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D.C. Autonomy The Object Of Occupy Activism In New Hampshire

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The New Hampshire state legislature is expected to vote on a bill supporting D.C. statehood Friday.
Holley St. Germain (http://www.flickr.com/photos/stgermh/565664120/)
The New Hampshire state legislature is expected to vote on a bill supporting D.C. statehood Friday.

Four members of the Occupy DC protest movement recently grabbed headlines for going on a hunger strike to call attention to the fight for sovereignty in the District. This week three of the four are trekking up to New Hampshire to continue the fight for D.C. statehood in a roundabout way.

It's a cold, rainy night and these three guys are escaping the dampness that has taken over the McPherson Square encampment. They're at a dingy little dive bar a few blocks away, so they can watch their Washington Wizards play -- even if they're predicting a loss.

Just weeks after ending his twenty-five-day hunger strike, Adrian Parsons munches on greasy fries and explains why he was willing to push his body to the limit in order to draw attention to D.C.'s plight.

"It's not just the vote," says Parsons. "People don't understand a lot of the issues underneath the vote. So the federal mingling with the city as a whole, the inability for budget autonomy, the inability of legislative autonomy to happen inside of D.C. catches us into a huge row."

For years, D.C. officials have failed to win autonomy through efforts such as chanting into megaphones and shutting down traffic on Capitol Hill, but now statehood proponents are trying to get individual state legislatures to take up the fight for D.C. residents. Parsons and the other hunger strikers are joining that fight in New Hampshire where the legislature is debating a resolution to support D.C. statehood.

"Yeah, it's a big change for us going to Congress and talking about resolutions and legislation, versus talking about direct action and civil disobedience," says Parsons.

The hope is that state legislatures, such as New Hampshire's, will vote for resolutions supporting D.C. statehood, which could in turn pressure more federal lawmakers to support it in Congress. Joe Gray, another hunger striker, says on their drive up to New Hampshire the group is discussing D.C. statehood at Occupy encampments and slowly spreading the message.

"Everyone we talked to at the Occupies had no idea of D.C.'s situation and every single one of them once they learned about it was incredulous.," says Gray.

On Friday, the New Hampshire legislature is holding a hearing on its D.C. statehood resolution. Its non-binding, but the three men who went without food in support of autonomy for the District don't mind. They're just glad they are bringing attention to what they say is the most pressing issue for the District.

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