City Paper is not for tourists
• The rain proved to be a blessing for organizers of the march in support of a D.C. voting rights bill. The 1,500 or so people who showed up were truly committed and energetic.
Organizers were forced to move the elevated stage in front of the reflecting pond to the ground because of the wind, creating a much rowdier atmosphere and fostering a closer connection between the leaders and the people.
But most importantly, the weather prompted legendary talker Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton to keep it short. When D.C. Vote Executive Director Ilir Zherka announced to the mob gathered before the capital that they had decided to shorten the program, old D.C. political hands chuckled knowing that the longwinded Norton was waiting in the wings.
LL hit the stopwatch figuring Norton would turn a fired-up but windblown crowd into a frozen and silent mob just looking forward to the indoor post-rally reception.
Her big speech clocked in at 4 minutes, 50 seconds—-a record for brevity as far as regular Norton watchers could figure.
• The rally barely got started before several marchers unfurled a banner not to the liking of organizers. What followed was what opponents of Mayor Adrian Fenty‘s school takeover plan call a muzzling of free expression.
Just as the march stepped off, D.C. school teacher Kerry Sylvia and parent Lee Glazer walked between the cameras and Fenty carrying a banner that read: “Democracy Starts at Home: Referendum on the Schools Takeover.”
The banner referred to calls by some residents for the mayor and council to put the question of Fenty’s schools-takeover legislation to a vote of the people. The mayor and council have agreed to go to Congress for the change in the city’s charter required for the school takeover.
According to Sylvia, their attempt at ribbing Fenty at his own event was short-lived. “We knew this was Fenty’s gig and it wouldn’t be something people would like,” says Sylvia. But she didn’t expect a physical confrontation.
“They tried to move us at first,” she says. “Some of the men were wearing green jackets that said ‘Roving Leaders’ on the back.” Then the treatment got rougher. “That’s when they start to shove us. They were stepping on our feet and pushing us.”
Sylvia wasn’t planning to disrupt the march per se, but she does feel the overreaction by Fenty backers helped make their point. “We wanted to point out that democracy starts at home,” she says.
Photograph by Arthur Delaney