Last month, two Washington, D.C., laws were overturned by a bipartisan House vote, including moderate reforms to D.C.’s century-old criminal code. Neither Mayor Muriel Bowser nor the majority of the Democratic-controlled D.C. Council put up a fight. With a right-wing Congress reasserting its federal colonial control of D.C., the District’s fight for self-determination has become acute. On Thursday, President Joe Biden further undermined statehood by announcing he would not veto Congress’ overreaching votes. Bowser, who is firmly in the pockets of the DMV area’s white landlord class, and Biden liken themselves champions of D.C. statehood, but the Democratic Party has shown that they refuse to defend D.C. sovereignty when it is under attack.
D.C. won self-governance in 1973 after a century of struggle against the racist, patrimonial rule of Congress. That grassroots movement, which was given incredible strength by the fight against Jim Crow apartheid, led to a wave of progressive laws in the 1970s and 1980s and propelled the fight for autonomy forward toward statehood, which nearly succeeded.
At every turn, Bowser and the council have failed to stand up to the federal government and defend D.C.’s autonomy. When Trump sent thousands of National Guard troops to crush the 2020 uprising, she willingly mobilized the entire 2,700-strong Guard forces to assist the Metropolitan Police Department in crushing the people’s righteous demand for an end to police terror. This past month, we again witnessed Bowser permit U.S. Park Police to forcibly evict scores of D.C. residents encamped in McPherson Square.
We can’t trade one capitalist police state for another. D.C. residents need the kind of self-rule that only a powerful, grassroots people’s movement can win: one that puts working people’s needs first, not the needs of profiteering landlords that live outside the District. The fight for D.C. statehood was once led by a powerful, revolutionary movement of Washington, D.C.’s Black working class. When we renew this militancy, the fight for statehood will finally yield success.