Michael Schaffer’s article about the fight for democracy in D.C. (“Demonstration of Impotence,” 9/12) demonstrates the ongoing irony of a “City” Paper with a complete disconnection from the people who live, die, and yes, protest in this city. Nowhere in the article does it even mention the implications of the end of home rule. Nowhere does it mention the plan’s priorities of billions of dollars for prisons and cops and nothing for our schools. Nowhere does it mention the federalization of prisons, practically abolishing parole in a city where 50 percent of black men between 18 and 30 are already caught in the criminal justice system. In other words, nowhere does it mention why people are protesting in the first place.
These are desperate times for the working poor of the District. But all we get from Schaffer is the tired Washington Post-approved argument that the problem isn’t rising poverty, the scapegoating of the poor, the shredding of the social safety net, or police brutality, it’s the protesting itself. His attempt at a broader analysis, that Prop 209 in California passed because protesters scared voters, is willfully ignorant. As the protests grew, the 209 vote’s gap actually closed. What has returned Jim Crow to California happened not because of protests, but as part of a larger, well-funded bipartisan rollback of all the gains workers and students made in the 1930s and 1960s. That rollback has hit the District with a vengeance. Schaffer’s analysis is just an excuse for political passivity.
The hard work of building a protest movement to win back the reforms of the past may invite the constant derision of Washington City Paper, but for people without trust funds, social protest isn’t an option but a necessity for survival. (By the way, one of the provisions of the bailout severely limits the right to protest, something Schaffer doesn’t mention).
What a predictable, unchallenging perspective on the march. A more interesting article might have mentioned that the 1,000 people was the largest rally of its kind in the District in quite some time. That the political character of the march wasn’t elderly professional civil rights veterans but angry young District residents. Schaffer’s view of the march, for all its insight, could have been reported through the window of a Starbucks. And as for his closing remedy that protests should be moved away from the Capitol to front porches, I say that he can stay on his damn porch. We will be at the Capitol.