On the 13th of February, hundreds rallied outside the Rayburn building, then dispersed and traveled on their own to an even bigger meeting in the Atlas Theater against ugly Congressional assaults on DC home rule. So many people showed up at the Atlas theater to organize that the event overflowed into a neighboring bar. One twitter poster estimated 1,500 people showed up at the Atlas, though only hundreds were in the earlier rally. There was no march to the Atlas, the rally simply wrapped up at about 6PM to give people time to find their way over.
With their power and potentially their jobs on the line, Mayor Muriel Bowser and city officials participated in these events, raising a number of interesting political issues. Putting aside the “can it get worse” issue, it is a lot easier for DC voters to remove Muriel Bowser (as they did Adrien Fenty) than it is for DC voters to get rid of Jason Chaffitz, a House Repugnican from Utah who is turning his attention to micromanaging DC.
There remains the “how much worse can it get” question. Muriel Bowser is infamous both for her support of aggressive policing and for development. Again and again Black Lives Matter activists have confronted her over her demands for more cops, more searches, and more raids. Economic justice activists called her on the carpet for helping bring Wal-Mart to DC, forcing her to support at least a limited increase in the minimum wage.
The GOP vision for DC”s future would look like this: All the worst from Muriel Bowser on policing, plus requiring DC police to check immigration status and letting ICE fish for migrants in DC courts and jail. On development probably little would change except that support for racial displacement might become explicit and open, depending on how much influence the alt-right is able to maintain in Congress. For anyone daring to speak out, to step out of line in the slightest, felony charges and aggressive prosecution would become the norm.
It is almost certain that the existing Federal control of DC’s prosecutors (who are US Attorneys) has played a role in the current witch-hunt against protesters. Already we have seen felony charges filed against Greenpeace activists for nothing more than hanging a “resist” banner from a crane. These charges were filed by US Attorneys who answer to Trump, not to Bowser.
It is thus in both the strategic interests of progressives and the direct security interests of those who are not white and wealthy that the GOP offensives against DC home rule end in failure. It is of immediate importance that the current GOP efforts to forbid DC from using its own tax money to subsidize abortions for low income women be defeated. The same for defeating Congressional efforts to overturn DC’s “Death with Dignity” act for the terminally ill. The effort to overturn gun laws is another matter: while it it folly to disarm the people in the face of a potential dictatorship, existing Federal gun laws combined with wholesale criminalization of Black and Brown youth mean the main beneficiaries of overturning the city laws will be upscale white “New Washingtonians,” the very people who could benefit from rather than be harmed by an explicit white nationalist dictatorship. So many people of color have been railroaded by the US Attorney’s office that cops would likely regard any African-American with an openly carried firearm as probable cause to assume an ilegally-owned weapon on account of prior convictions.
Beyond any of those issues there is the danger that any headway gained by the GOP, Trump, and that Pepe the frog-kissing alt-right against DC home rule will only whet their appetite for more as they seek to turn DC into a laboratory for far-right social engineeering experiments. No ground can be given, not a step back.
Photo by “Raisin Invasion”