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Roll Call

D.C. Shadow Senator Arrested in Hill Protest

Bill Clark/Roll Call
Three protesters, including D.C. Shadow Sen. Michael Brown (center), are arrested by Capitol Police after blocking Second Street Northeast near the Hart Senate Office Building on Friday. Dozens of people lined up outside the building to hold a silent demonstration to protest the passage of the fiscal 2011 budget.

Updated: 5:40 p.m.

Three demonstrators, including D.C. shadow Sen. Michael Brown, were arrested Friday near the Hart Senate Office Building for disorderly conduct.

Brown joined a youth Tax Day protest targeting Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), who negotiated with House Republicans on a budget deal that restricts how the city can fund abortion providers.

Dozens of people lined Second Street Northeast near Reid’s office, wearing gags in silent protest and in support of D.C. autonomy. It wasn’t until Brown, along with D.C. activists Adam Eidinger and Bob Johnsen, sat in the street that police made the arrests.

“About to get arrested sitting in the street now with Senator Brown,” Eidinger tweeted from the protest.

Brown, D.C. Mayor Vince Gray and D.C. shadow Rep. Mike Panetta each spoke to the demonstrators before the protest began. While he had been at the Monday protest when Gray was arrested, Brown opted out of blocking traffic because it was his son’s birthday.

But at Friday’s demonstration, he was more than happy to participate in some civil disopedience.

“They’ve negotiated our rights away,” he said. “We’re the only people they did that to. They didn’t do that to the people of Connecticut or Nebraska or Illinois, just to the people of the District of Columbia. It’s time for all of us to step off the curb.”

The event, organized by DC Vote intern Corryn Freeman, was not advertised as an act of civil disobedience, spokeswoman Leah Ramsay said. The three sat in the street of their own accord. No students who participated in the demonstration were detained, the spokeswoman added.

Friday’s arrests made for the second time in a week that police cuffed high-profile D.C. officials on Capitol Hill. On Monday, Gray and most of the city’s councilmembers were among 40-some activists police detained after they blocked traffic outside the Dirksen Senate Office Building.

Freeman, one of the activists arrested along with Gray, said she didn’t reach out to Brown about Friday’s event but thought he saw the notice for the protest on DC Vote’s website.

Freeman started planning the protest a month ago, she said, reaching out to students at Howard, Georgetown and American universities. The protest originally was going to be a part of a Tax Day rally for the District’s right to vote in Congress. The passage of Thursday’s budget deal did not change what the protest was about, but instead enhanced their message, the 21-year-old Howard student said.

“Historically, DC Vote has always done something on Tax Day,” Freeman said. “This just got more people more amped up.”

D.C. Del. Eleanor Norton (D) did not participate in the protest but praised it later in a statement.

“I applaud students for giving meaning to Emancipation Day by acting to emancipate the District from continuing congressional violation of our rights,” she said.

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