The riot at the U.S. Capitol earlier this month was a slap in the face to the country. But it meant much more to residents across the District whose lives were endangered by the mob. And unlike everyone else in the United States, they didn’t have any real representation in federal government to take swift action to stop the insurrection.
The city is not made up of only the grandiose buildings that house our government – in fact, those landmarks are just a fraction of D.C. The District is home to restaurants that needed to board up because White supremacists decided to storm the city. The District is home to public modes of transportation residents rely on but became occupied by maskless rioters this month. The District is home to thousands of people who needed someone to immediately bring in the National Guard when Capitol windows were smashed in.
But D.C. could not effectively protect its city because it’s not a state. Let us repeat – the District cannot effectively protect its city because it is not a state.
Had the District been a state at the time of the insurrection, the National Guard could have been called without the federal government’s word. Requests for these troops were delayed by President Donald Trump – leaving D.C. residents to feel utterly unprotected by their own police. At a time of upheaval, city residents cannot wait around for the president of the United States to take action, especially when Trump has a disgusting interest in the rioters. D.C. deserves a voting representative just like any other state so they can rapidly respond to a disaster. Mayor Muriel Bowser claims the city would have had a better grasp on the volatile situation had D.C. had a governor who could call in the National Guard right away.
Let’s not forget that we’re in the middle of a pandemic, and a bunch of really smart people thought it would be a good idea to storm the Capitol without wearing masks. The number of COVID-19 cases is skyrocketing across the country, and the District is likely going to see huge increases now that rioters have put other residents at risk. If D.C. was a state, its representatives and senators could actually have a say in how the federal government handles the pandemic and responds in the face of violence. Bowser is now left to pick up the pieces of a city imperiled by domestic terrorists with no regard for one of the biggest public health crises of the century.
Ahead of Inauguration Day, as many as 25,000 National Guard troops are expected to be stationed in the city in case right-wing extremists attempt another violent attack – which is not unlikely. Considering that congressional members and staff feared for their lives after the failure to secure the Capitol last week, it is sensible to beef up security – especially for an inauguration. But this can easily redound to D.C. residents’ detriment. The brutal police response to Black Lives Matter protests this summer serves as a reminder that an expanded law enforcement presence can be a real threat to people of color in D.C. This increased security presence is the result of a lack thereof at the riot, now resulting in surging fear and anxiety from Black and Brown people across the city.
It is not a question of if a violent attack like the riot earlier this month will happen again, it is simply a matter of when. D.C. residents deserve to feel safe and protected in their own city and not have to live in fear of what will happen the next time a group of crazed political rioters chooses to invade the city. If D.C. was a state, the city would no longer be at the mercy of federal legislators when they are in need of crucial aid.
While the riots of last week have opened the conversation for statehood once more, it is worth noting that there are more reasons for statehood than just protection from political riots. D.C. is the prime example of “taxation without representation,” with no District resident getting proper representation in Congress – leaving D.C.’s residents, over half of whom are Black, without a voice in our democracy. This is despicable and wholly unacceptable.
The main reasoning behind D.C. not being a state yet, despite years of activism, is because D.C. is undoubtedly a liberal city that would put one more Democrat in the U.S. House of Representatives and two in the U.S. Senate. Representation and the ability to control our own city should not be a partisan issue. Half-baked arguments against putting one more star on the flag, the size of the District or the industries within it are ridiculous and simply hide the fact that Republicans and opponents to D.C. statehood have no problem disenfranchising thousands of Americans.
Now that Democrats are in control of both the legislative and executive branches of government, it is time for student activists and leaders to make the final push for statehood and see D.C. become the 51st state.
The editorial board is composed of Hatchet staff members and operates separately from the newsroom. This week’s piece was written by opinions editor Hannah Thacker and contributing opinions editor Andrew Sugrue, based on discussions with managing director Kiran Hoeffner-Shah, managing editor Parth Kotak, sports editor Emily Maise, culture editor Anna Boone and design editor Olivia Columbus.
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