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“Raise your hand if you knew how that trial was gonna end,” quipped Ilir Zherka, executive director of DC Vote, a voter rights organization.
Zherka, who was speaking at an issue forum on District statehood at the Congressional Black Caucus’s Annual Legislative Conference, was referring to the case of Bart Turner. Turner, a statehood activist who was charged for “unlawful entry” after he protested at the Capitol building requested a jury of his peers—-other D.C. residents who more than likely support statehood—-and today the case was dismissed.
The CBC—-a group of 41 black, mostly Democratic representatives—-has been holding their annual conference in the city this week. District Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton hosted the statehood forum, which featured a fiery speech from American Civil Liberties Union head Johnny Barnes. Barnes described plans to fight for statehood, including one argument that the federal government breached its contract with the city when it moved (high-paying, tax revenue-generating) jobs into the suburbs.
The forum coincided with the 165th anniversary of retrocession—which, as Michael Schaffer and Mike Madden described, forever changed the District.
Barnes took exception to Congress’s micromanagement of the city. “Congress has debated whether dogs should be on leashes, whether the fire department band should march with the police department band,” he said. “They put aside the great issues of the day to tell us how to live and tell us how to die.”