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“Washingtonians need to understand that things happen in politics when there’s pressure for things to happen in politics,” he said.
The question-and-answer session also included some back-and-forth on how D.C. activists should be directing their energies: toward achieving a vote in Congress or the realization of “New Columbia” as the 51st state.
Some activists argued that fighting for anything short of statehood is a cop-out, and that Norton and others should not be discouraging an ambitious goal even as more achievable objectives, such as a vote in Congress or budget autonomy, might be more saleable to constituents and national supporters.
Nader signaled his disappointment with Gray’s decision to opt out of the general strike. Aside from those providing emergency services, he said, there was no reason why government employees could not be late for work to support a policy platform the Gray administration endorses.
He also offered a rare public rebuke of Norton — who many consider to be the District’s biggest champion and most powerful advocate — for supposedly cloistering herself on Capitol Hill and not engaging or collaborating with the grass roots.
“She’s got to stop being proprietary in her approach here,” Nader said. “There’s potential for her to have leadership here.”
Zherka, whose group is perhaps the most prominent among D.C. autonomy organizations and has been known to work closely with local officials to meet shared objectives, did not contribute to the criticisms of Gray and Norton.