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http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/post_now/post/gray-dc-council-members-block-street-in-protest/2011/04/11/AFKQHWMD_blog.html

Posted at 06:22 PM ET, 04/11/2011

Gray, D.C. Council members arrested in protest

By Ben Pershing

Updated, 6:22 p.m.: Mayor Vincent Gray, D.C. Council Chairman Kwame Brown (D) and council members Yvette M. Alexander (D-Ward 7), Tommy Wells (D-Ward 6), Muriel Bowser (D-Ward 4) and Michael A. Brown (I-At Large) have been arrested by U.S. Capitol Police officers.

Also arrested was Sekou Biddle (D), who is filling Brown’s former at-large council seat on an interim basis.

More than 200 protesters gathered, including local officials and activists. Police let them sit in the street for 30 minutes, then began arresting them. Protesters chanted, “No justice, no peace.”

Original post: Mayor Vincent Gray (D) and several members of the D.C. Council are blocking Constitution Avenue NE next to the Dirksen Senate Office Building in protest of the congressional budget deal, which includes controversial District riders.

Other participants include Council Chairman Kwame Brown (D) and council members Yvette M. Alexander (D-Ward 7), Tommy Wells (D-Ward 6), Muriel Bowser (D-Ward 4) and Michael A. Brown (I-At Large).

Gray and the other officials are sitting in the street blocking traffic in both directions. U.S. Capitol Police officers are moving the crowd but have not arrested anyone.

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http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/politics/gray-council-members-arrested-at-protest-of-dc-riders-in-spending-bill/2011/04/11/AFRWPBND_story.html

Gray, council members arrested at protest of D.C. riders in

spending bill

Gallery: Gray, D.C. Council members arrested in protest: Mayor Vincent Gray, D.C. Council Chairman Kwame Brown (D) and council members Yvette M. Alexander (D-Ward 7), Tommy Wells (D-Ward 6), Muriel Bowser (D-Ward 4) and Michael A. Brown (I-At Large) have been arrested by U.S. Capitol Police officers

By Ben Pershing, Monday, April 11, 9:15 PM

D.C. Mayor Vincent C. Gray and several members of the D.C. Council were arrested Monday at a protest on Capitol Hill, as city officials turned up the volume on their complaints about a federal spending deal that imposes controversial riders on the District.

The spending measure — agreed to Friday night by President Obama, Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) and House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) — reimposes a Republican-backed ban on the District spending its own money to provide abortions to low-income women. It also revives and expands a private school voucher program that has divided D.C. officials.

More than 200 protesters lined Constitution Avenue NE Monday evening in a rally next to the Dirksen Senate Office Building staged by the activist group DC Vote. Gray helped lead the event, along with City Council Chairman Kwame R. Brown (D-At Large) and council members Yvette M. Alexander (D-Ward 7), Muriel Bowser (D-Ward 4), Michael A. Brown (I- At Large) and Tommy Wells (D-Ward 6) and State Board of Education member Sekou Biddle (Ward 4).

Forty-one people were arrested at the rally and charged with unlawful assembly for blocking passage on the street, U.S. Capitol Police said. They were taken to a Capitol Police facility in Southwest for processing. The office of Acting D.C. Attorney General Irvin B. Nathan, who was appointed by Gray, will decide whether to file charges.

The protest came on a day when the area got at least some welcome news about the budget deal. Sources familiar with the agreement said it fully funds the federal government’s $150 million share of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority’s capital budget, restoring money that had been cut in the spending bill originally passed by the House in February.

The fate of other provisions affecting the Washington area, including cuts in federal payments to the District for courts, schools and other items, had not been made public Monday evening.

Before their arrest, Gray and his fellow city leaders attacked the spending deal and the federal officials who agreed to it without consulting the District first.

“I’m tired of being a pawn in a political game,” Gray said, adding: “D.C. deserves to be free. All we want is to be able to spend our own money.”

Gray and others seized on a report in The Washington Post that in the heat of negotiations on the spending bill, Obama said to Boehner, “John, I will give you D.C. abortion.” The concession by Obama came partly in exchange for Boehner agreeing to drop a GOP-authored provision ending federal funding for Planned Parenthood.

“Is D.C. the president’s to give?” DC Vote head Ilir Zherka asked the crowd Monday. “No!” they yelled back.

Bowser said the women of the District were “under attack.”

“I’ve got to tell you I’m disappointed in my president,” Bowser said, and then addressed Obama: “If you don’t choose us, we won’t choose you.”

The congressional restriction on using local funds for abortions was lifted from the District’s spending for fiscal 2010, which began Oct. 1, 2009. But abortions were not covered under health plans funded by Medicaid and the D.C. HealthCare Alliance until Aug. 1 of last year, because of the process of negotiating contracts and updating computer systems to handle the billings.

Wayne Turnage, director of the D.C. Department of Health Care Finance, said that the city has so far been billed for 117 elective abortions, totaling about $62,000.

But that figure, he said, includes abortions billed by two of the three managed-care organizations that have contracts with the city. The third, Turnage said, has yet to submit its billings for the period since abortions were first covered.

The rally was aimed at swaying Congress to vote against the spending deal this week. But there is little sign Obama or congressional leaders plan to reopen the agreement.

Mike O’Dell, a retiree who lives in the District, said he went to the protest because he was incensed about the abortion restrictions. He said he didn’t think Congress paid much attention to what D.C. residents wanted.

“Maybe if there were a few more of these protests,” he said, “they might listen.”

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Staff writer Mike DeBonis contributed to this report.
 
Home Issues D.C. Council Actions Statehood Mayor and D.C. Council Members Arrested in Protest

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