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“The District can’t wage a massive ad campaign — even a whole city couldn’t do that,” Norton said. “It’s a prime opportunity for the District to make itself heard on the issues affecting its own rights.”
Norton has introduced the perennial New Columbia Admissions Act as her first bill of the 113th Congress. She is also sponsoring two bills that provide different approaches to congressional representation for the District’s 632,000 residents.
“This is not just a commemoration but a continuation of Dr. King’s work,” D.C. shadow Sen. Michael D. Brown said Thursday. Brown, a purely symbolic member of the Senate with no voting power, hopes the mass crowds gathered to honor the civil rights leader take notice: “Oh my God, this is the nation’s capital, and there’s no democracy here!”
Congress has given D.C. hope for budget freedom this year. They took no action against a budget autonomy referendum approved by D.C. voters in April. The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee passed a bill sponsored by Chairman Darrell Issa, D-Calif., that includes key elements of budget autonomy, and Senate appropriators incorporated budget autonomy language endorsed by President Barack Obama into the District’s spending bill.
Those hoping “New Columbia” will become the 51st state took heart when Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Chairman Thomas R. Carper, D-Del., tweeted that his committee would hold a hearing on D.C. statehood this fall and when Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., co-sponsored a statehood bill in June.
Advocates hope the march can garner support by drawing publicity to an issue that flies under the radar. In a 2005 survey conducted for DC Vote, 82 percent of adults said they did not know that D.C. did not have equal representation in Congress. The survey polled a national randomized sample of 1,007 adults and was conducted by KRC Results.
“A big problem you have in getting support is just letting people know about the problem that’s here,” Brown said. He said the rally is the “perfect venue” for raising awareness.
The Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial is located parallel to the D.C. War Memorial, where Saturday’s D.C. rally will take place.
King’s legacy “continues to energize our fight for full representation,” Gray said.