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D.C. Rights Activists Protest Budget Deal

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D.C. Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton joined activists protesting against the federal budget deal Friday.
Markette Smith
D.C. Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton joined activists protesting against the federal budget deal Friday.

Activists for D.C. rights are out in front of the U.S. Capitol Friday afternoon, blocking traffic on Independence Ave. and chanting in protest of the federal budget deal struck Thursday night that would once again impose a social agenda on residents of the District. They were joined by D.C. Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton and councilmember Tommy Wells, as well as supporters of Planned Parenthood.

A rider included in the last-minute deal crafted by lawmakers on the Capitol and passed by the House today would restrict the District from using its own money to pay for abortions for low-income women.

They say the proposal is an assault on the District's right to govern its own affairs, and supporters of D.C. home rule rights are urging members of Congress to vote against it. As many as 108 representatives in the House said they would oppose any budget bill that included policy riders.

Standing on an actual soap box in the midst of it all was D.C. Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton: "Expect to see us here until you get off our backs."

Norton says this is not a debate over what she calls pro-choice versus anti-abortion, but an issue, rather, of how the District’s tax revenue is spent.

"These people don’t stop at abortion," she says. "They went to needle exchange and they would like to go to a number of other issues like marriage, so don’t think that they’re concern with only one issue."

The ‘people’ Norton is referring to? Members of Congress. She says D.C. is often used as a pawn in a game of getting deals done.

Ward 6 City Councilman Tommy Wells chimed in as well: "By saying that the taxpayers are unable to spend money on their own needs, as appropriated by their elected officials, like you can do in every other state, but in DC you cannot then it means that we’re second class citizens."

According to reports from the scene, as many as four have been arrested at the scene -- including Adrian Jones -- of the three Occupy DC hungerstrikers -- and Pete Ross, candidate for the D.C. shadow senator position.

A similar rider was added to a federal spending bill in April, which sparked protests wherein D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray and several councilmembers were arrested.

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