From Keri Douglas. She is a writer, photographer and communications consultant who lives in Logan Circle.
Seventeen citizens of the District of Columbia challenged their recent arrests for civil disobedience at the Superior Court of the District of Columbia on Thursday, May 5, for the freedom and democracy for all citizens of the District of Columbia.
The 17 in court yesterday were arrested on April 11 or on April 15 during demonstrations for DC representation and voting rights.
Magistrate Judge Richard Ringell, presiding over the D.C. Misdemeanor and Traffic Community Court began the hearing with praise for those with character and conviction to stand up for their beliefs. However, adding pressure to the citizens, the government informed them that a new charge was being added to the initial charge of unlawful assembly — one of failure to obey a police officer, which incurs a heavier fine and penalties.
After a closed session between the 17 citizens and the seven attorneys, half of the group decided to post the $100 fee and forfeit. Statehood Green Party member Adam Eidinger, one of the three arrested on April 15, explained that he posted the fee so that he could protest one more day. The rest have until the next hearing date of June 28 to decide to pay the fine or continue to trial.
If only Martin Luther King, Jr. could see us today. Invoking legendary civil rights methods of non-violent civil disobedience, a growing group of diverse D.C. citizens are protesting the lack of democracy in the District of Columbia.
Another Protest on Thursday
Under Thursday’s bright blue sky, there was another protest. Those contesting the arrest by the U.S. Capitol Police on April 11 and April 15 were joined by fellow demonstrators at the entrance of the Superior Court of D.C.
Sekou J. Biddle, councilmember At-Large and #29, shared with the morning audience, “We have begun the next chapter for D.C. for the basic rights for all Americans. We had the opportunity to walk away and yet chose to fight for a better nation.”
With several broadcast cameras and many reporters observing, demonstrators chanted, “We won’t wait. We won’t wait.”, “Statehood now!” and, “This is our Libya, Syria and Egypt.” One older gentleman cried, “What happened several weeks ago is our fruit stand!” referring to Mohamed Bouazizi of Tunisia.
Sharon Pratt, former D.C. mayor (1991-1995), shared, “We must “galvanize the broader community. We are in a position to capture the attention of the world.”
The faces of those arrested and demonstrating are of all ages, races, ethnicity, religion, economic levels, political parties and education. Yet, consistently, all are angry that President Barack Obama, Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada) used spending riders for the District of Columbia to appease both political parties during the recent federal budget negotiations which threatened to shut down the U.S. government.
“President Obama and Senator Reid threw us under the bus.” said Ann Aldrich, #17 and one currently facing charges. A granddaughter of a suffragette in New York, Aldrich knows full well the value of civil disobedience and wants to ensure it is allowed in D.C.
“DC residents are fed up with the great deal of hypocrisy,” Ilir Zherka, #27 and executive director of DC Vote, shared, “Many are determined to fight back.”
Retired social studies public school teacher, Dr. Billie Day, #19, was angry the U.S. Congress used riders to take away D.C. rights. Though she didn’t plan on getting arrested on April 11, she realized, “It is time.”
While being processed, Day thought of a line from South African writer and anti-apartheid activist Alan Payton’s book Cry, The Beloved Country, which was “I can no longer ask myself if this is or that is expedient but only if it is right.”
Inspired by Martin Luther King, Jr. and Rosa Parks, tears came to Day’s eyes when she thought of two more people who gave her the courage to continue. One was Marianna in a displaced persons camp in Sierra Leone and the other — a woman in Bosnia.
Day recalled when Marianna, relieved that more would know their plight and thereby ensure a better day, gripped Day’s hand and told her, “Thank you for being here. Now we will be okay.” Day reflected that their hardships were far more challenging than the discomfort she felt being arrested in D.C.
Understanding the strategy for change, Day said more people need to write their friends in other states — especially Ohio and Nevada and encourage friends and colleagues to get involved. A former colleague from Day’s term as president of the DC League of Women voters told Day recently, “Now that I know you are part of the movement, I will get off the sidelines.”
The courtroom filled with supporters of the 17 who were pursuing justice through the legal system for all citizens. Shadow Senator Michael D. Brown (D-DC), #1, presents the most curious challenge of all, does a Shadow Senator merit immunity from charges?
DC Vote is sponsoring another demonstration with labor leaders on May 11 at 5:30 pm at the Upper Senate Park, 200 New Jersey Avenue NW by the U.S. Capitol.
Today, 17 people of the District of Columbia challenged the status quo by moving one step closer to democracy for all.
17 in Court Today
The 17 protesters who appeared in court May 5 are listed below. Those with a number following their names were arrested on April 11.
- Ann Aldrich, #17
- Robert Brannum, #24
- Michael Brown, #1
- Adam Eidinger
- Jack Evans, #4
- Marc Ferrara, #9
- Corryn Freeman, #22
- Lawrence Hams, #7
- Anise Jenkins, #14
- Bob Johnsen
- Eugene Kinlow, #5
- Deangelo Scott, #6
- Deborah Shore, #11
- Rachel Madelham, #20
- George Marion, Jr. #34
- Adam Meier, # 26
- Ryan Velasco, #28