Tuesday, 05 August 1997 17:34

13 Arrested in Protest at White House

Written by Linda Wheeler | The Washington Post
A U.S. Park Police officer prepares to move a handcuffed Toni Quick to another van. She was among those arrested in the protest on Pennsylvania Avenue by D.C. residents. A U.S. Park Police officer prepares to move a handcuffed Toni Quick to another van. She was among those arrested in the protest on Pennsylvania Avenue by D.C. residents.

Shouting D.C. residents rallied at the White House yesterday to protest the virtual suspension of the city's home rule that would occur if President Clinton signs the budget bill on his desk. Before the hour-long protest ended, 13 people had been arrested, and civic and religious leaders declared the much-promoted event a success.

The noisy crowd of about 300 kept up a steady chant of "no democracy, no peace" and "no freedom, no taxes" as they walked in a picket line on the White House sidewalk along Pennsylvania Avenue NW. The bill, scheduled to be signed by Clinton today, includes the D.C. rescue package.

Although organizers did not get the hoped-for crowd of "tens of thousands," many protesters seemed to revel in the cross section of residents who came. Marchers wore suits and ties, summer dresses or blue jeans and T-shirts. Paul Strauss, 33, a lawyer and elected D.C. statehood lobbyist in the Senate, said they represented "Ward 3 lawyers and Ward 8 ministers."

Six were arrested after they held a brief rally at the White House fence; the permit obtained by the organizers, Democracy First, specified that the protesters had to keep moving during the demonstration. Before being arrested, Democracy First Chairman Timothy Cooper told the crowd through a bullhorn: "We are here to let Clinton know we won't stand for this. We are here to take a stand. We will not be defeated."

A U.S. Park Police official announced over a scout car microphone that the protesters were violating their permit and that the permit was suspended. D.C. and Park police moved the crowd off the sidewalk and onto Pennsylvania Avenue.

Cooper and five others linked arms and refused to leave the fence. As Park Police arrested them one by one, seven other protesters moved in to take their places. All 13 were charged with "holding a stationary demonstration" and released on their own recognizances.

Park Police officers on horses tried to create a barrier between the crowd and those being arrested by forming a line along the edge of the sidewalk.

The Rev. William Bennett, pastor of First Baptist Church of Deanwood, refused to move out of the way of the horses. He stood straight, ignoring a half-ton horse nudging his back, and placed his right arm protectively across the shoulders of his 12-year-old grand-nephew, Christopher Harris.

The horse shifted his metal-clad hoofs on the pavement. Bennett, 42, stood firm. Christopher said he was scared.

"This is symbolic of the problem we face today," Bennett said. "First they want us to move off the sidewalk. Then they want us to move off the street. And then what? It's like the District, they're pushing us back."

Acie Byrd, a political analyst and spokesman for the Emergency Coalition to Preserve Home Rule in the District of Columbia, said the event was a success because it attracted people other than activists like himself.

"It wasn't just the activists," he said. "There were ordinary working folks there, black and white people, and people who had never protested before. It shows that issue goes deep into this community."

Fred Hays, a seventh-generation Washingtonian who lives in his grandfather's Capitol Hill home, came to the protest because of Congress's long history of intervening in city affairs.

"Congress has always, always been in charge," said Hays, 53.  "If we can't be a state, we should become a commonwealth and be excused from taxes. We could be Hong Kong on the Potomac. They'd be lining up on the Virginia shore trying to move in here."

Read this article online in The Washington Post.

Read 1964 times Last modified on Wednesday, 05 July 2017 21:21


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