D.C. Protesters Clash With Democratic Senators Outside the Capitol

Protesters urge Congress to end the federal government shutdown on Oct. 9 on Capitol Hill.
National Journal
Michael Catalini
Oct. 9, 2013, 8:44 a.m.

Wav­ing posters and chant­ing “Free D.C.,” a crowd call­ing for the gov­ern­ment to re­open on the Cap­it­ol’s East Front tried to in­ter­rupt a Sen­ate Demo­crat­ic news con­fer­ence Wed­nes­day. 

Thirty-five Demo­crat­ic law­makers stood on the Cap­it­ol’s steps and re­it­er­ated their now-fa­mil­i­ar de­mands to Re­pub­lic­ans. While some of the pro­test­ers in­ter­viewed said they blamed the GOP, and not Demo­crats, the scene made for an awk­ward jux­ta­pos­i­tion. 

At one point, D.C. May­or Vin­cent Gray walked slowly from the site of the protest at the area known as the Sen­ate Swamp, to­ward the sen­at­ors. There was a brief mo­ment of ten­sion, be­cause it was un­clear what Gray would say or wheth­er he in­ten­ded to in­ter­rupt, but Sen­ate Ma­jor­ity Lead­er Harry Re­id, D-Nev., smiled at Gray, stretched out his hand, and wel­comed him onto the steps. 

Leroy Thorpe, a North­w­est res­id­ent and gov­ern­ment so­cial work­er who’s lived in Wash­ing­ton since 1980, said he wants to see Con­gress re­open the gov­ern­ment im­me­di­ately. Oth­ers near him nod­ded in as­sent. “I think we need to stop the grid­lock,” he said. “I think the Re­pub­lic­ans are hold­ing the na­tion host­age and hurt­ing a lot of people.” 

Demo­crats took the op­por­tun­ity to re­ject the House’s so-called mini-con­tinu­ing res­ol­u­tions and asked for their col­leagues to ad­opt their CR. 

“The whole gov­ern­ment needs to be open,” said Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va.

The dis­trict’s sole rep­res­ent­at­ive in Con­gress also ad­dressed the crowd of pro­test­ers, telling them that if they wanted to speak to law­makers, they should enter the Cap­it­ol or of­fice build­ings. “I don’t think I need to tell you all what you need from sen­at­ors,” Del­eg­ate Elean­or Holmes Norton of the Dis­trict of Columbia told the pro­test­ers. “Out here we’re talk­ing to ourselves, but if they hear dir­ectly from you, that makes some dif­fer­ence.” 

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