, DC funding used for abortion services and DC gun laws
The panel discussion also included speakers on protesting, rallies and a youth working group respresented by the following: Weprotest.com (a listserve), Resist And (an improve direct action group), youngwomen’sproject.org, as well as speakers on the different working groups. After the panel discussion or sign-making workshop, the action working group session followed with the following Working Groups represented:
- Congressional Lobbying
- Protests, Rallies, Youth
- Phone Banking
- CHAW Sign-Making and Post Card Writing
- Visibility and Media
- Written Advocacy
The working groups were “interesting and motivating” stated one attendee, “they really want individuals who came to the event to meet up regularly to keep the momentum going…” There was a lot of information to cover but only a half an hour to do so. The activism working group was structured in a way to really empower those involved to take action on their own and lead it in a way they see fit. Much of the interest and conversation was geared towards “occupying Rep. Chaffetz’s office among other actions.” We are hopeful that the momentum and motivation from the panel discussions and working groups at #HandsOffDC will carry into additional meetings and action-taking.