“What do we want? D.C. Statehood! When do we want it? Now!” people chanted outside the Rayburn House Office Building in Washington, D.C. on September 19.
Hundreds of people had the chance to witness the historic hearing at the U.S. House of Representatives on the District’s statehood, the first hearing in 26 years. The long lines to get into the building and the room number 2154 did not affect the turnout on the big day. Due to the overflow in the room, people gathered in the Spirit of Justice Park to watch the three-hour hearing.
“Statehood is on his way. Sooner than later. And we’re not going to stop fighting until we get there,” Ty Hobson-Powell from 51 for 51 told The Globe Post at Thursday’s gathering. “This is less about a Republican issue or a Democrat issue, this is an American issue. This is about us being able to literally be for citizens in this country.”
Hobson-Powell, together with another young advocate, Andre Glosson, started travelling around the country last June, bringing the issue of D.C. statehood to the public’s attention, building a national coalition. From early primary states to the states where debates are being held, they talked to 14 presidential candidates.
“We’ve also been talking to the citizens in these different states, because what we’ve learned and will be realized is, once these citizens learn and understand that 700,000 people, their fellow Americans, don’t get to actively participate in their democracy, it’s a travesty. And it’s a really bad thing that we have in our country going on right now to disenfranchise these people,” Glosson told The Globe Post.
— Maria Michela D'Alessandro (@MMichiDale) September 19, 2019
The bill H.R. 51, introduced in the House last January, stipulates the admission of the State of Washington, Douglass Commonwealth, composed of most of the territory of the District of Columbia. The primary goal for more than 700,000 citizens living in the city is obtaining voting representation in Congress and admission into the Union.
“The Congress has the full authority, the full constitutional power to correct this problem in our democracy,” said Mayor Muriel Bowser during the hearing, stating that Washingtonians have nobody to call in the Senate to speak for them: “We have no voice,” Bowser pointed out.
If enacted, H.R. 51 would grant city residents a voting member in the House, two senators, and full control over local governance.
A series of events started early this week, called on by both non-governmental and governmental organizations. On Monday, roughly 140 flags with 51-stars were put up down the Pennsylvania Avenue NW by Mayor Bowser’s office, lining the space between the White House and the U.S. Capitol, a symbol for Thursday’s hearing.
“We basically live in the shadow of the Congress and the capital of the free world, and we don’t participate in our democracy,” said Bowser during the rally on Monday, supporting the D.C. statehood.
After the historic hearing in the House, the bill that would make D.C. the 51st American state would need to pass in the House and Senate and only after that, the president’s signature would turn the bill into law. Even with a huge number of representatives and senators on board, the H.R. 51 has little chance of passage – especially as long as Republican Senator Mitch McConnell, who does not support D.C. statehood, remains the Senate majority leader.
Despite Republicans argued that it would take a constitutional amendment to make D.C. a state because of the 23rd Amendment, it is vague on the subject of Washington, D.C. According to the Section 8 of the First Article, it allows Congress to create a District that is not exceeding 10 miles square, to become the seat of the government.