DC Voting Rights Advocates to March and Rally at the Capitol on Emancipation Day

Elected officials and organizations intend to celebrate Emancipation Day on April 16 by organizing a voting rights march to demand full representation in Congress for residents of the District of Columbia.

The march is scheduled to begin at 2:30 p.m. at Freedom Plaza on Pennsylvania Avenue and will end at the Capitol Reflecting Pool at 3rd Street NW. Mayor Adrian Fenty, Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D, DC) and Rep. Tom Davis (R, VA) are among the officials expected to march, according to DC Vote.org.

“It’s important for residents to rally and show that it’s time to bring representation to the nation’s capitol,” said Kevin Kiger, communications director for DC Vote, an educational and advocacy organization dedicated to securing congressional representation for Washington residents.

Kiger said that it “diminishes our credibility” and “shows a bit of hypocrisy” that the nation is fighting to spread democracy around the world, but is denying that very right here in the nation’s capital where major political decisions are made.”

The Leadership Conference on Civil Rights is also among many organizers of the event. (see National Committee for Voting Integrity)

April 16 marks the day in 1862 when President Lincoln signed the Compensated Emancipation Act, which freed about 3,100 slaves in the District and has been celebrated annually since 1866.

The voting rights march scheduled for Monday is in support of the DC Voting Rights Act, which was re-introduced in Congress on March 9, as H.R. 1433. Erica Williams, field associate for the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, said that the march is especially important for students since many political decisions are made on their behalf on issues such as student loans. Williams said that organizers of the march hope the event “influences the quick passing of the bill.”

According to DC Vote, the act seeks to expand the number of representatives in the House from 435 to 437. If passed the bill, would eliminate the DC Delegate position, currently held by Eleanor Holmes Norton, and give the city a representative in the House instead.

The Emancipation Day Voting Rights flyer encourages residents to take two hours out of the day to march with Mayor Fenty and join in telling the nation “we were first freed, but still suffer taxation without representation.”

In addition to the march, which closes the week of activities dedicated to Emancipation Day, other events include a wreath laying ceremony, and a walking tour of the African American history of Lafayette Square.

There also will be a celebration of emancipation through music, words, and images along with an interpretation of emancipation through poetry and prose on Sunday, April 15. All events will be held in different locations and specific information can be found at the Office of the Secretary’s website. Individuals interested in becoming involved with the voting rights march can pledge to march or sign up to volunteer at VotingRightsMarch.org or by calling 202-462-6000.

Signing up is not required. “Anyone can come out and show support,” Kiger said.