The D.C. Council answered Congress' request to christen a city street on behalf of a pro-democracy cause with a request of its own: Let's give streets surrounding Congress a new, pro-D.C. rights label.
A resolution introduced Tuesday would dub the four lanes of traffic that separate the East Front from the Supreme Court and the Library of Congress as "D.C. No Taxation Without Representation Way."
D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson pitched the idea during a noon legislative meeting at the John A. Wilson building in downtown Washington. First, he addressed the letter from Rep. Frank R. Wolf, R-Va., and 13 other members of Congress requesting that the District designate a strip of pavement outside the Chinese Embassy for dissident Liu Xiaobo.
"There are times when the naming of a street, even symbolically, can advance the cause of human rights in the world," Mendelson said.
Then, to the delight of pro-democracy activists, he declared his intent to use the congressional request as an "opportunity to remind citizens" that D.C. residents do not enjoy the same rights and privileges as the rest of the United States.
If approved, cars bearing the District's "Taxation Without Representation" plates could soon be cruising down a street christened for the cause of D.C. representation.
In order to symbolically designate First Street Northeast and First Street Southeast between Constitution Avenue and Independence Avenue as "D.C. No Taxation Without Representation Way," the resolution would need to be approved, signed by the mayor and then, like other council bills, sent to Congress for a 30-day review.
The Xiaobo place rename is more complex. According to council staff, city officials don't have the power to designate International Place Northwest because the land on which the Chinese Embassy sits is federal property.
Though the council thinks the rename would send a "clear and powerful message" as the world remembers the events of Tiananmen Square 25 years ago, it falls to Capitol Hill to do the legislative lifting, according to text of the resolution shared with CQ Roll Call.
"The Council appreciates recognition by Members of Congress of the District's prerogative in addressing local issues locally, including the naming of public spaces within the District," it states.
The proposal has been sent to Capitol Hill.