D.C. Organization Battles for Statehood

The Stand Up! For Democracy in D.C. Coalition meets in the John Wilson Building twice a month to advocate for the district to become the 51st state in the United States of America.

On the second and fourth Tuesdays of every month, room 131 is occupied by about 30 Washingtonians who all have one common goal: gaining statehood for Washington, D.C.

The group, which refers to themselves as simply Standup! or Free D.C., gather around a large table and discuss why D.C. should be included as a state and how to get this goal accomplished.

Members of Stand Up! say the district’s residents are being stripped of their rights as citizens because they do not have the same constitutional liberties that are afforded to citizens living in states. Stand Up! argues that those living in the district are not protected by the federal government because of the district’s lack of statehood.

“Not having statehood does severe damage because we don’t have any real control over our destiny,” says Malcolm Wiseman, treasurer of Standup! “The key thing is protection and if you don’t live in a state then you don’t have any protection from the federal government,” he said

Some of the issues Stand Up! protests against are taxation without representation, limited power for elected officials, and interference from the federal government in local affairs, finances, and laws.

“Congress simply wants to control what it calls the nation capital. They make everyone who lives in the city subservient to the rest of the country,” Wiseman said.

One of the major concerns for many of Stand Up!’s members is a perception that the district’s residents don’t have a voice, even though D.C. has a mayor, Adrian Fenty, and a Delegate to Congress, Eleanor Holmes Norton, to represent them. Another issue among Stand Up!’s members is that laws can be passed in D.C. and then struck down by Congress, where residents have no voting representation.

The Clean Needle Program was one of the programs that was agreed on by the residents of D.C. but overrode by congress. The program was implemented to reduce the spreading of AIDS in D.C., which has the highest rate of HIV/AIDS in the country.. The Clean Needle Program called for the distribution of clean needles to drug users to cut down on the spread of the disease through the sharing of needles.

Members of Stand Up! said that the national guard in D.C. is the first to be called to war but because of the district’s lack of voting representation in congress, D.C. residents don’t have a say in the vote to go to war.

The U.S. Constitution only affords congressional voting representation to states. In order to have representation in congress, the district must either be recognized as a state or the constitution must be amended. Members of Stand Up! say that it would be easier if for the district to gain statehood rather than to amend the Constitution, which is why the battle for statehood is their primary concern.

Some residents of D.C. support the cause of Stand Up! When Stand Up! organizes protests, many residents come out to protest with them.

“I’m for Stand Up! because I realize that we are being taxed inappropriately and without representation,” says Yvonne Bowlding, a resident of Northwest D.C.

With the race for the presidential nomination heating up, members of Stand Up! are seeking a presidential candidate who is supportive of granting statehood to the district. Members of Stand Up! say that Democrats are more likely to grant statehood to D.C. so they sent letters to the democratic candidates asking for their support on this issue. Neither of the candidates responded, but Anise Jenkins, president of Stand UP! spoke with Barack Obama when he spoke at American University in January. Jenkins said that Obama told her that he was in favor of D.C. statehood. Stand Up! has yet to receive a response from Sen. Hillary Clinton nor have they had a chance to speak with her.

“We do not want to give our vote away,” says Jenkins. “The president can have a big influence. It’s up to us to keep pushing. We are a group that strives to educate the people in D.C. that we are living on a plantation run by Congress.”